As Ukraine makes advances south of Bakhmut, the Ukraine Defence Contact Group (UDCG) met for the 15th time on Tuesday 19 September to establish new lines of support in the defence against Russia’s illegal invasion.

Following the meeting, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps  announced an ongoing commitment from the UK to deliver military support to Ukraine, substantiated through ‘tens of thousands’ more artillery shells to be delivered this year. 

An ISW report for 19 September finds Russian and Ukrainian sources crediting the advance on Bakhmut to more precise artillery fire to provide long range strike capability, as well as superior Ukrainian combat coordination and electronic warfare systems. While frontline progress has been hard-fought and lacking in the rushing advances last seen during the liberation of Kharkiv and northern territories in September 2022, Ukraine has demonstrated sophistication and efficacy in the deep battle, but this hinges on a ready supply of munitions and artillery systems.

Speaking after the UDCG meeting, Shapps pledged tens of thousands ofartbllery shells and outlined other priority areas. “To ensure Ukraine has what it needs to defend itself as we approach winter, we have also set out how the UK will go further in the coming months in our priority support areas, including air defence and long-range strike capabilities, and training.”

Investment in UK 155mm artillery

The announcement followed shortly after the UK Government exercised an option on a contract with BAE for artillery shells and other ammunition, increasing the supply contract from £280m to £410m on 18 September. The contract extension will facilitate the establishment of an additional 155mm artillery shell machining line in Washington, Tyne & Wear. 

The UK’s process of intensive munition replenishment mirrors efforts from the European Defence Agency (EDA) as it commits to a continent wide manufacturing plan to renew its stockpile of 155mm shells. 

Speaking at the 15th UDCG meeting on Tuesday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin stressed that Ukraine’s recent progress in the reclamation of its territory hinges on the capabilities provided by the contact group, highlighting the $76bn in direct security assistance already provided by the 50 supporting nations.

He went on to highlight specific nations – Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Poland – as leaders of coalitions providing Leopard tanks, F-16 training, and ‘Information Technology’.

During the course of the conflict the UK has so far delivered 300,000 artillery shells to Ukraine, as well as 12,000 anti-tank weapons, thousands of air defence missiles, as well as self-propelled artillery, in total providing £2.3bn of support in 2022, and remaining on course to spend to the same level in 2023. 

Additional reporting from Harry McNeil and Richard Thomas.