US Dropping Bombs Quicker Than They Can Be Replaced
May 3, 2017 Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Matt Novak / Gizmodo & Marcus Weisgerber / Defense One
So many bombs have been dropped in massive air wars in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan that the US has nearly run out of bombs. Between August 2014 and May 2016, the US-led coalition had conducted 12,453 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria since . More than 8,500 of the strikes occurred in Iraq and nearly 4,000 in Syria. US warplanes and drones conducted 9,495 of the strikes. More than 41,697 bombs were dropped in those strikes -- with the US "loaning" bombs to allies participating in the strikes.
US Dropping Bombs Quicker Than They Can Be Replaced US Air Wars Literally Unsustainable Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(May 1, 2017) -- Massive air wars in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan are just the beginning of the story for the United States military, with regular strikes in places like Somalia and Yemen, and constant risks of the US launching a massive war on North Korea at any moment. That's a lot of bombs being dropped, and mostly in open-ended conflicts.
A year ago, the Pentagon was warning that it was forced to raid its world-wide stockpiles of bombs because they were using so many. Now, they're running through those too, and are using smart-bombs faster than they can buy them from massive US arms makers.
That's a big problem for the Pentagon, because as already the biggest consumer of bombs on the planet by far, there isn't exactly a ton of leftover capacity for them to draw on. That makes the US air wars literally unsustainable at current levels, because there just aren't enough bombs on the planet to supply them all.
Pacific Commander Admiral Harry Harris told Congress that the bombs are absolutely critical, citing the wars in the Middle East, and also for use "against North Korea." While this is probably to mean more funding for bombs,, it's not at all clear that even those huge US arms makers can produce all the bombs that the Pentagon intends to use, let alone enough to keep up the pace at which it's already using.
US military airstrike on a purported ISIS VBIED facility near Mosul, Iraq, on February 26, 2017 (Video released by the US military)
(April 28, 2017) -- President Trump has said that America needs to rebuild its military, which is laughable in many ways. But he's right in one respect. We need more bombs. Why? Because the US has dropped so many bombs in the fight against ISIS over the past two years that we're running out.
As military news site Defense One reports, America is running short on the GPS-guided Small Diameter Bombs made by Boeing, newer models made by Raytheon, and even air-to-air missiles. Many of the existing stockpiles of bombs held by the US military are being diverted from the Pacific region to the Middle East and Africa, where the need is reportedly most urgent.
But this isn't a new problem. There have been warnings from the Pentagon for almost a year that our intensive bombing of ISIS targets around the world could lead to a shortage. We ran into a similar problem near the end of 2015.
Since the beginning of Operation Inherent Resolve in August of 2014, the US has spent over $11.9 billion on military operations against ISIS. That includes over 19,607 strikes in Iraq and Syria alone, at a cost of roughly $12.8 million per day. And that doesn't even count airstrikes in places like Afghanistan, Somalia, and Yemen.
That's a fuck-ton of bombing. And someone has to supply those bombs so we can keep constantly bombing the shit out of those countries. But the US military is dropping them quicker than they can be restocked.
"These are not exciting kinds of weapons; these are mundane sort of weapons," PACOM commander Admiral Harry Harris told the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.
"But they're absolutely critical to what we're trying to do, not only. . . against North Korea, but also in the fights in the Middle East," Admiral Harris continued.
Yes, I guess you could call a GPS-guided bomb mundane. But you could also call it incredibly destructive and expensive. I don't think there's any question that ISIS are the bad guys here. But if the world's largest military is using so many bombs that it's literally running out, it might be a good time to consider if there is another strategy that could be employed.
After all, Trump did promise to deliver a super-duper secret plan to defeat ISIS in 30 days once in office. That plan? He told the Pentagon they have 30 days to come up with a plan. Tomorrow marks Trump's 100th day in office, and we're still waiting on that, I guess.
(May 26, 2016) -- The anti-ISIS coalition has dropped more than 41,500 bombs, leading the Pentagon to borrow from stockpiles in other regions.
The US military is raiding its smart-bomb stockpiles around the world to continue its nearly two-year-old airstrike campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Pentagon officials said.
Defense Department officials are trying to figure out "how we balance the weapons we have," US Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles Brown, the man overseeing the airstrikes, said Thursday.
"We have to do some analysis of where we take risk," Brown said in a video conference with reporters from Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, home to the American-run combined air and space operations center.
"What I mean by that is: where do we pull some weapons from that we were saving for other contingencies," he said. "And do we use them now or do we save them for later?"
The coalition has conducted 12,453 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria since August 2014, according to Operation Inherent Resolve, the task force overseeing the counter-ISIS campaign. More than 8,500 of the strikes have occurred in Iraq and nearly 4,000 in Syria.
American warplanes and drones alone have conducted 9,495 of the strikes, with allies accounting for the remaining 2,958. More than 41,697 bombs have been dropped in those strikes. And the US has loaned bombs to allies participating in the strikes.
The bomb shortage could be further compounded by a Pentagon policy that would require it to ditch old cluster munitions, military officials said.
The US maintains bomb stockpiles in Europe, the Middle East, and the Pacific. Many of these consist of older versions of modern bombs, according to a January Center for Strategic and International Studies review of US defense strategy in the Pacific.
"Ideally [the Pentagon] would also procure large numbers of the most modern munitions," the report said. But spending reductions from the Budget Control Act "have affected all modernization, including munitions."
US Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced in February that the Pentagon would ask Congress for more than $1.8 billion to buy 45,000 new bombs. US arms makers have already increased bomb production to keep up with the demand.
The military is facing this shortfall because it did not forecast needing this many weapons three or more years ago when it made its budget projections. At the time, no US forces were in Iraq and the military was preparing to withdraw from Afghanistan.
But that didn't happen; thousands of American forces remain in Afghanistan and thousands more have gone back to Iraq to train and advise the Iraqi military. Brown also pointed out that allies, in many cases, are dropping American-made, guided smart bombs.
"I know the Air Force has taken some steps to increase in the next [budget cycle], to buy more weapons," Brown said. "[T]hose weapons are about two years or so away, if not more."
The bomb shortfalls extend beyond US Central Command. Adm. Harry Harris, the commander of US Pacific Command, told Congress that he was also concerned about depletion of bomb stockpiles.
"Critical munitions shortfalls are a top priority and concern," Harris wrote in testimony for a Feb. 23 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. "USPACOM advocates for continued investment, additional procurement and improved munitions technologies to better deter and defeat aggression."
Harris also wrote that PACOM needs "improvements in munitions technologies, production, and pre-positioning, but fiscal pressure places this at risk."
In a previously unreported March 10 letter to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, Harris listed additional purchases of munitions in his top three unfunded priorities. The admiral singled out AIM-9X and AIM-120D air-to-air missiles, SM-6 surface-to-air missiles and MK-48 torpedos. All four weapons are made by Raytheon.
The CSIS report recommends the Pentagon deploy more bombs to Guam, Japan and Korea.
At a March 22 House Armed Services Committee hearing, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it would be "several years before we fully restore full-spectrum readiness across the services and replenish our stocks of critical precision munitions."
In February, Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, then-commander of US Forces Korea, warned that the loss of cluster bombs could deplete the US military's stockpile in the Pacific.
"[W]e must maintain an adequate quantity of critical munitions to ensure alliance supremacy in the early days of conflict on the Peninsula," Scaparrotti said at a Feb. 24 House Armed Services Committee hearing.
The general said the problem is "further amplified by the approaching loss of cluster munitions due to shelf life expiration and the impending ban."
In 2008, then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates placed restrictions on the stockpiling and use of cluster munitions, even though the US is not a signatory to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
The Gates policy, which goes into effect in 2019, states that "the use of cluster munitions that have a dud rate of greater than one percent can no longer be a part of our inventory and be employed," Scaparrotti said at the Feb. 23 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. "I rely on cluster munitions in a very large way to affect operations if we go to crisis on the Peninsula."
"My concern is, that we will not be able to replace those cluster munitions with proper munitions or we'll use unitary rounds which . . . have the same effect," he said. "I have to fire three to five rounds for each one of those cluster munitions."
The Senate version of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act prohibits the Defense Department from destroying any cluster bombs until the defense secretary provides lawmakers with the Pentagon's policy on the weapons. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., inserted the language into the bill.
The bill would also allow the Pentagon to set up a special budget account with up to $1 billion to buy and stock "precision guided munitions anticipated to be needed by partner and allied forces to enhance the effectiveness of overseas contingency operations conducted or supported by the United States." Cotton worked on this language with Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz.
Marcus Weisgerber is the global business editor for Defense One, where he writes about the intersection of business and national security. He has been covering defense and national security issues for more than a decade, previously as Pentagon correspondent for Defense News.
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