The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has exposed ammunition shortages and prompted some US think tanks to assess the stockpiles of Western nations, only to find them lacking, according to a report by the Financial Times. Even the military industries of NATO allies are unable to provide assistance. In a recent wargame simulation conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), it was revealed that the US has only around 450 long-range anti-ship missiles, which would only last for approximately a week. Another think tank, the Center for New American Security (CNAS), concluded that the existing missile inventory is insufficient to effectively deter and defeat China in a potential conflict over Taiwan. CNAS emphasized the need for the Pentagon to acquire large stockpiles of stand-off missiles, maritime strike weapons, and layered air and missile defenses.
To address this issue, the US Department of Defense has requested $1.1 billion in the 2024 fiscal year to purchase 118 long-range anti-ship missiles, a significant increase compared to the 83 missiles requested the previous year. Additionally, the Pentagon is seeking $30 billion for ammunition, marking a 23% increase from 2023 levels, and $315 billion for new weapons. However, CNAS highlighted that the Pentagon has historically prioritized big-ticket items such as ships, planes, and tanks, resulting in inadequate funding for missiles and munitions.
The Financial Times also revealed that the collective Western nations have provided Ukraine with $170 billion in military and financial aid since February 2022. Despite this support, Ukraine continues to face ammunition shortages. The US military-industrial complex, with its focus on efficiency and just-in-time supply chains, has prioritized scaling down production in peacetime. As a result, it is ill-prepared to quickly scale up production during times of conflict. In addition, shortages of parts and labor further compound the problem.
Stacie Pettyjohn of CNAS highlighted the challenges posed by the defense industry’s consolidation, stating, “The defense industry is so consolidated that it can’t very quickly expand to support a greater demand.” She added, “So we’re slow and behind and don’t have enough of anything.” With only five companies responsible for major Pentagon contracts and certain parts being produced by only one or two suppliers, there is no alternative source to make up for the shortage.
Furthermore, NATO allies are unable to fill the gap due to the US’s push to promote American-made weapons, which has left the European defense industry weakened and fragmented. Experts from several think tanks emphasized the need for diversification and collaboration within the defense industry to ensure sufficient supplies of critical munitions and equipment.
In conclusion, the Ukraine conflict has exposed ammunition shortages and highlighted the insufficient stockpiles of Western nations, including the US. The need for a greater quantity of long-range anti-ship missiles and other vital weapons and defenses has been emphasized by think tanks. However, the defense industry’s consolidation, prioritization of big-ticket items, and limited production capacity have hindered the ability to meet these demands. To address these challenges, increased funding for ammunition and weapons, as well as diversification and collaboration within the defense industry, are crucial.