The Biden administration’s swift move to provide Israel with weapons following Hamas’ October 7 attack1 has sparked questions about the U.S.’ ability to simultaneously support Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan2. The concerns focus on the potential tradeoffs in arming these different nations.
The Arsenal Sent to Israel
The U.S. has prioritized the delivery of several types of military equipment to Israel, including the Iron Dome air defense system, Tamir interceptors, Small Diameter Bombs, Joint Direct Attack Munitions, and 155mm artillery shells.
Iron Dome and Tamir Interceptors
The Iron Dome system, primarily aimed at countering rockets3, drones, and some missiles, significantly minimizes civilian casualties in Israel. Tamir interceptors are key components of this system. Neither Ukraine4 nor Taiwan uses Iron Dome, negating any tradeoff implications. However, it does prompt questions about the U.S. defense industrial base’s capacity to meet Israel’s interceptor needs.
Small Diameter Bombs (SDBs)
SDBs are crucial for Israel to target Hamas while limiting collateral damage. The U.S. has a robust production line for these munitions, which have not been publicly committed to Ukraine or Taiwan. Thus, no significant tradeoff exists here either.
Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs)
JDAMs transform conventional bombs into precision-guided munitions. The U.S. has a high production rate for JDAMs, and there’s no evidence to suggest that Ukraine or Taiwan has competing needs that would affect Israel’s supply.
155mm Artillery Shells
The 155mm artillery shells5 are the only munition where there might be a short-term tradeoff. Ukraine has an acute need for these shells, and the U.S. has supplied a significant number to Ukraine, straining existing stockpiles.
Addressing Defense Industrial Base Concerns
Considering the U.S. defense industrial base’s existing capabilities and the planned increases in production rates for various munitions, the tradeoff seems minimal. The Pentagon is already taking steps to ramp up artillery shell production, thereby mitigating even the minimal overlaps.
The U.S.’ capacity to arm Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan isn’t just about munitions; it’s also a reflection of broader strategic priorities. At present, the data suggests that the U.S. can continue to support all three nations without compromising its commitments to any single one.
The notion that the U.S. faces a significant tradeoff in arming Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. While there may be short-term challenges, particularly concerning 155mm artillery shells, these are surmountable. Therefore, any claims suggesting otherwise should be viewed with skepticism.
- https://abcnews.go.com/International/live-updates/israel-gaza-hamas/?id=103804516 ↩︎
- https://www.fdd.org/analysis/2023/10/24/can-the-u-s-arm-israel-ukraine-and-taiwan-at-the-same-time/ ↩︎
- https://www.politico.com/news/2023/10/19/pentagon-weapons-stockpiles-israel-ukraine-00122495 ↩︎
- https://www.defensenews.com/pentagon/2022/09/07/us-officials-balance-arms-sales-push-against-tech-protection-needs/ ↩︎
- https://www.state.gov/u-s-security-cooperation-with-ukraine/ ↩︎