FT: Israel-Hamas war tests US defence sector already strained by conflict in Ukraine

11:14 24.10.2023 •

US arms manufacturers are preparing to accelerate weapons supplies to Israel at a time when they are already under pressure to arm Ukraine and replenish depleted Pentagon stocks, a challenge analysts say will add strain to a stretched defence industrial base, writes ‘The Financial Times’.

Unlike Ukraine, which has been the recipient of hundreds of tanks and armoured vehicles, Israel is primarily seeking munitions, with interceptors for its Iron Dome missile defence system at the top of its wish list. Precision air-to-ground munitions and 120mm calibre tank rounds are also among its needs.

But as the conflict goes on, analysts say Israel’s defence forces could need the same kind of guided missile systems now running short in Ukraine, including armed drones, as well as 155mm artillery rounds.

President Joe Biden, who has vowed to supply Israel and Ukraine with all the weaponry they need to advance their campaigns against Hamas and Russia respectively, insisted at the weekend that the US can meet the demands — and keep the Pentagon stocked for other contingencies, such as a war over Taiwan.

Still, analysts say the Ukraine war has provided something of a wake-up call for the US defence industry, which had been de-emphasising production of weaponry needed in traditional land wars and focusing more on technologically advanced surveillance and reconnaissance systems needed for counter-terrorism missions and deterring China in the Pacific.

The need to quickly shift to increasing more traditional weaponry has been hampered by post-pandemic shortages in supplies and labour.

“The goal of supporting industry suggests that if we send these weapons to Israel, we’ll definitely have to kick-start another part of the industrial base, perhaps faster than we thought,” said Cynthia Cook at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think-tank.

Unlike Ukraine, Israel has its own defence industry and advanced weaponry, none of which has been targeted by an invading superpower.

One US defence official said the US was “swiftly providing” Israel’s military with additional resources including munitions and equipment. The first two shipments of accelerated military assistance arrived in Israel, including small diameter bombs and other munitions.

The US said it would increase shipments of interceptor missiles for Israel’s Iron Dome, a sophisticated short-range air defence shield designed to protect against rockets and artillery shells of the kind fired from Gaza.

Biden is expected to make an additional request for Israel and Ukraine to Congress soon, although Republican infighting in the House of Representatives has left that chamber without a Speaker, and unable to legislate or approve requests from the White House. Ukraine aid has been held up during the Speaker impasse.

A conflict with Hizbollah would significantly increase Israeli weapons needs, putting it in more direct competition with Ukraine for US supplies, analysts said.


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