Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Pentagon Scrambles to Meet U.S. Cruise Missile Demand

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Pentagon Scrambles to Meet U.S. Cruise Missile Demand

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Pentagon is scrambling to avoid a shortage of cruise missiles, increasingly the weapon of choice in attacking heavily defended targets in places like Iraq and Yugoslavia.

Before the latest NATO strikes over Kosovo and Serbia, the Air Force was down to 150 cruise missiles carrying conventional warheads. At least 30 have been launched since then. The Navy has more than 2,000 but is using them up at a faster rate. No cruise missile production line is in operation.

"The stocks of air-launched cruise missiles are limited, and it's something we're addressing," Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said Tuesday. The dwindling supply is "something we do worry about," he said. "We have a supply now but it won't last forever. But we certainly have enough to continue striking important targets." The Air Force announced Tuesday that the Office of Management and Budget was permitting it to convert 92 nuclear-tipped cruise missiles into conventional air-launched cruise missiles, or CALCMs. The $51 million program will require congressional approval. The Navy, meanwhile, is seeking a $113 million emergency appropriation to convert 324 cruise missiles to the latest model with upgraded guidance and a conventional blast warhead. "We continue to manage the inventory very closely and we will meet all of our operational requirements," said Navy Lt. Meghan Mariman. In an era in which aversion to casualties tops the list of military priorities, cruise missiles have increasingly become Pentagon planners' preferred weapon. But Pentagon purchasing has lagged behind use of the weapons. Air power analysts have been warning Pentagon planners for at least a decade to buy more conventional cruise missiles for use in limited conflicts in which presidents would want to project power without risking losing a pilot, said David Ochmanek, a Rand analyst. "The good news is, as analysts, we've been vindicated on our position," Ochmanek said. "The bad news is we didn't convince anybody." A single Air Force B-52, flying outside enemy territory -- as far as 1,500 miles from its target -- can launch 8 CALCMs from its bomb bay and a dozen more from pods under each wing. …

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