Skip to comments.USAF Rebuilds Precision Munition Stockpiles
Posted on 04/03/2020 5:37:32 PM PDT by Excuse_My_Bellicosity
After an intense period of restocking, Air Force precision weapon inventories are almost back to acceptable levels, Air Force leaders say. Now they are throttling back planned purchases for fiscal 2021.
We have been able to make a dent in the munitions shortage, said Gen. Arnold Bunch Jr., head of Air Force Materiel Command during the Air Force Associations Air Warfare Symposium in February. The sharp reduction of U.S. air attacks against the Islamic State group has allowed us to get in a better place and on a better trajectory in terms of war reserves.
Bunch has previously referred to ups and downs in purchasing as a sine wave that plays havoc with budgets and frustrates weapon producers, who have had to add tooling and shifts to meet USAFs urgent demands for replacement weapons in recent times.
What I would hope we would do, is level off at this years level, maybe plus or minus a little bit, Bunch said.
During Operation Inherent Resolve, the Air Force was using up Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) so quickly that they were being loaded onto combat aircraft in the Middle East a scant 24 hours after being crated up and shipped from Boeings St. Louis factory. This rapid usage was exacerbated by allied air forces borrowing munitions from the U.S. because their own limited stocks were depleted from action in Afghanistan and Libya.
Precision munitions were the weapon of choice in the fight against ISIS due to the rules of engagement. Because civilians were mixed in with ISIS combatants, extremely accurate targeting and strikes were required to avoid civilian casualties.
The shortages prompted the Air Force to surge production of weapons like the JDAM, Small Diameter Bomb 1, and the AGM-114 Hellfire.
In planning the fiscal 2021 budget, Bunch said, the Air Force had to focus on the high-end fight, reducing its appetite for JDAMs. The Air Force bought 30,872 JDAMs in fiscal 2019, which was its high water- mark. It requested 37,000 in fiscal 2020, but Congress only approved 25,000. The request for fiscal 2021 is only for 10,000 JDAMs, including both base budget and Overseas Contingency Operations accounts.
Production of the SDB 1 increased from 5,743 units in fiscal 2019 to 7,078 in fiscal 2020; USAF is seeking only 2,462 in fiscal 2021.
Was the munitions downshift a bill payer for other programs? Or was it a signal that the Air Force intends to start buying longer-range weapons that can be released farther away from enemy air defenses?
It might be a little bit of all of those, said Gen. James Mike Holmes, head of Air Combat Command. After several years of the Air Force working hard to replenish the JDAM stocks, were approaching the objectives that we set, and those objectives are set by looking at the war plans and the different contingencies.
Holmes said the right balance of risk was to continue to acquire those weapons, but as we approach the objective, to start slowing down a little bit on the JDAM, which is a gravity-fall weapon.
The Air Force is investing in the things well need for long-range fires, across the joint force, to challenge a peer adversary, Holmes said. When you look at everything that had to fit in the budget, some pretty good work was done over the last several years to replenish the JDAM stocks and work toward the objective, and in the Department they made the decision that theyre getting close enough that they can slow down that buy rate a bit.
While contractors have purchased tooling and hired staff to meet larger production goals, the Air Force footed the bill, Holmes said. When they go to tool, we actually pay for it, he explained. The industry comes to us and says to go to whatever rate, this is what it will cost you. Now that the tooling is in place, it provides the potential to surge production in the event of a large-scale conflict, Holmes said.
Bunch said the Air Force budget plan does not throw contractors back to low production, but rather creates an opportunity for allies to replenish their stocks, as well, through increased foreign military sales. U.S. military demand had made such sales difficult in recent years. Now the Air Force wants allies to know those weapons are available again.
We want them to buy ahead, so the U.S. is not seen as the store in a contingency. We want them to replenish, buy ahead, so theyre prepared, Bunch said.
The longest-range conventional weapon the Air Force is buying is the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Munition (JASSM), which is on its fourth variant. The JASSM-ER (for Extended Range) has maintained a steady production rate, with buys of 360 in 2019, 390 in 20, and a request for 400 in 21. Beginning in 2021, the Air Force would also acquire five Long-Range Anti-Ship Missiles, or LRASMs, the counter-maritime version of the weapon.
With help from Congress, we stood up an additional JASSM production facility, which is now under construction, Bunch said. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control builds the JASSM and LRASM in Troy, Ala.
Bunch said the National Defense Strategy tells the Air Force we need to take more risk in the near, and look for the far. Those standoff and those more advanced weapons are the far, and were trying to make the move to that area.
Multiple studies have argued for increased purchases of longer-range weapons in recent years. Some have suggested adding motors to conventional gravity weapons. Indeed, Holmes has told Air Force Magazine that USAF needs new munitions that combine longer range and a degree of stealth in an package thats inexpensive enough to buy in mass quantities.
The Air Force developed the precision-guided GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb I because it found that JDAM-sized weapons were too large for the small, precise attacks necessary in wars like the counterinsurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq. Its 250-pound warhead was a better size for many targets, and its lighter weight meant USAF aircraft could carry more weapons. The SDB I uses GPS/INS, laser, and even radar-homing guidance for some variants, and has a range of about 45 miles, for use against stationary targets.
The GBU-53 SDB II, built by Raytheon and named StormBreaker, increases that range to some 70 miles. It adds Link 16 connectivity and can attack moving targets in brownout or adverse weather. An F-15E can carry up to 28 SDB IIs.
Boeing, the maker of JDAMs, showed off a new variant of that bomb at the AFA 2020 Air Warfare Symposium. Called Powered JDAM, it adds a wingset and power module to increase JDAMs range by 20 times. The company is pitching the munition as a lower-cost alternative to a cruise missile.
The munitions would have the range to stand outside the engagement zone, said Wade Kirkbride, a business development representative for Boeing, calling the weapon the centerpiece of the companys plan to evolve JDAM for the future. The munitions, which could use any of a number of sensors for targeting, could also be used as a decoy for more expensive missiles such as JASSM, which cost more than $1 million per round.
Boeings Powered JDAM, now in development, would add a motor and wing kit to extend the weapons range by 20 miles or more.
We should carpet bomb Muslims with dumb bombs. Then dump molten pig fat over them. Keep it cheap. Keep it deadly. Keep it scary so any survivors can tell others of the ultimate fate if they don’t change.
Without ammo a rifle is just another big stick.
Yeah, dumping a $500k bomb with GPS or laser guidance package om a tent is an economical trade. A cluster bomb makes a bigger statement.
I wonder if USAF generals in the Pentagon ever analyze the total cost to neutralizing a target. Do the have metrics akin to ROI, such as a total cost to kill ratio?
Didn’t McNamara run such numbers during Vietnam? He tried to fight a war using statistics IIRC. Didn’t turn out to well.
Democrats want a Body Count just like General Westmoreland in Nam.
I like the way you think.
If our AF inventory doesn’t include NAPALM, then it is not complete. JDAMs etc cost a lot for their job in most cases. Napalm covers a truck/convoy, caves, trenches, pits, tunnels, overruns walls, buildings and machine-gun/rocket emplacements.
Just as the No. Vietnamese and VC who became dinner, aka “Crispy Critter Time”.
As weapons go, JDAMs are cheap, cheap, cheap. LGBs are cheaper, but not by much and require closer in operations and precise maneuvering if used in a low altitude attack.
No doubt. In their world, minimizing collateral damage is a sign of weakness and cowardice.
Personally, and this is a values thing, there needs to be a call in warfare when it comes to collateral damage. I admire and look to Winston Churchhill in these matters. Churchhill was very distressed as he made the decision in WWII to for total warfare. (Total warfare, meaning the bombing civilian targets.) He did come to the conclusion that it was required. I'm sure he was helped along by the Germans indiscriminately targeting London. All the same, the value judgement is how much humanity do you need to lose, not the enemy, to defeat the enemy. Think about that for a moment, because a corollary to this is, if you are unwilling to lose enough humanity you will not defeat the enemy.
I am completely willing my humanity when it comes to Muslims in warfare. The reason being is I want them defeated, and that is what it requires. I am helped along by the fact that Muslims have a brutal history of genocide, slavery, and oppression. They do not have the values of Western Civilization, and as such I believe they are completely able to understand being victims of "collateral" damage. Certainly, they have grief in losing a child or a wife. But they have no empathy when they kill one of ours. Some would reflect on this. This is their jihad, their struggle.
So using dumb bombs, napalm, cluster bombs and other weapons that somewhat indiscriminately target, are economical and effective in warfare. This is particularly true if it doesn't put our soldiers, Marines and airmen in harms way. As for world opinion against us, they are against us no matter what we do. Perhaps if the world shuttered in fear because of our tactics they would keep their damn mouths shut.
Ask yourself the questions, "Why has Afghanistan never been defeated?" or "Why didn't we win the Vietnam War?" and "What would it take to do so?" The answer has nothing to do with our weapons, technology or the training of our soldiers.
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