US Is Reportedly 13 Years Behind in Ammo Production

US Is Reportedly 13 Years Behind in Ammo Production

( – The Russian invasion of Ukraine is one of the few crises the Biden Administration has managed to take decisive action on. With occasional nudging from allies when the president slips back into his usual hesitancy, the White House has supplied the Ukrainian military with vast quantities of arms and ammunition. American support has helped the defenders hold off — and even beat back — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s army. But is that support eating into our own warfighting ability?

On March 24, the New York Times reported that, at current production rates, it could take years to replace some of the weapon systems the US has gifted to Ukraine. The worst delays are in the shoulder-fired FIM-92 Stinger shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile (SAM), which has been the US Army’s main light SAM since 1981. Thousands of the missiles have gone to Ukraine from several countries, including over a quarter of the US stockpile — and at the rate they’re currently being made, it would take 13 years to replace them all.

In fact, that will never happen because the Stinger is obsolete, and it’s due to be replaced by 2027. It uses so many outdated components that manufacturer Raytheon is having to redesign the missile as it goes to keep the production line open for Ukraine. It won’t be easy to build up stocks of the new missile either, though, because the US only has two factories capable of making the rocket motors that missiles need. In 1995, we had six of them, but decades of falling defense spending since the end of the Cold War has eroded our defense industry. Attention has focused on big projects like new warships and the F-35 and B-21 stealth warplanes, while boring but vital assets like factories have been neglected. Now we simply don’t have enough production lines to make enough munitions.

That leaves us vulnerable. Right now, a simple accident — a fire at Aerojet Rocketdyne’s motor plant — means we only have one factory making rocket engines. Deliveries of SM-6 SAMs, used to defend US Navy warships against aircraft and missiles, are running late. It could take five years to replace the Javelin anti-tank missiles sent to Ukraine. Whatever replaces the Stinger will be joining a waiting list for rockets. The US Navy only has enough anti-ship missiles for one week of combat. We can’t even manufacture enough simple artillery shells anymore.

Now, the Biden Administration is trying to expand our production capacity, with a 13.4% increase in defense spending over two years, but this isn’t a problem that will be fixed overnight.

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