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The German Bundeswehr has expanded to EUR 4 Bn an existing framework agreement with Rheinmetall for the supply of tank ammunition, the company announced on 13 July 2023.

The order underscores Rheinmetall’s role as a major supplier of 120 mm tank ammunition to the German armed forces. It also reflects the German military’s commitment to rebuilding its capabilities and increasing its ammunition stocks in light of the war in Ukraine. The framework agreement also encompasses a significant amount of tank ammunition for the Ukrainian armed forces.

Based on the framework agreement just signed, the Bundeswehr could procure several hundred thousand rounds of 120×570 mm service and practice ammunition: the type fired, for example, by the Leopard 2 main battle tank. Worth around EUR 309 M, a first call-off of ammunition came immediately after the contract was signed. The scope of delivery includes multi-purpose tank ammunition with a non-programmable fuse as well as another variant that can be programmed for three different ignition modes: detonation on impact with and without time delay, and a timed airburst function.

The order also encompasses various types of practice ammunition featuring reduced range and lower cost, but which otherwise display ballistic characteristics comparable with the actual rounds they represent.

“For many Leopard 2 user nations, Rheinmetall is the most important supplier of ammunition for the tank’s 120 mm smoothbore main armament,” the company noted in a press release. The armed forces of Germany and several partner nations have entered framework contracts with Rheinmetall to secure a steady long-term supply of ammunition, which in turn enables better planning of the production process and optimum utilisation of existing capacity.

Rheinmetall 120 mm tank ammunition. The company’s latest order for such munitions covers rounds for the German as well as Ukrainian army. (Photo: Rheinmetall)

“Owing to ongoing production of various types of ammunition during the lifetime of the contract and the resulting rapid availability, the framework contract offers clear logistical advantages,” Rheinmetall stated, adding that “this contractual arrangement assures solid utilisation of tank ammunition capacity for years to come”.

A key learning point from the ongoing war in Ukraine for Western armed forces is the sheer volume of munitions that are expended in such conflicts. Western governments have been forced not only to backfill munitions and materiel gifted to Ukraine but to reassess and often raise the levels of munitions stocks they originally held prior to February 2022, when the Russian invasion of Ukraine began.

Peter Felstead