(Bloomberg) -- BAE Systems Plc cautioned that it will take time to gear up weapons shipments to Ukraine, amid pressure to bolster supplies as Russia makes gains on the battlefield.

Having weapons readily available for Ukraine and in other war zones such as the Middle East will be “difficult,” Charles Woodburn, chief executive officer of the UK defense firm, said Wednesday on a call after reporting record order backlogs at the end of 2023. 

“We’re working as rapidly as possible to add that but it does take a bit of time,” Woodburn said. “A clear picture of requirements is what the industry needs.”

The main challenge is in adding the capacity needed to increase output, Woodburn said. BAE has stepped up recruitment, adding 6,700 people last year, and has increased production of Hägglunds military vehicles that are widely used in Ukraine. Political disagreements among Western nations have also held up weapons deliveries. 

Read More: War in Ukraine Is Turning in Putin’s Favor After Months of Stalemate

BAE and other suppliers are working to speed military production for the US, UK and their allies, who confront a rising tide of conflicts across numerous regions. 

BAE is investing in machinery, its production footprint and in foundries, Woodburn said. The company aims to increase production of 155 millimeter shells in the UK by eight-fold. This effort will take a year and a half to two years, he said.

An earlier plan to produce the shells in Japan reportedly came to a standstill. 

The company said in January that it would also restart production of structures for the M777 Howitzer, a lightweight cannon popular with Ukrainian troops. It expects the first units to roll off of production lines in 2025.

As it accelerates current output, BAE has been bulking up on acquisitions. This month the company completed its purchase of Colorado-based Ball Aerospace, totaling $5.5 billion after adjustments, to add capabilities for space-based missions. It also acquired heavy-lift drone maker Malloy Aeronautics.

BAE ended 2023 with a record order backlog of £69.8 billion ($88.1 billion), and set a dividend that represents an 11% increase for the full year from 2022. 

Growth at its platforms and services division was driven by the Swedish Hägglunds business, which makes combat vehicles, armored engineering vehicles and armored personnel carriers.

Orders totaling a record £37.7 billion for 2023 were a positive surprise, and the level of backlog will secure BAE’s medium to longer-term growth, Morgan Stanley analyst Ross Law said in a note. 

Shares in BAE slid 2.6% in London, retreating from record territory, as projected cash flow for 2024 fell short of analysts’ estimates. The stock has risen 9.9% this year.

(Updates with analyst comment, updates shares)

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.