The US is using so many bombs in its wars in the Middle East that the Pentagon is burning through its weapons stockpile.
“We’re expending munitions faster than we can replenish them,” Air Force chief of staff Gen. Mark Welsh stated back in December.
The Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has asked congress for the funds to purchase 45,000 “smart bombs” in the 2017 budget. Yet, the US weapons stockpile may take some time to return to its standard level.
“The US maintains a pretty steady inventory of bombs and missiles for full-on war scenarios,” says aerospace and defense policy analyst Roman Schweitzer. “But 2 1/2 years of fighting ISIS and continued bombing in Afghanistan have exceeded weapons-use projections.”
In the war on ISIS, the US has conducted 11,398 strikes in Iraq and Syria. The rest of the coalition has conducted another 2,679 strikes, with most of them taking place in Iraq.
In 2015 alone, the US dropped over 20,000 guided bombs in Iraq and Syria. Estimates for total weapons used in air war on ISIS are above 35,000. The cost for these laser and GPS guided weapons ranges from $25,000 to $400,000 per unit.
Earlier in the campaign against ISIS, the US Navy was pone to using Tomahawk cruise missiles, which cost $1 million a piece. Tomahawk missles, with a range of hundreds of miles, are designed to be used when use of an aircraft to strike targets would be too risky due to anti-aircraft weapons or enemy aircraft.
ISIS isn’t believed to possess anti-aircraft missles, though they have brought down helicopters with heavy machine guns and anti tank missles.
Despite the heavy use of “precision weapons” by the US, the organization Airwars.org has documented at least 459 civilian casualties as a result of these US-led coalition air strikes as of August of 2015. At least 100 of the 459 are children. Air Wars estimates over 1000 civilians have been killed in total by US-coaltion and Russian air strikes.
While the war against ISIS has been deadly for people of Syria and Iraq, it’s been great for weapons manufacturers.
Mr Schweitzer says, “Lockheed-Martin has said they’ve been asked to increase their Hellfire missile production facilities. As well, Boeing, which makes the Joint Direct Attack Munition, [is] also ramping up production. There are a few categories of munitions that are sort of the preferred, or most widely used, and I think they are definitely busy.” CNN has previously reported that it could take “up to four years” to rebuild the Hellfire missile inventory.
According to the US Pentagon, the cost of the war on ISIS has totaled $6.5 billion since August of 2014, with an average daily cost of $11.4 million.