Thanks Khepesh, but from what I remember reading, the issue of disarmament and recycling all those stockpiles of ammunition was covered in various books and journalist articles and the figures could be found through internet search. I give it a try:
In a nutshell: Ukraine inherited weapons and ammo for an army 800.000 strong. They downsized to 100.000 and much of the surplus has been exported, sold in the arms black market, destroyed, or became unusable.
There still would be enough to arm and keep supplied a 100.000 strong army, but for how long? War is almost 3 years now, and if they start rationing rockets, it means other types of ammunition will be consumed.
Nowhere are these problems known to be more pronounced than in Ukraine. NATO and the Ukrainian military estimate that the Soviet military left 2.5 million tons of conventional munitions here as it withdrew soldiers and arms from Europe, as well as more than 7 million rifles, pistols, mortars and machine guns. The imbalance is deeply disproportionate; the Ukrainian military now numbers roughly 300,000.
The surplus weapons and ammunition, some dating to World War I and stored in at least 184 military posts around the country, is packed in bunkers, locked in salt mines and sitting in the open air.
Ukraine's munitions centers are filled beyond capacity, he wrote, leaving at least 60 percent of the ammunition exposed to the elements. Most of the ammunition has exceeded its shelf life. At least 15 percent is also unstable enough that it risks exploding from handling, electricity, heat or chemical reaction
This is from 2011
Since 2006, the Alliance has helped the country destroy 1000 Man-portable Air Defence Systems (MANPADS), 15 000 tonnes of conventional ammunition (including small arms ammunition, artillery shells, cluster munitions and mortar rounds) and 400 000 small arms and light weapons (SALW).
the project’s second phase aims to destroy 366 000 SALW, 76 000 tonnes of conventional ammunition and 3 million PfM-1 (anti-infantry high-explosive) antipersonnel mines.
2 million tons is the total including small arms ammunition.
This book gives more detailed data, some pages can be seen in google. Unable to find it for download though
Unfortunately it seems as if there's still enough ammunition left for a decade, but the research was worthwile to check if my estimates of the volume of artillery fire and ammo consumption are realistic, and confirms my view that the Novorussian daily briefings only give total number of shellings, not individual shells.
I said a consumption of 10,000 tons or artillery ammo for 2016. Same if not higher for 2015, averaging the quiet periods post Minsk 2 and 3, with the winter battles culminating in Debaltsevo pocket. Perhaps double that for 2014.
So there has been a consumption of 50.000 tons in 3 years of war. For artillery shells alone. And my estimates are based only using 20 kilos for each individual shells of 122mm caliber. The heavy artillery shells of 152mm caliber are 60 kilos each. If only 1 in every 5 shells fired is heavy caliber, that would drive up the figure to 75.000 tons.
In addition, there is mortar fire. From what I see from the stats from January-June 2016, approx half of the shellings are done by mortars. The 81mm ones are just 4 kilos a round, but they are faster firing and consume more ammunition, if only because they are more numerous, than the 120mm mortars, whose
rounds weigh 12 kilos. So that gives us an average weight of shot fired of 10 kilos. Assuming the volume of fire in number of shells fired is similar to the artillery and in fact should be higher, because there are more mortars than cannon, and are used more often, in a deliberate low estimate, I guess mortars have fired half the tonnage of the medium artillery. So to the baseline of 50,000 tons of 122mm artillery add another 25,000 of mortar bombs.
So total consumption, excluding rockets, would be around 100,000 tons.
So if we had 2 million tons usable ammunition in 1991, and the figure includes small arms cartridges and gunpowder charges and most of it was sold or destroyed or became unusable, there would be 200.000 tons left by the start of the war. Assuming half of it was artillery ammunition, wich raises the interesting question, what adds up to more weight, shells or bullets?
1 artillery shell of medium caliber (122mm) weighing 25 kilos equals 2 x cases of rifle ammo (5.45) or 2,000 rounds
Cartridges are surprisingly heavy due to the density of lead, and they are consumed at an enormous rate. It would be interesting from a logistics and historical point of view, how much of a daily allotment of ammunition to a infantry division went to the artillery and how much it was small arms. I think from my lectures on the First World War that artillery gets the lion's share.
From all these disarmament initiatives, emerges a clear pattern. The Ukraine's governments wanted to get rid of dangerous artillery shells to avoid explosions and sell the rifles, machineguns and their ammo to earn cash, while Western donors priority was the small arms to be destroyed to prevent them ending in the arms trade.
So I believe a lot of artillery ammo was indeed recycled, it's harder to sell in the market. I will assume about half of the total was artillery, rockets and mortar rounds. That is 1 million in 1991.
Looking for the ammo dump explosions, wich in one depot alone destroyed almost 45,000 tons, and there were more than a couple of them, I can estimate a loss of 100,000 tons for this cause alone.
In this article about one of those explosions in 2004, said Ukraine destroyed ammunition at the pace of 20,000 tons a year, and they needed help
Polyakov says Ukraine can decommission about 23,000 tons of ammunition each year but needs to double or triple that capacity --something that Ukraine's feeble economy does not allow.
So from 2004 to 2014, subtract another 200.000 tons
From 1 million tons, substract 20% as being obsolete ammo dating back to WW2 or earlier and otherwise unusable due to age and corrosion (figures above say 15% was already unstable). 800k, minus 200k recycled in 20 years, minus 100k lost in explosions, minus 200k lost in Crimea and Donbass, where most of the ammo was moved anyway for recycling, minus 100K consumed, still gives 100K left for another six years of war.
Clearly this cannot be, if at the start of the war there was ammo for 10 years, then the Ukrops would not have to curtail the use of rockets, and the shelling would be much more intense.
Fortunately digging around I found how much was left by 2013
Actually our project is planned to destroy 133,000 tons in 12 years. This is only the Trust Fund’s portion. I believe this is at least double or triple of the required amount for destruction
I believe, I think 10 years from now should be reasonable time to destroy these 200,000-300,000 tons of ammunition in Ukraine. And then you will go to normal conditions
So there it is there were 300 kilotons of ammo of all kinds at the beginning of the war. Of wich about half are artillery munitions. That leaves 150 Kt, of wich already consumed 100.000 tons. So there are 50K of artillery ammunition remaining. At the present rate, just enough ammo for one year more. Less if there are major battles and rocket consumption is taken into account.
This dimensional analysis is neccessarily crude, but I believe is quite approximate and gives an idea of the magnitudes involved. It does not take into account small arms ammo consumption, wich is not only cartridges for small arms up to 12.7mm , but also RPG rockets and 30mm grenades, and automatic cannon shells of 30mm. The consumption must also be enormous. Consider this. If the rebels could do just with ammo stockpiles in their territory, then why they reactivated the Lugansk cartridge works?
So my feeling based on these calculations, the nature of the fighting, and the fact that Ukraine doesn't produce any ammunition and Lithuania sees it fit to send the junta a shipment of a paltry 150 tons of small arms ammo is that Soviet era ammunition reserves are mostly depleted by now. The Soviet Army ammunition dumps had a physical limit of how many ammo could be stored in the Ukraine military district. There was enough armo to keep supplied a 1 million strong army for 1 year of combat at most. Wartime reserves are calculated for a few months fighting. There's simply a limit to the storage space for ammo, fuel and food.
PS Above calculations did not take into account projection charges, or in plainspeak, gunpowder. This roughly accounts for 1/2 or 1/3 of the shell weight, 10 kilos for a 122mm shell, and 25 kilos for a 152mm shell. So that would drive up by 50% the tonnage consumed, or conversely that amount should be detracted from the total remaining.
Ukrops are low on ammunition, even if NATO can supply gunpowder and mortar bombs, they cannot receive new shells and rockets. Impossible to know how much they have left, but it's safe to say no more than for one year.