The Army has “taken some risk” to its readiness with the recent drawdown of Javelin and Stinger munitions sent to Ukraine, the service’s secretary said Tuesday, adding it has not reached “an unacceptable level of risk.”

During a discussion with the Atlantic Council, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth cited the importance of recently awarded production deals for Javelins and Stingers as critical to replenishing those munitions stockpiles and ensuring the U.S. is able to support future weapons assistance requests to aid Ukraine in its ongoing fight against Russia’s invasion.

The Honorable Christine Wormuth, United States Secretary of the Army, visits Fort Bragg, N.C., July 19, 2021. During her visit, the 82nd Airborne Division showcased various new technology the U.S. Army will utilize in the future, including the Infantry Squad Vehicle, the Variable Height Antenna, and the Integrated Visual Augmentation System. (U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Jacob Ward).

“We are looking, certainly in the Department of Defense and in the Army, at what we need to be doing to allow us to continue to sustain the kind of lethal assistance that we’re providing to the Ukrainians. And that’s why we’ve signed contracts to replenish our Stingers and replenish our Javelins. We have really leaned in to trying to provide everything that the policymakers deem essential to get to the Ukrainians. And we have taken some risk to our own readiness, not an unacceptable level of risk at all. But I think we will continue to do that,” Wormuth said.

The Army on Friday awarded Raytheon Technologies [RTX] a $624.6 million deal for procurement of Stingers, the company’s first production order for the anti-aircraft missiles since 2005 (Defense Daily, May 27). 

On May 6, the Army awarded a $237.9 million deal for Javelin production to Lockheed Martin [LMT] and Raytheon, which jointly manufacture the anti-tank missile, which was then followed by another $71.4 million deal on May 12.

“Everything we’re seeing in Ukraine underscores the importance of maintaining our industrial base and our munitions stockpiles. Again, munitions are going to be very important in the future, particularly if we get into a protracted conflict,” Wormuth said. “And we’re also talking with industry more broadly about what can we do to think about stockpiling some of the longer-lead items that we may have in some of our critical munitions in the future.”

The U.S. has sent approximately 1,400 Stingers and 5,500 Javelins to Ukraine to date, according to the Pentagon.

William LaPlante, the Pentagon’s top acquisition official, has said the department’s intent is to eventually replenish stockpiles of equipment sent to Ukraine on a “one-to-one” basis, while noting that will likely require several funding efforts before production lines can reach that capacity (Defense Daily, May 6). 

Wormuth was also asked about the potential implications of sending longer-range rocket capabilities to support Ukraine, which followed President Biden’s remarks to reporters on Monday that the U.S. would not send “rocket systems that can strike into Russia.”

“I think where the U.S. stands is wanting to provide all of the assistance that we can to the Ukrainians without escalating the situation to a point where the war spills over or, frankly, goes in a terrible direction,” Wormuth responded. “We cannot allow this war to escalate. Then, I think you will see, if you want to talk about concerns to NATO unity, concerns for the American support for this conflict, if it escalates that unity will be much more challenging to sustain.”

The Army secretary also noted continued deliveries of equipment to Ukraine will open up opportunities to replenish weapons stockpiles with new capabilities rather than only backfilling with current systems.

“That is allowing us to buy new systems. Instead of replacing old with old, we’re actually replacing old with new,” Wormuth said.

For Stingers, the Army is currently pursuing an effort to field a next-generation system after noting the current Stinger-Reprogrammable Microprocessor will become obsolete in FY ‘23.

Last month, the Army released a new Request for Information notice for the “Maneuver Short Range Air Defense Inc. 3” effort to find a Stinger replacement, detailing plans to begin developing and testing new capabilities next fiscal year before beginning production of 10,000 missiles in fiscal year 2027 (Defense Daily, April 11).