Army Secretary Christine Wormuth visits the Scranton, Pa., Army Ammunition Plant on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023.

Army Secretary Christine Wormuth visits the Scranton, Pa., Army Ammunition Plant on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. ()

SCRANTON (Tribune News Service) — The U.S. Army will spend $243 million over the next several years to upgrade the Scranton Army Ammunition Plant, creating more than two dozen new jobs, officials said Monday.

The plant’s workforce of approximately 270 people should grow by 25 to 40 people, Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth said after a tour with U.S. Sen. Bob Casey.

The money, part of a $17.6 billion investment to upgrade the 23 Army-owned plants, will “help ramp up production lines, help put in some new equipment that will allow the plant to be able to produce more shells at a higher rate at the end,” the secretary said. The investment will include a new building, a modern crane for moving materials and replacing manufacturing equipment dating to the 1950s and 1960s.

The plant on South Washington Avenue manufactures 155mm artillery shells used in training and wartime. The local plant and others the Army owns produce shells the U.S. supplies to Ukraine for its war against Russia’s invasion.

The U.S. has supplied Ukraine with more than one million shells, Wormuth said.

Casey said the shells are helping the Ukrainian military fight off Russia’s “murderous dictator,” Vladimir Putin.

“The best of America is right here in Scranton, Pennsylvania,” Casey said. “Those of us who live in Scranton, Lackawanna County, can be proud of what happens here. But I think Americans can be proud of what their tax dollars have meant for the people of Ukraine, pushing back and ultimately defeating Mr. Putin.”

Wormuth said much of the Russian war against Ukraine entails artillery exchanges.

“These shells have basically allowed the Ukrainian armed forces to be able to strike targets farther away. They are able to get more out of the range of the Russian artillery systems,” she said. “And they have greater capacity to be able to strike Russian formations in places like the Donbas, for example. And so this kind of artillery is incredibly important to them.”

With both sides talking about spring offensives, “it’s very, very important that we have the kind of ramped-up production that you’re seeing here at Scranton to be able to get more artillery to the Ukrainians.”

Wormuth said the Russian-Ukrainian war pointed to the need for larger stockpiles of shells.

“We have been ramping up production of 155s from 14,000 a month to 20,000 a month. And our goal is to eventually get to 70,000 rounds a month in two years,” she said. “I think there are a lot of lessons to be learned from the Russia- Ukraine war. And certainly, we are seeing the scale of warfare in a much larger way. And that’s going to require more munitions.”

Casey and Wormuth credited the plant’s hard-working unionized employees.

“It was fantastic to see the pride that the workforce has in what they’re doing,” Wormuth said. “And they also, I think, feel very proud of what they do to make sure that our Army soldiers have what they need for any kinds of operations we might need. You know, it’s not just the Ukrainians.”

(c)2023 The Citizens’ Voice (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.)

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