Pentagon's supply of favorite weapon may be dwindling
March 30, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Pentagon said Tuesday that while rugged geography and bad weather have helped the Serbians, NATO's satellite-guided cruise and Tomahawk missiles have caused significant damage every day of the week-old Operation Allied Force.
"Even on the worst days, we've been able to use some precision weapons: TLAMS (Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles) or CALCMs (Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missiles)," said Vice Adm. Scott Fry, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"We're hitting the field-deployed units," said Rear Adm. Thomas R. Wilson, chief of intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "There might be tanks, APCs (armored personnel carriers) and supplies and ammo parked in these areas where we can find them."
The Pentagon officials showed some of the sites that have been damaged in the past week, including an SA-6 SAM site.
"This was attacked by CALCMs delivered by B-52s, and you can see these storage and maintenance buildings here have been destroyed," Wilson said.
The Air Force is down to about 100 conventional versions of the air-launched cruise missile, while the Navy has about 2,500 of the Tomahawk missiles in stock.
The Navy told CNN that while there is "no shortage," it is at the point where it has to "manage the inventory very carefully".
Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon indicated Tuesday that the looming shortage is not yet critical, but conceded, "Yes, that's something that we do worry about. We have ... a supply now, but it won't last forever. But we certainly have enough to continue striking important targets".
The weapons do not come cheap. Tomahawks cost more than $1 million each. CALCMs, in current-year dollars, cost $1.9 million.
An Air Force spokesman told CNN that the service's leadership recently requested a supplemental infusion of $51.5 million from Congress to convert 92 nuclear-tipped air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs) to carry a conventional explosive warhead. The Air Force wants that money funneled rapidly into the 1999 budget.
The Navy, meanwhile, is seeking a $113 million emergency appropriation to convert 324 Tomahawk cruise missiles to the latest model with upgraded guidance and a conventional blast warhead.
The upgrades to the Navy version of the cruise missile would include new engines, add GPS satellite guidance systems, increase the missile's range by more than 300 miles, encase the warhead in titanium for better penetration capability, and allow in-flight re-targeting.
Meanwhile, five U.S. B-1 bombers will add new firepower to the NATO arsenal in Kosovo.
The aircraft are equipped to deliver high-tech cluster bombs. Those bomblets are heat-seeking and especially effective against tanks and armored vehicles.
"We're already hitting armor and troops in the field," said Wilson, "and we're hitting support mechanisms at bases as well as field support mechanisms where tanks and APCs come back to refuel and reload after their patrols."
CNN National Security Producer Chris Plante and Correspondent Charles Bierbauer contributed to this report.
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