FighterSweep Fans, when your drop rate eclipses your replenishment rate, there’s a problem. That is exactly the issue our men and women downrange are experiencing in the ongoing Operation Inherent Resolve. The good news is actual target engagement rates have been on the rise; coalition aircraft dropping more bombs, but the downfall is a looming shortage of serviceable munitions.
“We’re expending bombs faster than we can replenish them,” USA Today quoted Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh as saying in December.
Since then Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has asked Congress to include funding for 45,000 smart bombs in the Defense Department’s 2017 budget. But it could take a while to rebuild the stockpile.
“The US maintains a pretty steady inventory of bombs and missiles for full-on war scenarios,” says Roman Schweizer, aerospace and defense policy analyst at Guggenheim Securities in Washington. “But 2 1/2 years of fighting ISIS and continued bombing in Afghanistan have exceeded weapons-use projections.”
Operation Inherent Resolve, the US-led military intervention against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant flies bombing missions in Syria and Iraq. The United States, which flies a majority of the missions, strikes ISIS targets with laser- and GPS-guided bombs, Joint Direct Attack Munition bombs, Joint Standoff Weapons, and air-to-ground missiles, such as the Hellfire. Per unit pricetags on these munitions range from around $25,000 to close to $400,000.
In the war against ISIS, the United States and its allies control the airspace, allowing their planes to fly low and close to targets. “Pilots are able to get close because you are not fighting a very sophisticated — albeit a brutal — enemy, and you’re able to use shorter range- but more precision-guided munitions.”
The United States dropped more than 20,000 guided bombs and missiles on Iraq and Syria in 2015. In recent months the US has transferred additional quantities of bombs to allies in the region. “There are also NATO and Gulf Cooperation Council allies participating in these strikes as well, and in some cases they’re drawing off of US stockpiles because their own domestic inventories may not be sufficient.”