Logistics: Old, Cranky And Ready To Kill You


April 24, 2010:  The U.S. Department of Defense spends over $30 million a year getting rid of elderly munitions. The shelf life of most munitions varies from 5-20 years, depending on the component (shell, fuze, electronics, batteries or propellant.) There's a lot of ammo out there that is about to hit its expiration date. When that happens, you can either refurbish the munition (preferable with expensive missiles), disassemble and recycle it, or keep it and play the percentages.

Major nations must maintain millions of tons of munitions as War Reserve Stocks, to provide a 30-60 day supply of ammo for the opening stages of a major war. It would take over a month for fresh supplies to begin arriving from factories. Replacing elderly weapons from the War Reserve leaves you with a constant supply of old stuff that has to be disposed of. Not too long ago, the old munitions would be dumped at sea, usually in very deep water. But that is not considered ecologically correct these days. Thus the expense of taking apart and recycling the components.

The Department of Defense spends far more on refurbishing old munitions, usually missiles. Billions are spent to upgrade ballistic missiles and anti-aircraft missiles (both air-to-air and ground to air.) Torpedoes, which have been around for over a century, have long been given this kind of attention. Artillery shells, and large caliber machine-gun (20mm and up) ammo are usually taken apart and recycled. That's because the propellant (which is actually a slow burning explosive), detonators (to get the bang going) and high speed (or "high explosives") explosives are chemicals that degrade over time. The degradation makes the explosives less powerful and/or unstable. This makes the munitions less effective, and more dangerous to their users.

To prevent these problems, most countries try to use up munitions before they reach their expiration date. This is not always possible. Firing all the old artillery ammo in stock will wear out the artillery (the barrels are worn each time a shell is fired). Aircraft are expensive to fly, as they must be to use live missiles and bombs. So there is always a lot of old stuff to be disposed of.



Article Archive

Logistics: Current 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close