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German, Danish leaders launch construction of new ammunition plant as Europe ramps up production

BERLIN — The leaders of Germany and Denmark joined in a ground-breaking ceremony for a new ammunition factory on Monday, underlining Europe’s efforts to ramp up its weapons production as Russia’s war in Ukraine grinds on.

The plant being built by defense company Rheinmetall at its existing site in Unterluess in northern Germany is expected eventually to produce around 200,000 artillery shells per year along with explosives and possibly other components, including warheads. Rheinmetall is shouldering the cost of about 300 million euros ($324 million).

Rheinmetall said that production at the site will primarily meet the needs of Germany’s military, the Bundeswehr. The company said the priority is to start production as soon as possible and it expects construction to take about a year.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who attended the ceremony with his defense minister and Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, said Rheinmetall was “laying the foundation for supplying the Bundeswehr and our partners in Europe with artillery ammunition independently and above all durably.”

He said that was particularly important in light of Ukraine’s ammunition needs, German news agency dpa reported.

“We have managed so far by delivering a great deal from our stocks,” but that is becoming ever more difficult, he added. “It is important that we do everything to increase production worldwide.”

Russia’s arms industry far outweighs Ukraine’s, and Kyiv has relied on Western help to match Moscow’s firepower. But the 27-nation EU’s plans to produce 1 million artillery rounds for Ukraine have fallen short, with only about a third of the target met.

The war in Ukraine heightened anxiety in Germany about the preparedness of its own armed forces, prompting Scholz days after the Russian invasion to announce what he called a “turning point” in military spending.

Germany plans to spend 2% of its gross domestic product this year, an aim NATO allies set themselves a decade ago, after long falling short. It also has become Ukraine’s second-biggest military supplier after the United States.

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