WASHINGTON (Sputnik): The United States’ involvement in the Ukraine conflict revealed the weaknesses of its defense industrial base’s ability to produce an adequate amount of munitions, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl said on Tuesday.
“I think what the Ukraine conflict showed is that, frankly, our defense industrial base was not at the level it needed to be to generate munitions,” Kahl said during a House Armed Services Committee hearing.
The US is investing in replenishing its own stocks, Kahl said. The Pentagon is confident that proper investments have been made for contingencies involving Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, Kahl said.
The US is also investing to make sure it can provide Ukraine with the munitions they need, Kahl added. Kahl went on to claim that the US was not aware of whether the Azov regiment* had access to US weapons sent to Ukraine.
Moreover, Kahl declined to discuss in an unclassified setting whether there is CIA personnel in Ukraine providing training to the Ukrainians.
“The Ukrainians have at times asked us for as many as 128 4th generation aircraft, a mix of F-15s, F-18s and F-16s,” Kahl told the US House Armed Services Committee. “Our Air Force estimates that over the long term Ukraine would probably need 50 to 80 F-16s is to replace their existing air force.”
Kahl explained that new production of F-16 jets for Ukraine would take three-to-six years to deliver, but the United States could deliver older model F-16 jets to Ukraine in about 18-to-24 months. However, he pointed out that providing Ukraine with F-16 jets would take out huge portions of remaining security assistance funding for Ukraine that should go toward more urgent priorities such as air defense, artillery and armored vehicles.
The United States has committed more than $32 billion in military assistance to Ukraine over the past year under the Biden administration, including 38 HIMARS rocket systems, a Patriot air defense battery, eight National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, 31 Abrams tanks, 109 Bradley combat vehicles, 8,500 Javelin anti-armor systems, 232 howitzers and 1,600 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, the Defense Department said last week. US Congress has approved more than $100 billion in military and financial assistance to Ukraine in the past 12 months.
While President Joe Biden has repeatedly said the US will keep supplying Ukraine the weapons it needs for “as long as it takes,” US media have published a number of damning reports over the past months on the impact the Ukraine conflict has had in straining the US and Europe’s defense capabilities. An unnamed NATO official was cited as saying that “everyone is now sufficiently worried” as the conflict continues and arms stockpiles threaten to plunge below levels required to meet NATO defense obligations.
Meanwhile, David T. Pyne, former US Army combat arms and headquarters staff officer, told Sputnik last month that the decision to export a huge number of weapons to Ukraine has left the US military “critically short of important weapon systems including missiles, rockets and ammunition which it would need to fight a great power war.”
“Some of these deficiencies, particularly in artillery shells, will take nearly half a century to remedy even if the US ramps up ammunition production,” Pyne warned.