The Air Force is indeed experiencing a “shortfall” in “all categories” of munitions, due to the air campaign against ISIS over the last 15 months, but so far is “managing” its global stockpiles such that there’s no impact on operations yet, an Air Force spokeswoman told Air Force Magazine Monday. However, reloading will take up to four years, she said. Expanding on comments from USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh in early December that USAF is expending munitions “faster than we can replenish them,” the spokeswoman said that while USAF can “sustain” anti-ISIS operations for now, “we need funding in place and the ability to forecast for production to be ready for the long fight.” While the fiscal year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act included a big add for munitions replacement, overseas contingency operations funding rules and processes create “large delays, up to four years, in recovering the munitions inventory expended in combat. Weapons which were budgeted for last year will not replenish our inventories until three years from now,” she explained. While she declined to provide “specific numbers of the global stockpile” due to operational rules, the shortages affect “a range of munitions” that include “smart, gravity, and small-and large-diameter munitions.” The shortage also affects “air-to-air, direct attack, and standoff” weapons stocks.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.