Switzerland’s double no to the delivery of anti-aircraft ammunition to Ukraine has raised security policy issues and caused irritation in Berlin. The large armaments company Rheinmetall reacts and builds up other capacities.
Rheinmetall is building an extensive new ammunition production facility in Germany with the aim of supplying the Bundeswehr independently. The systems for so-called medium-caliber ammunition should be ready in January, the armaments company confirmed on request. Previously, there had been political anger in Berlin over the Swiss veto on ammunition deliveries from Germany to Ukraine. The export of old stocks of the weapon material needed for the anti-aircraft gun tank Gepard would have required the approval of the Swiss government, which, however, refused, citing its own neutrality.
Rheinmetall also pointed to significant pent-up demand for ammunition in Germany and gaps created by support from Ukraine. They are to be filled in accordance with NATO specifications. A spokesman for the armaments company told the German Press Agency in Berlin that the focus of the new demand situation is on efforts to “establish the ammunition supply in Germany again in principle independently of foreign production facilities”. It was decided to build a new production facility for calibers from 20 to 35 millimeters in Germany. Production is scheduled to start in June 2023.
In addition, Rheinmetall will be able to deliver the first batch of cheetah ammunition as early as July, the spokesman said. According to reports, this is up to 300,000 shots for Ukraine if the federal government now issues a corresponding order. Germany gave the cheetah to Ukraine, but was initially only able to add a small amount of ammunition. The Gepard tanks, which were decommissioned by the Bundeswehr and handed over to the Ukraine, are equipped with a 35mm twin cannon from the Swiss armaments manufacturer Oerlikon. The Swiss manufacturer of weapons and ammunition now belongs to Rheinmetall.
“I am very relieved that the industry reacted so quickly. In the future, more and more ammunition, which we urgently need, will be manufactured in Germany,” said the chairwoman of the defense committee, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann (FDP), on Thursday of the German Press Agency. “In view of the security policy situation, it is of immense importance that Germany, together with the NATO partners, becomes more independent in the production of ammunition.” It is not yet publicly known where exactly the production facilities will be built.
In November, Strack-Zimmermann had demanded that consequences be drawn from the Swiss position in Germany. “What actually happens if Germany or one of the NATO countries is attacked and the Swiss-made ammunition is not delivered because of this ‘neutrality’?” she asked.