Tags: Navy | Almost | Ran | Out | Bombs

Navy Almost Ran Out of Bombs

Thursday, 28 February 2002 12:00 AM

"We damn near ran out in Afghanistan," said Adm. Robert Natter, commander of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet based in Norfolk, Va.

The Navy knew it would be short when the war began, Natter said. After debuting the precise, low-cost Joint Direct Attack Munition in the 1999 Kosovo war, the Pentagon provided only enough money to keep the production line for that missile and the Joint Standoff Weapon (AGM-154) going.

"We knew we were underfunding and under-resourced for [precision-guided munitions] because of limited resources," he said. Now "we are buying those like hot cakes.

"Whoever decided to assume this amount of risk ... was pretty good, and pretty lucky. I don't want to be that lucky again," he said.

The production line has been pushed to maximum capacity and a second line opened. Natter said the stores of JDAMs and JSOWs on Navy ships would be replenished over the next five years, provided the weapons are not pressed into service again in a new front on the war on terrorism.

According to Air Force Secretary James Roche, about 1,500 JDAMs are rolling off production lines a month, a number that will reach 2,000 a month next year. As many as 80 JDAMs were used each day in the peak of the war in Afghanistan.

Navy pilots have flown 9,000 battle sorties thus far and were responsible for most precision weapons, according to Natter. Of the roughly 18,000 munitions dropped in Afghanistan, 60 percent of them were precision-guided.

Long-range Air Force bombers, with their massive weapons bays, were more useful in attacking widespread targets with traditional dumb or gravity bombs. Navy fighters, instead, delivered one or two PGMs per mission usually against targets that demanded a high degree of accuracy.

Natter said the need for precision munitions will increase. The traditional war plan of opening with PGMs to take out enemy air defenses, followed by dumb bombs for the remainder of the war, is a model that no longer applies, he said.

"It was a fine assumption for 10 years ago," Natter said.

The war on terrorism, however, is likely to put the U.S. military into urban areas where precision munitions of smaller and smaller yields will be required throughout the entire battle, not just in the opening days to minimize civilian casualties.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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We damn near ran out in Afghanistan, said Adm. Robert Natter, commander of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet based in Norfolk, Va. The Navy knew it would be short when the war began, Natter said. After debuting the precise, low-cost Joint Direct Attack Munition in the 1999 Kosovo...
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2002-00-28
Thursday, 28 February 2002 12:00 AM
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