Will The War In Israel Put Further Strain On US Weapons Stocks?

Spc. Ronald Turner provides overwatch protection from atop a hill while other members of his platoon search a village in Mianashin, Afghanistan Oct. 1

While concerns have been raised over America’s weapons stockpiles as it appears committed to supporting two partners at war, U.S. has the capacity to arm both Ukraine and Israel with what they need to defend against attackers, experts said.

For now, differences in operational requirements mean that Israel and Ukraine each require different types of assistance from the U.S., and where there is overlap, America has abundant inventory, experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation. Therefore, U.S. officials maintain the U.S can and should do both, but if the war between Israel and Hamas goes on for long, the U.S. will shoulder additional risk to its own military readiness amid existing concerns about the U.S. industrial base’s capacity to sustain America’s needs.

“In terms of our ability to continue to support both the efforts in Ukraine and the efforts in Israel as well, absolutely we can do both and we will do both. And, you know, we are the strongest nation in the world,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said during a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group on Wednesday.

The U.S. announced an additional $200 million in security assistance for Ukraine on Wednesday, including air defense, bringing the total to about $45 billion in weapons since Russia invaded in February 2022. The war shows no signs of ending soon.

That has some experts worried the U.S. could cave on its commitment to Israel, one of America’s strongest and long-standing allies. The White House is reportedly considering tying Ukraine aid to Israel funding.

“We cannot hold Israel hostage to more funding for Ukraine,” Victoria Coates, vice president of the Heritage Foundation, said days after Hamas launched brutal terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians.

However, the risk of sacrificing one for the other is minimal, for now, experts told the DCNF.

“The munitions the U.S. will send to Israel in coming days, if not already, include interceptors for the Iron Dome, Small Diameter Bombs (SDBs), and JDAMS. None of these are being provided to Ukraine,” Luke Coffey, a researcher at the Hudson Institute who has closely tracked U.S. aid to Ukraine, told the DCNF.

Ukraine has higher demands for unguided munitions, firing up to 7,000 rounds daily, Mark Cancian wrote in an analysis for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Israel, on the other hand, will prioritize precision munitions that can individually achieve the same effect as multiple strikes using unguided bombs. Since Israel’s army is smaller and is conducting operations in a civilian-populated environment, precision munitions will be at a premium.

In addition, Israel’s war against Hamas will likely be of much shorter duration than Ukraine’s war to repel Russian invaders.

“The initial ask — as currently reported — does not conflict with Ukraine’s or Taiwan’s needs,” Cancian wrote.

“As time goes on, there will be trade-offs as certain key systems are diverted to Israel,” he added.

The U.S. transferred about 300,000 rounds of 155mm munitions to Ukraine from a war reserve stockpile held in Israel earlier in 2023. While Israel has access to some U.S. war reserves in emergency situations, according to a Congressional Research Service report, Israel is not likely to require many of these unguided bombs, experts said.

Ground-launched U.S. precision munitions include GMLRS, Excalibur and Javelins, all of which are in use by Ukraine, according to Cancian’s research. While Israel makes its own version of each, it could theoretically adapt to firing the U.S.-origin weapons if their own stocks ran low.

Targets in Gaza are also close by, so Israel will probably not request the types of long-range artillery that Ukraine has demanded.

“This is not an environment that lends itself to a lot of fire,” Cancian told the DCNF.

Israel has reportedly requested JDAMs, kits that can be attached to unguided artillery to give them precision capabilities. While Ukraine does use JDAMS, they are prolific — the U.S. has produced roughly half a million — cheap and the U.S. can easily surge production. A similar situation is in play for SDBs, which have “some standoff capability and a smaller warhead, suitable for more precise effects.”

The Biden administration is also sending close to 100,000 rounds of 7.62 caliber ammunition for battle rifles, The Washington Post reported.

Cancian told the DCNF he was surprised to hear reports of small arms ammunition being sent to Israel. The IDF has not used many yet and Israel has domestic manufacturing capability.

One of America’s closest allies, Israel receives about a minimum of $3.8 billion in military financing each year.


So far, the weapons sent to Israel are just expedited deliveries of systems already on the books to deliver to Israel, U.S. officials have said. Boeing shipped 1,000 SDBs to Israel taken from a 2021 direct commercial contract, Bloomberg reported. In addition, Boeing may accelerate another pending sale of JDAMs.

But a defense official said Thursday that Israeli requests for the Tamir interceptors for the Iron Dome air defense system, produced jointly by U.S. company RTX (formerly Raytheon) and an Israeli weapons firm in the U.S., will likely be “above and beyond” what was already planned.

The Iron Dome catches rockets in mid-air, and the IDF has already used it extensively to counter Hamas rockets.

The U.S. Army owns two Iron Dome batteries for testing purposes, but officials have not confirmed whether they will be transferred to Israel. It can fast-track production and help Israel fund acquisition of new batteries.

“What we are focused on is requirements: what do the Israelis assess they need now and what do they need days and months from now?” a senior defense official said Thursday.

“We feel we can and must do both, and the cost of inaction would be much higher and more costly,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity according to ground rules set by the Pentagon.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and the war cabinet in Israel on Friday to discuss Israel’s operational objectives and the types of weapons and equipment required to support Israel.

U.S. officials say that will be an ongoing discussion. Israel is poised to launch a ground invasion of Gaza, but such an operation would put different demands on the military. Israeli military forces predict a long, drawn-out war.

Already, Israel has launched a significant number of airstrikes. Early Wednesday, days after Israel declared war, the Israeli Air Force said it dropped 6,000 bombs on targets in Gaza.

Officials have been circumspect about the exact weapons being delivered to Israel.

SDBs and JDAMs are included among the “categories of munitions” about which the U.S. is consulting with Israel, the defense official told reporters, without confirming whether they are being sent or in what quantities. Additional deliveries of interceptors for the Iron Dome air defense system are in preparation.

A first shipment of aid reached Israel on Tuesday and a second aircraft with American supplies for Israel arrived Friday.

“If we believe it is in our national interest to weaken Russia, Syria, Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah, then we must devote the national resources to strengthen Ukraine and Israel at the same time. Those presenting this as a choice between either Ukraine or Israel are either purposely being deceptive or fail to see the bigger geopolitical picture,” Coffey told the DCNF.

Micaela Burrow on October 15, 2023

Daily Caller News Foundation

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