The Financial Times reported that America and Western countries are suffering from weapons shortages that could affect the West's ability to supply Ukraine with weapons in its war against Russia.
Washington in May ordered 1300,<> Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to replace those it sent to Ukraine, but the CEO of Raytheon Defense, which manufactures the missiles, responded by saying it would "take some time to make."
Paris also sent 18 Caesar howitzers to Kiev, a quarter of its total stockpile of high-tech artillery, and French manufacturer Nexter will need about 18 months to build new guns.
The war in Ukraine has revealed a severe shortage of Western defense stockpiles, particularly with regard to essential basic weapons such as artillery shells that have been the cornerstone of the fight in Ukraine.
Given the lack of production capacity, labor and supply chains, and the scarcity of computer chips, it will take long to make up for the shortage of defense stockpiles.
Defense officials and analysts say the shortfall exposes the West's laxity in preparing for potential military threats since the end of the Cold War, and its consequences have now surfaced as Western countries seek to support Ukraine militarily.
They also argue that the West's obsession with high-tech weapons and lean manufacturing has obscured the importance of maintaining a stockpile of essential equipment.
The return of the industrial war
Jamie Shea, former director of NATO policy planning, said Ukraine was a lesson in the fact that war is often won through classic weapons, ground forces and occupation. "The military balance, which has seen a shift from the old to the new, needs to be restored," he said.
The Financial Times said weapons shortages could now affect the West's ability to supply Kiev with the weapons it needs in its fight against Russia.
Total annual U.S. production of 155mm artillery shells, for example, would meet the need for fighters in Ukraine for less than two weeks of fighting, according to U.S. procurement expert Alex Vershinin, who said the Russian-Ukrainian conflict marked a "return to industrial warfare."
"What is happening is like the 1915 missile crisis"
Jimmy Shea, former director of NATO political planning, said that the now arms shortages affecting Western supplies to Ukraine "resemble the major missile crisis of World War I," referring to the scandal of 1915 when the massive use of artillery in trench warfare led to the depletion of ammunition in British stockpiles, caused a shortage of British troop lives and the resignation of its prime minister at the time.
British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said Western countries would suffer if they launched a protracted war like Russia's war on Ukraine because their ammunition stockpiles were "insufficient against the threats we face."
The report noted that the UK ran out of ammunition after 8 days in a military exercise simulating the war last year, and that it is hard to believe that the West is about to exhaust its essential weapons by supplying arms to Ukraine.
What are the causes of this deficit?
The Financial Times report states that if we combine last year's Russian defense budget of $66 billion and China's defense spending of $293 billion, their defense spending is still a small figure compared to NATO member countries' defense budget, which exceeds $1.1 trillion.
However, a large part of NATO's armament spending is to produce advanced systems and weapons, such as fighter jets that the West did not use in the conflict in Ukraine.
Over the past 20 years, the West has devoted much of its defense to fighting counter-insurgencys in the Middle East rather than preparing for battles that rely on tanks and heavy artillery, like the one now taking place in Ukraine.
Military supply problems have been exacerbated by decades of focus on so-called "lean manufacturing," financial efficiency and industry promotion, which has not been in the interest of military planners keen to keep costly weapons stockpiles, she said.
The decline in ammunition stockpiles has finally forced the UK to buy howitzers from a third party – reportedly a private Belgian dealer – to send to Ukraine.
In the United States, the Pentagon currently relies on only 5 major contractors to manufacture defense weapons, up from 51 in the nineties.
The Financial Times quoted a Western defence adviser as saying: "The long-held wisdom is that the West will never fight an industrial war again. As a result, "almost no one has retained the ability to increase national production of key equipment."
Many military experts are closely monitoring the conflict in Ukraine for clarification on the nature of modern warfare, and their first lesson so far may be the importance of maintaining basic weapons stockpiles, said Jack Watling, a senior researcher at the Royal United Services Institute.