German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall is ready to significantly increase production of tank and artillery ammunition to meet the high demand in Ukraine and the West, and may begin production of HIMARS multiple rocket launchers in Germany, CEO Armin Papperger told Reuters.
He added that production capacity for 155mm artillery shells could be increased to 450,000-500,000 per year, making Rheinmetall the largest producer of both types of ammunition.
According to Papperger, Rheinmetall produced between 60,000 and 70,000 shells for tanks and artillery pieces in 2022. But he assured that production could be increased immediately.
Papperger said that a new production line for medium-caliber ammunition, which is used, for example, in German Gepard anti-aircraft tanks in Ukraine, will be launched by mid-year.
At the same time, Rheinmetall is in talks with Lockheed Martin, the U.S. company that makes the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), which is heavily used by Ukrainian forces, Papperger said.
Rheinmetall is also considering launching a new gunpowder plant, possibly in the eastern German state of Saxony, but the investment of 700 to 800 million euros would have to be financed by the government in Berlin, he said.
Days before meeting with the new defense minister, Papperger had pushed for an increase in Germany's defense budget.
Papperger estimates that the Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces) would need to invest three to four billion euros a year to make up for the ammunition shortage.