From 2002 to 2017, U.S.A has spent 16% of its entire budget in fighting terrorism. According to Stimson Centre Study, USA had spent $2.8 trillion in counterterrorism fight from the year 2002 to 2017. Pentagon is planning to invest more than $20 billion in munitions in the coming years. The United States of America is the biggest arms and ammunition supplier in the world, but currently, it is running out of arms and ammunition. There are various numbers of the reason for the shortage of producing bombs. The Annual Industrial Capabilities report suggests that the industrial base of the munitions sector has been strained. Defense News reported that “Some suppliers have dropped out entirely, leaving no option for replacing vital materials. Other key suppliers are foreign-owned, with no indigenous capability to produce vital parts and materials ― setting up the risk that a conflict with China could rely on Chinese-made parts.”
Instead of creating new weapons, U.S.A has stuck to the existing design which took a toll on design experience. Furthermore, it led to weakening the industrial base for the missile sector.
There are 4 key areas with the highest risk in missile industrial base:
- Solid Rocket Motors: SRM is produced by two domestic suppliers, OATK and AR. United Launch Alliance (ULA) has chosen OATK’s space boosters instead of AR’s boosters. “This potentially leaves the United States with a single large SRM supplier, which can lead to cost increases due to lack of competition, decreases in internal research and development efforts, and risk of security of supply if a catastrophic accident should occur”, said the report.
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- Thermal Batteries: Thermal Batteries are used in all missiles and precision-guided munitions. Due to the low production, thermal battery industry is dominated by one company. And because of this domination and dependency on one company puts this industry at a greater risk.
- Small Turbine Engines: William International(WI) and Teledyne Turbine Engine(TTE). TTE can’t sustain further because of their decreasing business over years. Hence, TTE is going to exit its business in 2018 leaving only William International to supply Small Turbine Engines
Are materials ready?
The supplies of material are dependent upon whether the supplier is domestic or international. For example, Hydroxyl-Terminated Polybutadiene (HTPB), which is a major component of DoD missile system. The current supplier is a French company. The report further said that “There have been a number of deficiencies in the material quality and repeatability identified by users, including variability and inconsistency from lot to lot, which has resulted in the material being unusable in certain missile systems. Therefore, in addition to the risk from a sole source, foreign-owned supplier, there is a risk of unavailability of this material for key DoD weapon systems.”
Dimeryl Diisocyanate (DDI) is another important chemical for propellant. The U.S source supplier BASF will no longer provide DDI due to an unfavorable business case. Defence News reported that “The Pentagon is left to scramble to find potential replacements for these materials, which the authors optimistically conclude could be “the beginning of what could serve as a model for mitigating material obsolescence in the future.” But Eaglen thinks the issue of foreign suppliers needs to be dealt with quickly, or risk getting out of hand”.