San Diego Union-Tribune

December 12, 2001

U.S. not lacking ordnance for Afghanistan
  Military officials say they won't run out of bombs and missiles


WASHINGTON -- Although the war in Afghanistan has seen the heaviest use of precision-guided weapons in history, military officials said yesterday they have enough to finish the fight.

Nearly two-thirds of the bombs and missiles used by U.S. forces in the conflict have been expensive weapons guided by satellites or lasers.

Spokesmen for the Air Force and the U.S. Central Command, which is running the war, said they have had no shortages in the precision munitions.

There had been reports that the Navy was running low on the satellite-guided bombs called Joint Direct Attack Munitions for its carrier-based fighters in the first weeks of the campaign. Concerns of a shortage were resolved when the Air Force turned over additional stock to the Navy, officials said.

Although the Navy fired about 95 of its long-range Tomahawk cruise missiles in the first several days of the war, the warships that conducted those attacks have been replaced by a new battle group with a full load of the expensive missiles. The Navy has about 2,000 Tomahawks.

Navy and Air Force planes also have used a substantial number of laser-guided bombs, which are the most accurate but are handicapped by bad weather. Because of those bombs' popularity in recent conflicts, the services have a large stockpile, officials said.

There has been limited use of some of the less-plentiful specialized weapons, such as the ground-penetrating, 5,000-pound "bunker buster" bombs and the massive, 15,000-pound "daisy cutter" explosives.

When asked about the "daisy cutter" used this week against a suspected al-Qaeda cave complex, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said yesterday, "Well, there are not a lot of these, so they don't use them frivolously."

There are concerns, however, that the consolidated defense industry would have trouble meeting the military's demand for precision weapons if the United States gets into a larger conflict soon after the Afghanistan missions.

Of particular concern is the supply of satellite-guided bombs, which are in demand because they are relatively cheap and can be used in bad weather. The guided weapon is created by adding a global positioning satellite receiver, a computer and movable tail fins to a conventional 1,000-or 2,000-pound bomb.

"We're doing OK right now, but I am taking steps to increase the production rate, and we are looking at another increment to increase the production rate even more, so we don't have any shortages," Gen. John Jumper, the Air Force chief of staff, said last week.

But Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-El Cajon, said the Air Force and Navy testified last summer that they had only half of the precision weapons they would need for a sustained major conflict.

"We're not spending enough on munitions, and if we get into a shooting war with a nation-state, we would have trouble sustaining it," said Hunter, who has fought for additional ammunition supplies for years as a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Some $937 million of the $40 billion in emergency funds Congress has approved since Sept. 11 will be used to buy munitions, Hunter said.