Sunday, April 17, 2022

US Depleting Javelin Missiles by Ukraine War

          (Dipaneeta Das’s article from the REPUBLICWORLD on 14 April 2022.) 

US Facing Shortage Of Javelin Anti-tank Missiles Post Supplies To Ukraine: With about one-third of its Javelin inventory now sent to Ukraine, the US is on the edge of the running of stock of the "iconic weapon", say experts. Here's why!

As the all-out Russian war entered day 50, the US on Wednesday bolstered assistance to war-torn Ukraine with additional military aid in artillery, helicopters, and more. Since the inception of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the US has already supplied Kyiv with thousands of anti-tank Javelin missiles.

With about one-third of its Javelin inventory now sent to Ukraine, Washington is on the edge of running out of the "iconic weapon," thus requiring the US to immediately reduce transfers to ensure sufficient stockpiles for its own purpose.

"The United States has supplied Ukraine with thousands of Javelins, the anti-tank missiles that have become the iconic weapon of the war, but the U.S. inventory is dwindling," says a report published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on April 12.

Before knowing further about the US stockpiles of Javelin missiles, it is pertinent to understand why it is called an "iconic weapon" in the war.

What is the Javelin anti-tank missile?

Simply put, Javelin anti-tank missiles are long-range guided precision projectiles that can be carried by one person. It is considered among the most sophisticated, capable, and expensive weapons out of the wide range of anti-tank munitions that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and other countries are providing to Ukraine, as per the CSIS report. So far, the US has reportedly supplied at least 7,000 such interception missiles to Ukraine.

Since Ukraine was mostly equipped with light infantry, supplies of heavy weapons have allowed Ukrainian forces to combat Russian mechanised artillery. Nevertheless, while Javelins are considered as most capable and best known of the anti-tank weapon systems, it is hardly the most numerous.

In addition, due to huge production time, it takes years to replenish the stock of these "iconic" missiles. So is it possible that Ukraine may run out of US supplies before inflicting serious damage to its enemy on the battlefield?

Why the US could experience a shortage of Javelin missiles?

The report compiled by Mark F. Cancian claimed that since the US has not publicly revealed the latest figures about its Javelin anti-tank missiles in its arsenal, the numbers are likely to be "deduced" given its massive supply to Ukraine.

Also, the US has only produced 37,739 Javelin anti-tank missiles since 1994, according to US Army budget books. After using quite a number for training purposes, Washington is expected to hold near about 20,000 to 25,000 remaining and 7,000 of which represent one-third of its total inventory.

While a majority of two-thirds remain in the stock, military planners are "nervous" fearing potential empty Javelin inventory. "The United States maintains stocks for a variety of possible global conflicts that may occur against North Korea, Iran, or Russia itself. At some point, those stocks will get low enough that military planners will question whether the war plans can be executed. The United States is likely approaching that point," the CSIS report explained.

How can the US make up for the imminent shortage?

The easiest answer is by increasing the production of the Javelin anti-tank missiles systems. According to the report, Washington only produces 1,000 Javelin missiles per year despite having a capacity of 6,480. The delivery time for each artillery is at least 32 months. This means, if depleted, the US will need about three-four years to rebuild its stock. In the meantime, more supplies to Ukraine will expand the gap between supply and demand.

According to the CSIS report, the US might have had over-supplied artillery in a bid to beef up its support to Ukraine against a Russian attack. For example, Washington has limited inventories and replenishment options for Stinger anti-aircraft missiles.

Now, the US has already supplied 2,000 of these to Ukraine despite now having purchased for itself since 2003, when the total production was 11,600. Given testing and training losses, which amount to a loss of 1% of Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, the remaining stock could be around 8,000, which means the US has already given a quarter of its stock to Ukraine.

Ukraine War Is Depleting America’s Arsenal ofDemocracy

       (Hal Brands’s article from the BLOOMBERG NEWS on 14 April 2022.) 

Western allies face a choice: Send more weapons to Kyiv or save their stockpiles for their own defense. America is following an “arsenal of democracy” strategy in Ukraine.

It has avoided direct intervention against the Russian invaders, while working with allies and partners to provide the Kyiv government with money and guns. That strategy, reminiscent of U.S. support for Britain in 1940-41, has worked wonders. Yet as the war reaches a critical stage, with the Russians preparing to consolidate their grip on eastern Ukraine, the arsenal of democracy is being depleted.

That could cause a fatal shortfall for Ukrainian forces in this conflict, and it is revealing American weaknesses that could be laid bare in the next great-power fight. Of all the support the U.S. and its friends  have provided Ukraine, arms have mattered the most. Deliveries of drones, antitank and anti-aircraft weapons, ammunition and other capabilities have helped Ukraine wreak havoc on Russian forces even as Moscow has pummeled the country’s industrial base.

General Mark Milley, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress that the West has delivered 60,000 antitank weapons and 25,000 anti-aircraft weapons to Kyiv. The Pentagon is now laying plans to rush additional artillery, coastal defense drones and other materiel to Ukraine. The White House on Wednesday announced a new $800 million package including helicopters and armored personnel carriers.

But President Joe Biden never planned for a war like this. The assumption was that Russia would quickly conquer much of the country, so the U.S. would be supporting a simmering, low-intensity Ukrainian insurgency. Instead, Ukraine’s successful resistance has led to an ongoing, high-intensity conventional fight, with prodigious consumption of munitions and intense attrition of key military assets.

Pentagon officials say that Kyiv is blowing through a week’s worth of deliveries of antitank munitions every day. It is also running short of usable aircraft as Russian airstrikes and combat losses take their toll. Ammunition has become scarce in Mariupol and other areas. This is presenting Western countries with a stark choice between pouring more supplies into Ukraine or husbanding finite capabilities they may need for their own defense.

Germany has declined to transfer tanks to Ukraine on grounds that it simply cannot spare them. Canada quickly ran short on rocket launchers and other equipment that the Ukrainians desperately need. The U.S. has provided one-third of its overall stockpile of Javelin anti-tank missiles. It cannot easily deliver more without leaving its own armories badly depleted — and it may take months or years to significantly ramp up production.

Before the U.S. entered World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt and his military advisers engaged in intense debates about whether the U.S. should rush weapons to a beleaguered Britain or hang onto them in case America had to defend itself. Biden’s arsenal-of-democracy strategy is reaching a similar inflection point in Ukraine.

Kyiv will require far more Western support to beat back Russian forces gathering in the east, where relatively open terrain is less favorable to the defense. It will also need more sophisticated weapons, such as tanks and aircraft, to deny Russia a decisive advantage — and perhaps take the offensive if Moscow’s eastern offensive falters. Stout Ukrainian resistance has given Kyiv a reasonable chance of winning this war, but the cost of any victory, in equipment no less than lives, will be astounding.

For the same reason, the war in Ukraine is a sobering preview of the problems the U.S. itself would face in a conflict against Russia or China. If forced to go to war in Eastern Europe or the Western Pacific, Washington would spend down its stockpiles of missiles, precision-guided munitions and other critical capabilities in days or weeks. It would probably suffer severe losses of tanks, planes, ships and other assets that are sophisticated, costly and hard to replace.

During World War I, the offensives of 1914 led to “shell famine” as the European combatants exhausted their arsenals. Get ready for “missile famine” if there is a great-power war. In the world wars of the last century, America’s unmatched manufacturing base ultimately powered it to victory. But today, replenishing the free world’s arsenal might not be so easy.

American economic leadership is no longer based primarily on manufacturing. Shortages of machine tools, skilled labor and spare production capacity could slow a wartime rearmament effort. The U.S. can’t quickly scale up production of Stinger missiles for Ukraine, for example, because the workforce needed to do so no longer exists.

American stockpiles of key weapons are smaller than one might imagine, partly because of production constraints and partly because most of the Pentagon’s roughly $750 billion budget goes to manpower, health care and things other than bullets and bombs.

Don’t bet against the world’s leading economy — and all of its democratic allies — in a long war. But don’t think that America would effortlessly produce what it needs to win. The problem isn’t insoluble. Greater investments in the defense industrial base and more aggressive purchasing and stockpiling of key munitions can help.

The creation of a reserve industrial corps (civilians who have basic peacetime training so they can contribute to wartime production) is worth exploring. Key allies, such as Japan, may be able to help the U.S. surge production in shipbuilding and other areas.