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Slovakia fills its artillery shell stocks with $132 million order

MILAN — The Slovak Ministry of Defense has awarded contract to local ammunition giant ZVS Holding for the production of 155mm artillery shells for the Zuzana 2 self-propelled howitzers, one of the largest orders placed since the election of a new government last year.

The contract was allocated in the absence of a competition, as indicated by a notice last week by the Tenders Electronic Daily website, an online repository of European public procurements.

The amount of shells was not disclosed, but the order has an estimated value of 122,2 million euros ($132,1 million).

ZVS Holding is jointly owned by the state and MSM Group, and is one of the oldest ammunition producers within the country. A recent report published by the Center for European Policy Analysis, a U.S.-based think tank, found that ahead of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Slovak manufacturer was producing at 60% of its full capacity.

Today, having secured a considerable number of contracts, the firm has maxed out its list of orders until 2025, according to the report. Additional investments nearing 50 million euros ($54 million) are in the pipeline to increase output.

The 155mm ammunition requested by the Slovak MoD is destined for the Zuzana 2, a self-propelled howitzer domestically produced by Konštrukta. Bratislava has provided over a dozen of these vehicles to Ukraine since the start of the war.

In 2022, the Slovak manufacturer saw its profits increase ten-fold, as highlighted by the CEPA report. As of this month, it is said to be able to produce 20 of these artillery systems annually.

In September, the company unveiled its latest development, the BIA, a 155mm autonomous self-propelled artillery system equipped with automatic ammunition loading.

Local observers have been watching closely whether the new government of Prime Minister Robert Fico will recalibrate its assistance – civilian and military – to Ukraine. Despite the politician’s harsh pre-election narrative of “not a single round” for Ukraine, his flagship electoral slogan, he appears to have somewhat toned down his anti-aid rhetoric.

On Jan. 24, he held a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart Denys Shmyhal, during which he announced a humanitarian aid package worth several hundred thousand dollars as well as the delivery of Božena mine-clearing vehicles to Kyiv. He also pledged to send eight ambulances to the embattled country.

Fico also declared that he would vote in favor of the European Union’s Ukraine Facility initiative, seeking to promote the reconstruction of the country, at the European Council’s summit this week.

Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.