The Pentagon’s Armaments Supply is Under Strain: The fierce fighting over Ukraine has prompted the Pentagon to reevaluate its military supplies. Would there be enough weapons for the United States to fight if another big conflict broke out today? The Pentagon must answer this issue as they prepare for a possible clash with China and also prepare to equip Ukraine for a war with Russia that may drag on for years.
The Armaments Supply at the Pentagon Is Coming Under Pressure
The Ukraine conflict has the Pentagon evaluating its weaponry. Would the US have enough weapons for another big war? It’s a conundrum facing Pentagon planners as they look forward to a future battle with China and supply Ukraine for a fight with Russia that might last years. Russia fires 20,000 rounds a day, including cruise missiles and automatic rifle shots. Ukraine is shooting 7,000 rounds a day, including 155 mm howitzer rounds, Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, and NASAMS air defense weapons.
Much of Ukraine’s weaponry comes from U.S.-funded weapons sent weekly to the front lines. The Biden administration stated Wednesday that Ukraine will get 20 million extra small weapons rounds. Pentagon comptroller Michael McCord said last month, “We’ve never had only a few days of a key munition.” We now support a partner who does. Some U.S. defense production lines, like the Stinger, have been shut down.
This puts a strain on U.S. reserves and has policymakers wondering if stockpiles are big enough. If China attacked Taiwan, would the U.S. be ready to respond? “What if Indo-Pacom exploded?” What if that happened next week, not in five or 10 years? Top Pentagon weapons buyer Bill LaPlante referred to Indo-Pacific Command. He spoke at a Virginia defense conference this month. “What do we have? Effectiveness? We’re asking those questions now, he said.
The Army utilizes many of the same munitions that have proven most vital in Ukraine, including HIMARS, Stinger missiles, and 155 mm howitzer rounds, and is examining its stockpile requirements, Army assistant secretary for procurement Doug Bush told reporters Monday. “They’re looking at what Ukraine is using, what we can create, and how fast we can ramp up, all of which affect how big your pre-war stockpile should be,” said Bush. “The slower you start, the greater the pile has to be.”
U.S. military aid packages either take from stockpiles or support industry contracts to boost output. At least $19 billion in military aid has been pledged, including 924,000 155mm artillery rounds, 8,500 Javelin anti-tank systems, 1,600 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, and hundreds of vehicles and drones. It’s also supplied sophisticated air defense systems and 38 HIMARS, although the Pentagon doesn’t say how many rounds are included. Capitol Hill is questioning the arms influx. This month, Obama urged Congress to authorize $37 billion more in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine before Republicans take over the House in January. Kevin McCarthy, a candidate for speaker, said Republicans won’t provide a “blank check” for Ukraine.
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Mark Cancian of the Center for Strategic and International Studies believes that the 1,600 Stinger systems the U.S. has given Ukraine comprise one-quarter of its overall arsenal. LaPlante said the HIMARS system, which Ukraine employed in its counteroffensive, has similar issues. “We stopped producing the item that’s rescuing Ukraine and that everyone wants,” he added.
LaPlante says the Army halted HIMARS production between 2014 and 2018. Bush said the Army wants to build eight a month, or 96 a year. HIMARS’ success in Ukraine has piqued global interest. Poland, Lithuania, and Taiwan have ordered as the U.S. rushes more to Ukraine. If the war carries on and additional HIMARS ammo is allocated for Ukraine, U.S. forces’ live-fire training might be limited. The Pentagon announced a $14.4 million deal to expedite HIMARS manufacturing.
“This fight has exposed that U.S. and allied munitions output is likely insufficient for significant land wars,” said Ryan Brobst of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. The U.S. recently stated it will give Ukraine with four Avenger air defense systems, portable launchers that can be placed on tracked or wheeled vehicles, to provide a shorter-range alternative against Russia’s Iranian drones. Avenger uses Stinger missiles. Sabrina Singh, deputy Pentagon press secretary, said stockpiling concerns were considered.
Singh stated during a Pentagon briefing, “We wouldn’t have delivered these Stinger missiles if we couldn’t.”