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The US Military Will Shed Weapons Worth Billions

August 20, 2014

US A-10 Thunderbolt

Between 2015 and 2030, thousands of US-made weapons and equipment will either be mothballed, junked, scrapped, or made available to foreign buyers.

With the permanent end to its 14-year campaign in Afghanistan, a new pivot to Asia, and the government’s sequestration policy–cherry-picking expenses to save money–a very apparent transformation is taking place in each branch of the US military.

The Losers

Extremely vulnerable to IEDs, the US Army’s beloved Humvee manufactured by AM General is scheduled for replacement by the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV).

The fate of the Humvee could repeat for the MRAP as an estimated 1,000 are to be left in Afghanistan. Too heavy for air transport and too distant from the US for shipping, the MRAPS could either be destroyed or sold to neighboring countries.

Meanwhile, 1,600 M2/M3 Bradley’s are to be let go. Depending on the Pentagon’s decision, a foreign APC or the Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) program is what fulfills the Army’s future requirement for an infantry transport.

US M-2 Bradley

More dramatic changes are in store for the US Air Force. The long-term prospects of intelligent drones and the F-35 JSF  could spell the end for the USAF’s traditional mud kickers.

Except for long-range bombers like the B-52, the B-2, and the B-1, much of the USAF’s inventory is existing on borrowed time.

The A-10 Thunderbolt’s fate is already sealed and all 300 are gone by 2020. The F-16 Fighting Falcon becomes scarce beyond 2020. Since a total of 2,403 F-35’s enter service with the USAF, Navy, and Marines by the next decade, other aircraft are destined for the scrap yard.

These include at least 70 F-15C air superiority fighters, the US Marine Corps’ Harrier, and even the Navy’s F/A-18 Growler.

The USAF’s General Atomics Reaper drones, the U-2 spy plane, and the E-8C JSTAR are facing retirement as well.

The Winners

Sailors and marines have it easy by comparison.

Barring a drastic shrinkage of their already tight budget, beyond 2020 the Marine Corps have a new Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle to storm beaches with. This leaves the thinly armored LVTP-7/ AAV-7 redundant despite its widespread use by US allies.

The USMC’s phase out list includes the CH-46 Sea Knight twin-rotor troop carrier in favor of the V-22 Osprey and the MH-60 Seahawk. As for expeditionary transports, new America-class amphibious assault ships are arriving to replace the older Tarawa-class.

The US Navy is virtually untouched. The worst effects of sequestration is the delay on a new nuclear submarine or SSBN, fewer Zumwalt-class destroyers (just three to be commissioned), and the late arrival of another Ford-class supercarrier. A surprising possibility is a carrier like the USS George Washington gets decommissioned to save money.

The USN is removing aging warships from the fleet anyway. By the end of 2014 eight Oliver Hazard Perry-class missile frigates are decommissioned and one missile submarine or SSN is being scrapped.

What these quiet draw downs mean is a lot of cutting edge US weapon systems enter the global arms market at rock bottom prices–or are given away for free.