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Boeing Ramps Up Bomb Production as Stockpiles Decrease

The Navy and Air Force, as well as U.S. allies, have asked Boeing Co. for more bomb kits, including laser-guided, amid declining JDAM stockpiles due to the air war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

"We're ramping significantly across the portfolio, not just with [Joint Direct Attack Munition]," said Cindy Gruensfelder, Boeing's director of direct attack munitions.

"But with JDAM, we're currently on a path by July of this year to ramp to a 150 weapons a day [rate] or over 36,500 [tail kits] per year -- that is two full shifts at our facility," she told reporters during a media briefing Tuesday at Boeing's facilities near Washington, D.C.

Gruensfelder said Boeing is looking to break the 36,000 kit annual production ceiling because of international partner requests.

The ramp-up began last July, when an average of 130 tail kits a day were being produced.

The Air Force -- flying more than half the sorties for Operation Inherent Resolve, the name of the operation against ISIS -- in December 2015 revealed bomb stockpiles were decreasing in light of the air war, which began in 2014.

The stockpiles were strained further when the joint force began sharing weapons with coalition partners engaged against the terrorist group in the Middle East, said then-Lt. Gen. John Raymond, deputy chief of staff for operations at Headquarters Air Force at the time.

Chicago-based Boeing recently celebrated its 300,000 JDAM production, Gruensfelder said.

"To fast forward to the usage rates we're seeing from some of the warfighters … usage of weapons for JDAM in particular was 80 a day on average," she said of Boeing's contribution.

Small diameter bomb production will also see an increase. Boeing, which makes the GBU-39 kit, currently produces 1,000 units a year, primarily based on international needs, Gruensfelder said. But the company is in contract negotiations with the Air Force to have 5,000 units a year for the next lot, with the potential of 8,000 the following year.

Over time, the JDAM has come down in cost, she said, adding Boeing aims to "drive it down even further." She did not offer specific numbers because of ongoing negotiations.

The laser-guided JDAM, first delivered in 2008, is "going through some ramps as well," Gruensfelder said. "The modularity really allows for the weapon to be assembled in the field in minutes and is very capable -- both the U.S. Navy and Air Force employ laser JDAMs as well as 17 international partners."

Nearly 18,000 laser-guided JDAMs have been delivered to date, she said. Negotiations are underway with the Navy for direct attack moving target capability, or DAMTC, for the laser JDAM kits, she said.

"We will be working with our supplier base to ramp even further beyond 8,000 units per year," she said.

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