To go to war? Good news! The United States is 13 years behind in ammunition production, reports NYT
The Biden administration this month proposed a record $842 billion budget for the Department of Defense.
Stockpiles of missiles and ammunition are dwindling as the US continues to send aid packages to Ukraine.
As production capacities changed after the Cold War, the US can no longer keep up with wartime needs.
The US pledge to support Ukraine against the Russian invasion appears to have shaken the stability of domestic missile and ammunition stockpiles.
The Biden administration has promised — as part of the $33 billion in military aid so far allocated to the beleaguered country — a US Patriot air defense system will be sent to Ukraine, along with over 200,000 rounds of artillery, missiles and tank shells.
To fulfill those promises, the New York Times reported that the US sent Ukraine so many stored Stinger missiles that it would take 13 years to replace them at recent capacity levels. The Times added that Raytheon, the company involved in making Javeline missile systems, said at last year’s production rate it would take five years to replace the number of missiles produced in the last 10 months were sent to Ukraine.
Currently, the US produces just over 14,000 rounds of 155mm ammunition each month – and Ukrainian forces have previously fired that many rounds in 48 hours, the Washington Post reported last month. US officials in January proposed an increase in production to up to 90,000 rounds of 155mm ammunition per month to keep up with demand.
“Ammunition availability may be the single most important factor determining the course of the war in 2023,” US defense experts Michael Kofman and Rob Lee wrote for the Foreign Policy Research Institute in December, adding that Ukraine is depleted of international stockpiles and production will depend on access to the ammunition needed.
The United States has rarely experienced production shortages in ammunition and missiles on the scale that the country is currently facing. While there was a brief shortage of precision missiles in 2016 following battles in Libya and Iraq, The Times reported, the US was largely engaged in short-term, high-intensity combat like the Gulf War or longer, lower-intensity missions like the war in Afghanistan that made it possible for the Replenish stock as needed.
Now, as tensions between global superpowers mount, U.S. production and ammunition curbs – caused by supply chain shortages as well as Cold War-era capacity reductions – have become a major concern for defense experts.
“This could turn into a crisis. With the front line now largely stationary, artillery has become the primary combat weapon,” says a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Ukraine will never run out of 155mm ammunition – there will always be more – but artillery units may need to ration shells and fire only on the highest priority targets. This would have an adverse effect on the battlefield. The more restricted the supply of ammunition, the stronger the effect.”
Earlier this month, the Biden administration proposed a record $842 billion budget for the Department of Defense. To address ammunition shortages, the proposed budget includes $19.2 billion to modernize facilities “that help improve operational readiness” and increase production of naval and anti-strike missiles around the country and to support its allies in “a crucial decade”.
While improvements to manufacturing facilities have been budgeted for in the future, the US is currently urging suppliers to build capacity to meet Ukraine’s current wartime needs and keep pace with China’s production.
“When it comes to munitions, make no mistake,” Kathleen Hicks, the assistant secretary of defense, said during a briefing earlier this month on the 2024 budget proposal: “We’re buying to the limits of the industrial base, even as we expand those limits.” , and we continue to work to cut bureaucracy and shorten schedules.”
Defense Department officials did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
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