America’s aid to Ukraine to fight the Russian invasion is pressuring the Pentagon’s weapons stockpile


the intense shooting over Ukraine has the Pentagon rethinking its arsenals of weapons. If another big war broke out today, would the United States have enough ammunition to fight?

It’s a question facing Pentagon planners, not just because they want to supply Ukraine for a war with Russia that could drag on for years to come, but also because they look to a potential conflict with Porcelain.

Russia fires up to 20,000 rounds a day, from rounds for automatic rifles to truck-sized cruise missiles. Ukraine is responding with up to 7,000 rounds a day, firing 155mm howitzers, Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and now NASAMS Air Defense Munitionsand thousands of rounds of small arms fire.

Much of Ukraine’s firepower is supplied through US government-funded weapons that are sent to the front lines on an almost weekly basis. On Wednesday, the Biden administration announced a extra round of help that will provide 20 million more small arms ammunition to Kyiv.

“We haven’t been in a position where we only have a few days of critical ammunition left,” Pentagon Comptroller Michael McCord told reporters this month. “But now we’re supporting a partner that is.”

US defense production lines are not sized to support a major ground war, and some, such as the stingThey were previously closed.

That is putting pressure on US stockpiles, and officials are questioning whether US arms stockpiles are big enough. Would the United States be ready to respond to a major conflict today, for example, if China invaded Taiwan?

“What would happen if something exploded at Indo-Pacom? Not five years from now, not 10 years from now, what if it happened next week? Bill LaPlante, the Pentagon’s top arms buyer, referring to the military’s Indo-Pacific Command. He spoke at a defense acquisition conference this month at George Mason University in Virginia.

“What do we have in any degree of quantity? Will that be really effective? Those are the questions we are asking ourselves right now,” she said.

The Army uses many of the same munitions that have proven most critical in Ukraine, including high-mobility artillery rocket systems, known as HIMARSStinger missiles and 155mm howitzer rounds, and is now reviewing its reservation requirementsDoug Bush, the Army’s undersecretary for acquisition, told reporters Monday.

“They’re looking at what Ukraine is using, what we can produce, and how fast we can scale up, all of which are factors I would work on, ‘OK, how (big) should your prewar reserve be? Bush said. “The slower you ramp up, the bigger the stack should be at the start.”

Military aid packages sent by the US pull inventory out of stocks or finance contracts with industry to increase production. At least $19 billion in military aid has been committed to date, including 924,000 155mm howitzer artillery shells, more than 8,500 Javelin anti-tank systems, 1,600 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, and hundreds of vehicles and drones. It also provided advanced air defense systems and 38 HIMARS, although the Pentagon does not disclose how many rounds of ammunition it sends with the rocket systems.

The weapons infusion is raising questions on Capitol Hill.

This month, the administration asked Congress to provide $37 billion more in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine in the post-election legislative session, and to approve it before Republicans take control of the House in January. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, who is seeking to become a speaker, warned that Republicans would not support writing a “blank check” for Ukraine.

Even with fresh money, reserves cannot be replenished quickly. Several of the systems that proved most vital in Ukraine shut down their production lines years ago. Keeping a production line open is expensive, and the Army had other spending priorities.

The Pentagon awarded Raytheon a $624 million contract for 1,300 new Stinger missiles in May, but the company said it won’t be able to ramp up production until next year due to parts shortages.

“The Stinger line was shut down in 2008,” LaPlante said. “Seriously, who did that? We all did. You did it. We did it,” he said, referring to the decision by Congress and the Pentagon not to fund the Army’s continued production of anti-aircraft munitions, which can be soldier-launched or mounted on a platform or truck.

Based on an analysis of past Army budget documents, Center for Strategic and International Studies senior adviser Mark Cancian estimates that the 1,600 Stinger systems the US has provided Ukraine account for about a quarter of its total arsenal.

The HIMARS system, which Ukraine has used so effectively in its counteroffensive, faces some of the same challenges, LaPlante said.

“What is now saving Ukraine, and what the whole world wants, we stopped production,” he said.

The Army shut down HIMARS production between 2014 and 2018, LaPlante said. The military is now trying to increase output to up to eight a month, or 96 a year, Bush said.

The effectiveness of HIMARS in Ukraine has also increased interest elsewhere. Poland, Lithuania and Taiwan have placed orders, even as the US works to push Ukraine further. If the conflict drags on and more HIMARS munitions are prioritized for Ukraine, that could limit US troops’ access to rounds for live-fire training.

The Pentagon this month announced a $14.4 million contract to speed up production of new HIMARS to replenish its stocks.

“This conflict has revealed that munitions production in the United States and with our allies is likely insufficient for major ground wars,” said Ryan Brobst, an analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies Center on Military and Political Power.

The United States also recently announced that it would supply Ukraine with four Avenger Air Defense Systemsportable launchers that can be mounted on tracked or wheeled vehicles, to provide another shorter-range option against Iranian drones used by Russian forces. But Avenger systems also rely on Stinger missiles.

Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said concerns about stockpiles were taken into account.

“We wouldn’t have provided these Stinger missiles if we didn’t feel like we could,” Singh said at a recent Pentagon briefing.


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