One of America’s leading military analysts has warned that NATO forces could run out of weapons to supply Ukraine in the coming months. In an interview with UnHerd, Patrick Fox told Freddie Sayers that US suppliers could not keep up with Ukrainian demand, with up to 18 month wait times for vital munitions.
“This is a problem,” stated Fox. “US generals are worried about their own ability to wage war in the event of a crisis given the level of drawdown we are seeing.” Noting that the shortage for certain stock like 155 shells was so severe, Fox said that generals were raising the issue with Congress. “It’s also happening with HIMARS rockets,” he said. “Right now, Lockheed Martin is talking about expanding production for a whole host of different systems such as munitions-supporting HIMARS and their estimate is that it’s going to take 18 months.”
Earlier this month, Ukrainian officials gave members of Congress a wish-list of weapons that Kyiv says it needs in order to support its ongoing counter-offensive. Though President Biden has resisted sending long-range weapons that can hit Russia, Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s pitch to Congress has added more pressure on the White House. To date, the US has sent over $15 billion worth of aid, but with supply issues on the horizon, Zelenskyy may require further support from other allies.
Full comments below:
Freddie Sayers: There’s also talk of the West running dry when it comes to munitions. What’s the truth of that? How deep is the bench for NATO forces in terms of re-supplying Ukraine with all this equipment and munitions?
Patrick Fox: It’s a very good question. It’s something that a lot of analysts are somewhat overlooking. The truth is the bench is not as wide as we thought it was because modern war is an industrial effort and we are now re-discovering that after the West has been involved in low intensity conflicts for the past 20-30 years. 155 shells — what we have been supplying Ukraine with in bulk — those stocks are now running so low that the generals involved have brought this to the attention of Congress. This is a problem. They are worried about their own ability to wage war in the event of a crisis given the level of drawdown we are seeing. It’s also happening with HIMARS rockets…
To expand production, their yearly rate is around 6000 rockets and the batteries we’ve given to Ukraine can go through that in the space of a month if their rate of fire was high enough. This is becoming a major issue. The US is starting to get a handle on it in terms of what it has to deal with. I think some other European nations are, too, but no one is as of yet really expending the kind of time, effort and, particularly, money to invest in a more robust defence infrastructure capable of supplying munitions in bulk. And, given the recent Russian mobilisation, they should be doing that now, because that will be the real danger for the Ukrainians going forward: they run out of western-supplied munitions in the face of large numbers of — however incompetent they may be — new Russian troops.
FS: Do you think there is capacity to do that quicker within America? Are there even the primary resources to do that? We have talked about the Russian military machine, but has the American military machine fallen prey to this idea of global supply chains? Are we going to find that they can’t make rocket launchers because there’s some semi-conductor that the Taiwanese are not producing fast enough, or are you confident that everything America needs to produce weapons is contained within America?
PF: People I trust that have looked into this very deeply are of the opinion that it could be done. The question is, will it be? And it is a question. There is a certain lethargy to peacetime defence industry that does not lead it to move with swiftness or alacrity in these kind of issues, and obviously there’s money to be made here, but I’m not sure if even that will prompt them to invest in huge amounts of new infrastructure, new plants, new manufacturing. We just don’t know. Obviously, President Biden has said that this is a priority for the administration and that he is working on it, but we just haven’t seen anything yet.