Could the West run out of weapons?
Analyst Patrick Fox warns that US suppliers can't keep up with Ukrainian demand
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.”
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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.
If the shortages are real, then it’s better to learn that there is a problem now; rather, than in a war between Russia and the USA / the West
It’s all a bit reminiscent of the shortage of equipment for confronting the covid pandemic. While there is little point in having vast warehouses of equipment to confront every low possibility disaster proper planning should be in place to ramp up production of vital equipment to address such disasters when they occur. Does nobody plan for anything properly with the possible exception of the Queen’s death?
The Finns do.
Excellent analogy there Jeremy – the Plandemic self created disaster – and this Neo-Com pointless self induced disaster.
What it appears is that Biden is wishing for building up large and highly expensive – funded by debt – infrastructure to produce the needed materials to support huge, self harming, artificial disasters.
And now the duke in charge of planning the Queen’s funeral had his driver’s license taken away in the midst of planning for the corornation. How is he going to get around?
A few years ago Dan Snow (a British Historian) made a TV series called “Boots, Bandages and Bullets” (all three but maybe not in that order.) It should be compulsory viewing for any politician voted into the UK Parliament. It might do other NATO countries some good as well. If I was a younger man called up for war service I would be really p>>>ed-off if we ran out of ammo “half-way-through”. There were supply mistakes made in the Falklands and Iraq which cost British lives. Senior (un)Civil Servants should not be allowed to tell front-line troops what targets they are allowed to use which weapons against. That’s the Unit commander’s job.That applies to E lists (spare parts) as well.
On the plus side, the way Biden is emptying the National Petroleum Reserve to buy votes is we will not need many military vehicles if there is a problem anyway because the fuel for any war will have been sold to reduce gas prices by pennies as a political gesture.
The irony is much of this is being sold to China
”It is not enough that China is buying Russian oil at a discount due to western sanctions put on Russia because of its invasion of Ukraine, but now President Biden’s Department of Energy is selling China oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR)—a source that is meant for national emergencies that Biden has been depleting since last November in hopes to lower gasoline prices that have been escalating due to his energy policies.”
I remember my father (who worked for a UK naval defence contractor) telling me just how quickly stuff got done compared to usual when the Falklands War started. Western defence companies work to very demanding and costly defence specs and processes – some of this can almost certainly be bypassed in emergencies. I highly doubt that Russian equipment is built to anything like the same standards and quality.
Things are certainly far more complex now (more sub components, more suppliers, likely less suppliers for each component, more international supply chains). But if anyone’s in a position to master all this and ramp up supplies, it’s the US. Look at how quickly they got to massive scale in WWII.
The US is in a far stronger position than China or Russia here – it controls the key technologies – like semiconductors. They only need to run out of weapons more slowly than their opponents.
But FDR started defense preparations in 1937 anticipating war. We lack such leaders today.
Can’t some of the ammunition needs be outsourced to the Chinese? It has worked with the rest of our manufacturing base. Why not invited bids?
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