German manufacturer Rheinmetall will open a new domestic facility to produce equipment for its Gepard anti-aircraft guns, the company said Thursday after Bern banned Germany from sending Swiss-made Gepard munitions to Ukraine.
“Rheinmetall has decided to open a new production line in Germany for medium-calibre ammunition,” which will include “the possibility of producing 35mm ammunition for the Gepard air defense system,” the company said in a statement sent to AFP.
The facility will be completed in January 2023 and will begin producing munitions from June, Rheinmetall added, without specifying where it will be located.
The new line will help “restore the German army’s defense capability” and “fill the gaps created by support to Ukraine,” Rheinmetall added.
Germany has sent Gepard systems and munitions to Ukraine as part of a package of weapons to help the country repel Russia’s invasion.
But Germany’s own production of munitions is limited and earlier this year, it asked Switzerland for authorization to send Ukraine 12,400 pieces of Swiss-made ammunition.
Switzerland declined, reasoning that authorizing the deal would compromise its neutrality.
Rheinmetall did not directly reference the Swiss veto but said a central aim of the new production line was to “make the ammunition supply in Germany independent of foreign production sites again.”
More generally, the group said it had a “responsibility to help the federal government restore the necessary defence capability of the army.”
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine marked a big turning point in German defense policy, with Chancellor Olaf Scholz announcing a 100-billion-euro ($106-billion) fund to upgrade the army, known as the Bundeswehr.
Scholz in September vowed to transform the country’s military into the “best equipped” in Europe.