Procurement: June 9, 2004

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The U.S. Army is still having trouble getting enough 5.56mm ammunition for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as increased training with weapons for troops headed there. More ominous is the need to maintain a "war reserve" of billions of bullets for wars that have not broken out. The one 5.56mm ammo plant the government uses (the largest one in the world, in Lake City, Missouri) can produce a maximum of 1.2 billion round of 5.6mm ammo a year, and is already operating 24/7. But the army wants to have the ability to get 3.2 billion rounds a year for surge situations (like a war.) To get the extra ammo, the army is buying from other American and foreign manufacturers. One of the overseas suppliers is Israel Military Industries Ltd. (for 70 million rounds), a move sure to annoy Islamic militants. There are over a dozen major manufacturers of 5.56mm ammunition world wide, and the army should have no problem getting what they want in short order. There have been other shortages as well, like the metal links that hold bullets together in belts for machine-guns. That shortage was taken care of, but concentrating all small arms manufacturing in one plant makes it more likely that other bottleneck type shortages might appear. During World War II, sixteen different companies supplied small arms ammunition, although in that war, there were eight times as many divisions to be supplied.

 


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