Connect with us


Is America’s Arsenal Stretched?

courtesy of

First Israel

President Joe Biden has referred to America as the "arsenal of democracy," but with conflicts brewing in Israel and Ukraine, and China threatening Taiwan, how stretched is the American arsenal?

Israel receives about $3 billion worth of military aid annually from the United States. This aid mainly comes in the form of grants to American manufacturers, which serves as a subsidy. The aid has also helped Israel build its domestic defense industry, making it one of the top global exporters of arms. Fourteen Israeli defense companies, including Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Rafael, and Elbit Systems, export nearly 70% of their products abroad.

The Republican-led U.S. Congress proposed an Israeli-only defense aid package that they knew would not pass the Senate. This has only affected U.S. arms manufacturers, as the Israeli conflict with Hamas has reached a stage where this aid is no longer necessary. While Israel would like more support for their air defense systems and bunker buster bombs, they can continue without them.

What about Ukraine?

America has provided Ukraine with about $46 billion worth of military aid in 2022. Of that, $23.5 billion is for military equipment, while the rest is in grants, training, and financial aid. The total value of U.S. military equipment has not been audited in years, but in 2022, the procurement of new weapons and systems cost $136 billion, with $107 billion spent on research and development. In comparison, the European Union has given $27 billion in military aid to Ukraine, primarily in the form of military equipment.

Is the American Military Stock Severely Reduced?

An Economist chart shows that the military equipment supplied by the U.S. to Ukraine is redundant and on its way to being replaced with advanced equipment. The three main systems currently at a low point are Javelins, Stingers, and ATACMs. Ukraine has served as a useful testing ground for all of them.

Javelins (introduced in 1996)

The FGM-148 Javelin, manufactured by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, is a highly effective man-portable, shoulder-launched, fire-and-forget system designed to strike armored vehicles up to 2,500 meters away. However, it is expensive, costing $178,000 per unit, including the launch system and missile. Ukraine has used up 7,000 Javelin systems, representing about one-third of the total U.S. inventory. Lockheed Martin has increased production, but can only produce about 4,000 per year. Ukrainians now prefer to use cheaper UAV drones or homemade drones, which are just as effective.

Stingers (introduced in 1981)

The FIM-92 Stinger is a deadly man-portable air-defense system (MANPADS) that can be rapidly deployed by ground troops. Stingers were initially successful in Ukraine, but they are not effective against fast-flying jets, and Russian attack helicopters have developed tactics and systems to counter them. The U.S. Army placed an order for 1,700 Stingers in May 2022, but the missiles will not be delivered until 2026. Like Javelins, Stingers are expensive, costing $119,000 per unit. In comparison, German Gepard 1 A2 self-propelled anti-aircraft guns, introduced in 1973, are cheap and capable.

ATACMs (introduced in 1991)

The Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) is a long-range missile with several variants. The U.S. is low on the penetrating ATACMs that Ukraine desires. The ATACMs sent to Ukraine contain cluster munition warheads, which are ineffective against heavily entrenched enemies. However, they can still spread shrapnel and were enough to disable nine thinly armored and valuable Ka52 helicopters in an attack on Berdyansk Army Aviation Base on October 17.

Is the American Arsenal Depleted?

Based on the figures above, it may seem so. However, many of these sophisticated weapons were already in the process of being replaced. The main lesson learned from their use in Ukraine is that cheaper and more conventional weapons can be just as effective.

From a philosophical standpoint, Western society, particularly American society, must decide whether to support worldwide democracy or let dictatorships and religious fundamentalists prevail. Regardless of whether America supplies them with military equipment, Israel and Ukraine will continue to fight for their independence. Arms manufacturers in Europe, South Korea, Japan, and China are ready to step in if needed. The world is not lacking in heavy weapons designed to kill human beings.

Patrick Drennan, a journalist based in New Zealand with a degree in American history and economics, provided this analysis.