We’re not saying Ukraine is taking advantage of all the donations headed their way and making the war a financial hub for the nation’s increased GDP, but for months, the country has shown they have the capacity (and most importantly, the willpower) to push through the war 24/7.

Undoubtedly, help from military advisers from the US and NATO has helped them strategize around logistics and deployment. A couple of months ago, SOFREP also reported about the “Secret Military ‘FedEx'” that specializes in moving weapons and artillery from other nations to strategic locations to support Ukrainian ground forces. Even our very own Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III disclosed that Ukraine had prepared a good foundation for offensive strategies while optimizing the logistics around the ammunition they receive on a day-to-day basis. However, since our report in July, Ukraine has evolved “out of necessity” to become a 24/7, well-oiled war machine.

Yuriy Gusev, the head of Ukraine’s state-run weapons manufacturer Ukroboronprom, spoke with Foreign Policy and said that they are working tirelessly to keep up with the ammunition demand from the frontlines. To date, there is more than $15 billion worth of weapons from the US alone, to add to NATO-grade weaponry sent by other nations. Gusev said Ukraine is looking to build more facilities to service these weapons and become part of the Western military supply chain.

“From Feb. 24, we’re working 24/7. We have replaced some of our enterprises because of security issues and missile attacks. We’re working with partners to create maintenance and repair facilities for Western weapons and equipment here in Ukraine.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy makes a speech in the Knesset (Source: Government of Ukraine/Wikimedia)

One of the most interesting moves, and probably unexpected for the Russians, is Ukraine’s ability to conduct mobile improvements on artillery and vehicles. Even with our previous report on the exhaustive list of weapons the Russians left the Ukrainians in Kharkiv, President Volodomyr Zelensky’s administration notes they are looking to improve the tanks, artillery, special equipment, and a lot of armor to be “used against Russia.”

Repair, Recuperate, Deploy

Gusev has called for joint research and development centers in collaboration with Western companies to solidify the Ukrainian ability to repair, reconstruct and improve upon existing weaponry. Their ability to be highly agile, even when Russians attacked their critical facilities (some of them were left online), Ukraine used small-scale workshops and offshore production to avoid Russian strikes.

“We have special research institutions, which discover all this Russian equipment and weapons, and we have our own design bureaus, which are looking for that military equipment and weapons from Russia,” Gusev said.

The other thing that Ukraine did right to ensure they could consistently deliver with the demand is to take care of their own people. Unlike here in the US, where the military has already implemented a lot of pay cuts (in the Air Force), Ukraine did the opposite. They increased the salaries of those working on defense jobs and prioritized workforce systems that enable Ukrainians to upskill every still time they encounter new, Western weaponry.

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” said Jeb Nadaner, a former US deputy assistant secretary of defense for industrial policy. “They have very active networks in Europe and even beyond to keep their workshops moving forward.”

Ukraine also uses a mix of older Soviet-era factories that allow them to conduct faster repairs and modifications.

“They have the remnants of an older industrial base. Think New York, New Jersey, 1965. You have smelters. You have people that can fabricate things.”

Ukraine Military
Ukrainian Soldiers assigned to 3rd Battalion, 14th Mechanized Brigade prepare to conduct a training exercise at the Yavoriv Combat Training Center (Source: Defense Visual Information Distribution Service/NARA)

On top of the people working on infrastructure, the country’s parliament is also considering creating a new law that would make the defense industry one of the country’s top priorities, especially in terms of bringing in more foreign investment as Ukraine’s GDP is expected to fall by more than one-third of last year’s.

“However, in view of the large losses of production and human potential and the still-high security risks, the Ukrainian economy will recover at the rate of around 5%-6% per year in 2023-2024,” the regulator said.

Former Ukrainian Minister of Infrastructure, Volodymyr Omelyan, said the Russian damage to major enterprises could be estimated to be more than $1 trillion, saying this is just a rough estimate, not accounting for the new damages the current war would accrue.

“We are still able to produce many types of weapons, but definitely under permanent threat of bombing, you cannot make a real production line,” Omelyan said.

However, the stopgap they are implementing revolves around developing facilities in far-off locations in Ukraine. This minimizes the possibility of being attacked by the Russians. Moreover, by developing low-level workshop production, Ukraine can “hold out,” wrote Jack Detsch, a Pentagon and national security reporter.

“A lot of workshops, a lot of motivation,” Nadaner said. “It’s no substitute for what we’re giving them, no substitute for us growing our defense budget significantly, … but what they have retained is operating at a much greater production [level] than it did prewar.”