from USA Today:
The Air Force has fired more than 20,000 missiles and bombs in the air war against the Islamic State, depleting its stocks of munitions and prompting the service to scour depots around the world for more weapons and to find money to buy them, according to records obtained by USA TODAY.
The Air Force efforts come as the Pentagon has stepped up airstrikes on Islamic State, or ISIL, targets in Iraq and Syria. That bombing campaign began in August 2014 in Iraq, spread to Syria a month later and has continued to target ISIL fighters and equipment.
“We’re in the business of killing terrorists and business is good,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said in statement. “We need to replenish our munitions stock. Weapons take years to produce from the day the contract is assigned until they roll off the production line.”
The Air Force carries out most of the bombing runs, using a variety of warplanes from single-prop Predator drones to huge B-1 bombers. Navy and Marine pilots, and several other countries, also fly missions.
“We’re expending munitions faster than we can replenish them. B-1s have dropped bombs in record numbers. F-15Es are in the fight because they are able to employ a wide range of weapons and do so with great flexibility,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh in a statement. “We need the funding in place to ensure we’re prepared for the long fight. This is a critical need.”
Since summer, the percentage of attack planes dropping bombs on missions has increased. In July and August, half of the warplanes returned to base without dropping weapons, Army Col. Steve Warren, the military’s spokesman in Baghdad, said this week. By October, 60% of the planes attacked ISIL targets, and November’s figure was 65%.
“We’re attacking ISIL on numerous fronts,” Warren said. “We’ve attacked their fighters in Syria and Iraq, we’re hitting their ability to finance their illegal and despicable operations.”
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