2009/02/28

Ammunition reserves

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One of the greatest doubts about our readiness for war are probably still the stocks of ammunition.

Rumours tell that the artillery of some NATO countries has only enough shells in storage for a few hours of sustained artillery fire, that modern air-to-air missiles are in relatively short supply (about twice the normal fighter's load, which isn't very much if we consider that these missiles don't hit very often in combat).
Missiles are also in short supply in navies. Guided weapons (especially anti-radar) missile) stocks became almost exhausted during the relatively small 1991 and 1999 wars. Japan experienced a major scandal in the early 80's when its low ammunition stocks were published - it was only prepared for a few days of fighting.

Ammunition shortages in times of war are no new problems; Germany entered both World Wars with insufficient ammunition stocks. The artillery failed to support the infantry properly in France 1914 due to quickly rationed ammunition and Germany used the pause of fighting from October 1939 to March 1940 to increase its ammunition levels to war-ready levels.

Small arms ammunition supply became a problem during the last Iraq war when the USA realized that its production capability wasn't able to keep up with the expenditures.

Wartime production might not happen at all in much of Europe if we ever had a major war of necessity here - cruise missiles could easily take out our few ammunition production facilities. It might take up to a year to equip additional production lines.

Add to this the vulnerability of ammunition bunkers; the pinpoint accuracy of cruise missiles with bunker-busting warheads turned hardened ammunition stores (well, their entry/exit points) into highly vulnerable targets since the 1980's.


Ammunition stocks are an important, but quite invisible criterion or war readiness. Unfriendly powers can learn about our ammunition stocks with their intelligence, so we should place the due emphasis on having respectable stocks - as an element of our military deterrence strategy.
Lots of ammunition also tends to improve training quality - limited storage life of ammunition means that we expend them anyway.

Sven Ortmann

3 comments:

  1. But aren't modern weapon systems quite expensive?
    The costs of ammunition must be significantly reduced for having large stocks and they should be able to be updated.

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  2. The German army (armies) went to war in 1914 with a ridiculously small stock of ammunition and the industry wasn't capable of ramping up production immediately.
    Were ammunitions expensive before 1914? You bet. Aiming practice was even more restricted than nowadays because ammo was expensive.

    It was nevertheless a mistake to neglect peacetime ammo stocks.

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  3. Well, an ammunition stock is expensive and produces nothing. You can sell it dear in times of a great crisis, similar to gold, but in the modern world there are more chances for gold.

    I would rather prefer the development of training ammunition that can be used at low expense combined with virtual reality training with the aim of maximizing the learning effect of the few life fire exercises through thorough preparation.
    Instead of a large stockpile of yesterday's ordnance, it's important to have the capability for a rapid production of today's ammunitions. I wouldn't store degrading ammunition, I'd store raw materials that will be in short supply and production capabilities while keeping the stocks as low as they currently are.

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