President Joe Biden on Tuesday credited assembly line workers at a Javelin missile factory with saving lives building the anti-tank weapons that are being sent to Ukraine to stifle the Russian invasion as he asked the Congress to approve $33 billion so the United States can continue to rush aid to the front lines.
“You allow Ukrainians to defend themselves,” Biden told workers, his podium flanked by Javelin missile launchers and shipping containers. “And, quite frankly, they mock the Russian military in many cases.”
The president visited the Lockheed Martin factory in Alabama and said Ukrainian parents called their children “Javelin” or “Javelina” because of the success of the weapons.
“Every worker at this facility and every American taxpayer contributes directly to the cause of freedom,” Biden said.
The president’s visit also drew attention to a growing concern as the war drags on: Can the United States keep up the pace by shipping large quantities of weapons to Ukraine while maintaining a healthy stockpile? what they might need if a conflict breaks out with North Korea, Iran or elsewhere?
The United States has supplied at least 7,000 javelins, including some transferred under the Trump administration, about a third of its stockpile, to Ukraine in recent years, according to analysis by Mark Cancian, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Program in International Security Studies. The Biden administration has said it has pledged to send 5,500 javelins to Ukraine since the Feb. 24 invasion.
Analysts also estimate that the United States has sent about a quarter of its stockpile of shoulder-fired Stinger missiles to Ukraine. Raytheon Technologies CEO Greg Hayes told investors on a quarterly call last week that his company, which makes the weapons system, would not be able to ramp up production until next year, due to parts shortages.
“Could that be a problem? The short answer is, ‘Probably, yes,'” said Cancian, a retired Navy colonel and former Office of Management and Budget specialist on the Pentagon’s budget strategy, the war financing and supply programs.
He added that the Stingers and Javelins were where “we see the biggest inventory issues” and that production of both weapon systems has been limited in recent years.
The Russian invasion presents the American and European defense industry with a great opportunity to increase profits as lawmakers from Washington to Warsaw are poised to increase defense spending in response to Russian aggression. Defense contractors, however, face the same supply chain and labor shortage issues that other manufacturers face, as well as others that are industry-specific. .
Biden noted that each Javelin produced requires 200 computer chips, but semiconductors are in short supply and limit the availability of everything from automobiles to kitchen appliances. Biden urges that legislation be approved to fund computer chip manufacturing in the United States, although it is a longer-term solution to the immediate pressures the military, businesses and consumers are currently facing confronted.
The war will mean increased sales for some defense contractors, including Raytheon, which makes the Stinger missiles that Ukrainian troops have used to knock out Russian planes. The company is also part of a joint venture with Lockheed Martin which manufactures the Javelins.
Lockheed Martin’s factory in Troy, Alabama has the capacity to manufacture approximately 2,100 Javelins per year. Biden’s trip coincided with his request for an additional $33 billion in security and economic aid for Kyiv. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said Monday he hopes a quick bipartisan agreement on the security package can be reached so the Senate can begin considering it “as soon as next week”.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Monday that US military readiness does not depend on one system. He said whenever the Pentagon develops a set of weapons and systems to send to Ukraine, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the department assess the impact on readiness.
“It’s not about counting, say, javelins and being able to say that when you hit a certain level, you’re not ready anymore,” Kirby said. “The Javelin is an anti-armor capability, so we judge all of that as a conglomeration of our ability to respond to this particular set of missions, realizing that a Javelin isn’t the only capability you have against armour. “
The light but deadly Javelin helped the Ukrainians inflict significant damage on the larger and better equipped Russian army. As a result, the weapon acquired an almost mythical regard, celebrated with a javelin song and images of Mary Magdalene wielding a javelin becoming a meme in Ukraine.
Lockheed Martin CEO James Taiclet said in a recent interview with CNBC that demand for the Javelin and other weapon systems will greatly increase over time due to the Russian invasion. He said the company was working “to speed up our supply chain.”
“We have the capacity to meet current production demands, are investing in increased capacity and exploring ways to further increase production as needed,” Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed Martin said in a statement.