Navy used 47 Tomahawks last night, 47% of planned 2015 purchases

Last night’s air strikes against ISIS in Syria used up 47 Tomahawk missiles.  The Tomahawk is an extremely effective weapon, capable of delivering its ordnance precisely, without risking a pilot’s life.  But the defense cuts of the Obama administration call for procuring only one hundred Tomahawks next year. Christopher Cavas of Defense News reported last May:

Weapons procurement showed striking reductions from last year’s plans. Then, the Navy planned to buy 980 Tactical Tomahawks, the primary cruise missile in use throughout the fleet. The new plan shows only 100 missiles in 2015 and none thereafter.

The planning was to shift to a new generation weapon system. But in the meantime, we are left with a now-diminished Tomahawk inventory, now that an air war which was not planned is underway:

The reduction reflects shifting investment to a new next-generation land attack weapon, said Lt. Caroline Hutcheson, a Navy spokeswoman at the Pentagon, who also noted that the current inventory of Block IV Tactical Tomahawks exceeds combat requirements. A recertification line for existing missiles will be established to retain effectiveness of current TacToms, she added.

Those combat requirements may be rather different as of last night. It is not clear to me how rapidly production of these complex and expensive (reportedly at least $1.5 million each) weapons can be ramped up. Typically, a supply chain of parts must be activated. The US has roughly 4000 Tomahawks in inventory right now, enough for roughly 85 days of a campaign, at the current rate of use.

“Smart diplomacy” was supposed to permit a reduction in the military budget of the United States in order to fund social spending.  The smart thing now would be to recognize that those pretentions are null and void. We may need more than 3 months’ supply of Tomahawks.


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