Are 155mm artillery shells going from Japan to Ukraine, via the US?

The American publication The Wall Street Journal news came as a bombshell: Japan, a nation historically reserved about weapons exports, is reportedly mulling over a proposition to supply Ukraine with 155mm artillery shells. This potential move is not as out-of-the-blue as it may seem. In fact, it’s a part of a 2016 pact with the United States, aiming to share ammunition under the umbrella of their enduring security alliance. 

Russia monthly produces more shells than US produces 155mm shells
Photo credit: Konstantin Mihaylchevkiy

In a landmark meeting in Tokyo, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his Japanese counterpart, Yasukazu Hamada, broached an intriguing subject. They were discussing the prospects of supplying artillery shells to Ukraine.

In an unexpected twist, Japan’s artillery shells are coming to the rescue, replenishing the dwindling US stockpiles. The US, heavily committed to bolstering Ukraine’s military defense, has seen its own armory shrink significantly. It’s a striking illustration of the global impact of this conflict. 

Since the onset of Russia’s special military operation on February 24, 2022, the United States has responded with an impressive show of support. The U.S. has dispatched over 2 million 155mm shells to Ukraine, a staggering number that underscores the severity of the situation.

As the summer heat began to rise in June, whispers from unnamed sources began to permeate the media landscape. The buzz? The United States had apparently uncovered a novel avenue to source TNT from Japan. The intended use? The production of formidable 155mm artillery shells.

After the Philippines and Japan, Taiwan may also store US ammunition
Photo by Dustin Perry

Secretary Austin tipped his hat to Japan, acknowledging their ongoing non-lethal aid to Ukraine. His words echoed gratitude for their additional support in these trying times. However, the specifics – how many munitions Japan can contribute and when they’ll hit the ground – remain a mystery.

While the buzz around Japan supplying artillery shells to the United States or Ukraine is growing louder, the Ministry of Defense in Japan insists that they’re still in the decision-making process. “It seems we’re on the cusp of a major move, but for now, we’re left hanging in suspense.”

In a bit of intriguing diplomatic intrigue, the ministry has confirmed that they’re actively engaged in talks with the United States. However, they’re keeping their cards close to their chest, declining to spill the beans on the specifics of these discussions.

In the face of Russia’s aggressive incursion, Japan has been a steadfast ally to Ukraine, providing non-lethal military support in the form of body armor, helmets, and other essential gear. But when it comes to weapons, Japan has traditionally held back, hemmed in by its own self-imposed limitations.

Japan may supply Ukraine never exported Type 91 surface-to-air MANPADS
Photo credit: Wikipedia

In a surprising twist, Japan is veering away from a policy rooted in the 1960s. This policy explicitly forbade the transfer of lethal weapons to other nations. Yes, you heard it right – Japan is stepping away from a decades-old arms export restriction.

Interestingly, this potential shell supply deal doesn’t exactly translate to Japan directly tossing lethal weapons into the heat of the battlefield. Still, it’s definitely a hot potato in the political arena back home. Why, we ask? Well, quite a few Japanese voters would rather the Land of the Rising Sun keeps its nose out of foreign skirmishes. So, any moves involving this kind of military aid becomes a bit of a high-wire act.

Looking for help

When it comes to the battleground of Ukraine, artillery isn’t just a part of the conflict – it’s stolen center stage. With both Russian and Ukrainian forces putting it to extensive use, artillery has become a key character in this dramatic and ongoing power struggle.

Could Russia use its low-yield nuclear artillery projectiles?
Photo credit: Russian MoD

Imagine this – the daily roar of artillery fire echoing across the Ukrainian landscape, with Russia unleashing a staggering 20,000 rounds each day. On the other side, Ukraine is responding with a daily barrage of 4,000 to 7,000 rounds. It’s a high-stakes game of endurance that’s rapidly depleting the ammunition reserves of US and European allies, who are steadfastly backing Ukraine. Meanwhile, Russia isn’t having an easy time either, grappling with the chokehold of Western sanctions.

In a surprising turn of events, both warring factions have cast their gaze towards Asia, seeking it as a vital lifeline for securing the much-needed artillery shells in this ongoing conflict.

Should talks with the United States prove successful, Japan could find itself joining a cadre of Asian nations lending a hand in the ongoing conflict. A potential game-changer in the balance of power, this move marks a significant departure from Japan’s traditional stance on weapons export.

More possibilities

Imagine this: Japan’s next-door neighbor, South Korea, is quietly arranging a deal of epic proportions. We’re talking about the transfer of “hundreds of thousands” of artillery rounds to Ukraine. And guess who’s playing the middleman? The good ol’ U.S. of A. These rounds are destined for Kyiv, ready to reinforce their counter-offensive against Russian forces. Now, that’s what we call a power move!

More Iranian 'killers' for Russia, US will target them, but in 2023
Photo credit:

Fast forward to August 2022, and the plot thickens. Keen-eyed open-source researchers have picked up on a curious series of flights. These weren’t just any flights, mind you. These were missions carried out by British RAF C-17 transport aircraft, all originating from an intriguing location: Pakistan.  

Why is this significant, you ask? Well, these flight patterns suggest that Pakistan might be more involved in the Ukraine situation than they’re letting on. Indeed, it appears they could be quietly supplying ammunition to Ukraine. A fascinating twist, isn’t it?

It’s not just the West that Russia is reaching out to for support. ‘Our friends’ in Asia have been making headlines too. Just last year, North Korea was caught in the spotlight, accused of sending a “significant” shipment of artillery shells Russia’s way, all earmarked for use against Ukraine.

Here’s a twist: Russia, it seems, is clandestinely repurchasing tank and missile components it previously sold to India and Myanmar. But why, you ask? The word on the street is that they’re keen on sprucing up their gear for the unfolding conflict in Ukraine. Now, that’s a move that’s bound to stir the pot!

Confirmed: Russia uses swarming Shahed-136 loitering munition
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Imagine this – it’s April, and The Wall Street Journal drops a bombshell. They report that Iran, with a sly wink and a nudge, has supposedly shipped a staggering 300,000 artillery shells and about a million rounds of ammunition to Russia. All this, mind you, via unassuming cargo ships in the tranquil Caspian Sea. 

But wait, there’s more. Iran’s ‘gift package’ to Moscow also includes Shahed suicide drones. These things have quickly become Ukraine’s worst nightmare.

Imagine this – the Afghan Taliban, sifting through the remnants of US military gear left behind in Afghanistan, and potentially passing it along to Russia. It’s a plot twist you’d expect in a Hollywood thriller, isn’t it? 


However, John Kirby, the man at the helm of the White House National Security Council, threw a bit of a curveball. He couldn’t confirm whether this intriguing narrative held any water.

China's neutrality evaporates - DJI tracks Ukrainian UAVs up to 50km
Photo credit: Twitter

In the global chess game, China continues to stand as Russia’s staunchest and most formidable ally. The West, in a chorus of concern, has been persistently imploring Beijing to steer clear of supplying lethal weaponry to Moscow.

With Ukraine stepping up its counter-offensive game, there’s an escalating need for ammunition and advanced weaponry. This pressing demand is prompting both sides of the conflict to turn their gaze eastward. They’re seeking assistance from their Asian allies, in a bid to gather support for their respective war efforts.


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