US military is hammering ISIS so heavily it is running out of bombs
As Donald Trump celebrated his 100 days in power yesterday, US Pacific commander Admiral Harry Harris said so many bombs were being dropped that “we need more”.
It comes as dictator Kim Jong-un defied international pressure to test-fire another missile yesterday, just hours after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned that failure to curb his nuclear and ballistic missile programmes could lead to “catastrophic consequences”.
While the US is pushing for harsher sanctions against the police state, President Trump warned a “major, major conflict” was possible as tensions mount.
If he sanctions a regime change, however, it would mean a large-scale war in which the US and South Korea would “throw everything it had”, experts warned last night.
Carl Vinson arrived in waters near the Korean peninsula yesterday, where it began exercises with the South Korean navy. US Special Forces assisted South Korean counterparts to deal with the threat of mines amid concerns that Kim could flood the peninsula with explosive traps. But the US bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria has left the US’s Pacific Command with a dangerous shortage of ordinance, said its commander Admiral Harris.
Such is the demand that he has had to loan large stockpiles of small diameter bombs and air-to-air Sidewinder missiles to Central Command, which oversees the air strike campaigns in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.
Were there to be a war, the US and South Korea would be throwing everything it had
US Air Force chief General Mark Welsh
American forces accounted for 79 per cent of the 24,150 strikes carried out against IS targets so far this year. Each strike involves multiple bombs, with 32,000 dropped in one month alone. It is a level that will be difficult to sustain if the US wants to honour commitments elsewhere. Of particular concern is the lack of precision-guided munitions which, Admiral Harris told Congress, are “absolutely critical to what we’re trying to do, not only against North Korea, but also in the fights in the Middle East. We need more”.
Even before the latest North Korean standoff, US Air Force chief General Mark Welsh warned: “We’re expending munitions faster than we can replenish them. We need the funding in place to ensure we’re prepared for the long fight. This is a critical need.”
If war does break out with Pyongyang, the US and South Korea will have to hit hard and fast to minimise the risk to Seoul from North Korean artillery bombardments, warned Justin Bronk, combat air specialist for the Royal United Services Institute think tank.
“Were there to be a war, some regime change effort, given the density of artillery in range of Seoul, the US and South Korea would be throwing everything it had,” he said.
“It will be a conventional, large-scale war and the US would need to draw on most of its arsenal. The US is viewed by allies as having an inexhaustible supply of Joint Direct Attack Munitions [JDAMs] but it’s been operating far above normal peacetime assumptions for a long time. Now it’s getting to a point where it is becoming worried.”
Boeing, one of two US firms to make precision guided bombs, is to increase production to 36,500 JDAMs a year from 8,000 in 2015.