Politics

Canada will send $9M worth of howitzer replacement barrels to Ukraine

Canada announced Wednesday that it's spending $9 million on replacement barrels for the howitzers it shipped to Ukraine earlier this year as western allies stepped up their support for the embattled Eastern European country in the face of Russia's invasion.

Canada sent four M-777 howitzers to Ukraine earlier this year

Canada sent four M777 155-millimetre howitzers to Ukraine earlier this year. The guns' barrels have to be swapped out after firing up to 2,500 rounds. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Canada announced Wednesday that it's spending $9 million on replacement barrels for the howitzers it shipped to Ukraine earlier this year as western allies stepped up their support for the embattled Eastern European country in the face of Russia's invasion.

The announcement at NATO headquarters in Brussels came as the United States outlined $1 billion in additional military aid for Ukraine, including previously announced and anticipated shipments of military equipment.

Earlier this spring, the federal government announced it had set aside $500 million in this year's budget for weapons and munition shipments for Ukraine, but has offered few details about how that money will be spent.

The barrels on modern artillery guns — such as the M-777 howitzers Canada sent to Ukraine — have to be replaced after firing up to 2,500 rounds.

Defence Minister Anita Anand announced the donation of 10 new barrels to Ukraine during a meeting with NATO allies in Brussels.

"We are addressing Ukraine's most pressing defence needs in close collaboration with our partners and allies," Anand said in a media statement. "We will continue to work around the clock to provide Ukraine with the comprehensive military aid that it needs to defend its sovereignty and security."

Defence Minister Anita Anand announced the new weapons shipment in Brussels on Wednesday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Earlier this spring, the Liberal government sent Ukraine four M-777 howitzers out of the army's stock of 37 155-millimetre guns.

At the end of May, it announced that Canada was sending 20,000 rounds of ammunition and was in talks to purchase an additional 100,000 artillery shells for Ukraine.

In a telephone interview with CBC News late Wednesday, Anand said that of the $500 million pledged in the spring budget, roughly $147 million has been committed. An additional $127 million in military aid to Ukraine was spent before the fiscal plan was released in early April.

Arms industry needs to step up: Anand

The minister said that during the meeting in Brussels, she spoke about the need to get defence and weapons manufacturers more involved in the aid process. She said some nations are bumping up against the limits of what they can provide out of their own stocks.

"There is a continued need to provide equipment and military aid to Ukraine, and governments across this world only have so much inventory," she said. "And therefore the next step is for industry to see itself as having a role."

A shortage of artillery and ammunition has undermined Ukraine's efforts to fight off the Russian invasion, which began on Feb. 24.

The scramble to find ammunition and secure contracts is a perfect example of how more industry involvement would help, Anand said.

And the defence industry itself needs to take a hard look at areas where production should be ramped up, she added.

"We are seeing the need for more industry scale-up," she said. "So for example, in the area of ammunition, that's a key area that we need industry to continue to fortify themselves."

A M-777 artillery unit fires at a target during the Afghan war on Nov. 24, 2010. (Murray Brewster/The Canadian Press)

The announcement about the Canadian howitzer barrels was made just as more than 40 countries that have pledged military support to Ukraine met in Brussels. It's third time the so-called "Ukraine contact group" has met after being formed in late April.

The aim of the meetings has been to coordinate assistance and focus the requests being made by the government of President Volodomyr Zelensky.

The latest U.S. aid package includes anti-ship missile launchers, additional towed howitzers and more rounds for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) that U.S. forces are training Ukrainian troops on now. Separately on Wednesday, Germany announced it was sending three of its HIMARS to Ukraine to support the country's war effort.

All are key weapons systems that Ukrainian leaders have requested urgently as they battle to stall Russia's slow but steady march to conquer the eastern Donbas region.

"U.S. security assistance and that of more than 40 allies and partners continue to strengthen Ukraine's position to defend its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, secure victories on the battlefield and ultimately strengthen Ukraine's position at the negotiating table," said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a media statement.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Murray Brewster

Senior reporter, defence and security

Murray Brewster is senior defence writer for CBC News, based in Ottawa. He has covered the Canadian military and foreign policy from Parliament Hill for over a decade. Among other assignments, he spent a total of 15 months on the ground covering the Afghan war for The Canadian Press. Prior to that, he covered defence issues and politics for CP in Nova Scotia for 11 years and was bureau chief for Standard Broadcast News in Ottawa.

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