The private sector is the key to sustaining the US military’s advanced posture on the world stage, its innovative solutions allowing the US to maintain a competitive edge over the “pacing challenge” that China poses. The US Department of Defense (DoD) has therefore stepped up its commitments to support its defence industrial base.

The latest in the DoD’s strategy to sustain its military efforts in the current geopolitical climate is the co-operation agreement to invest $215.6m in one of its primary domestic missile manufacturers, Aerojet Rocketdyne (AR), on 14 April 2023.

The agreement is intended to expand and modernise the company’s manufacturing capacity of its rocket propulsion systems. These systems propel DoD missiles and missile defence interceptors, along with space launch vehicles and national security satellites used in civil and commercial applications. 

Through the agreement with the Office of Manufacturing Capability Expansion and Investment Prioritization, AR will build additional facilities, purchase advanced equipment and automate manufacturing processes to support increased production demand. The company will focus on Javelin, Stinger and the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS).

“These funds will build upon our own significant investments in modern, efficient facilities and innovative technologies and processes to design and develop advanced propulsion systems to support the defence missions of tomorrow”, said Eileen Drake, AR’s CEO and president.

“The [DoD] is moving forward with appropriate urgency to support strategic industrial sectors crucial to protecting national security”, said the Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Kathleen Hicks.

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“This critical investment will modernise rocket propellant and motor production in the United States, in addition to creating technical and skilled labour jobs at multiple domestic facilities”, Dr Hicks added.

Supporting the US military and Ukraine

The DoD specifies that this effort was funded by the Additional Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act (2023). The US has provided Javelins, Stingers and GMLRS rockets to the Ukrainian government, and the modernisation of AR facilities will benefit DoD as it replenishes its ammunition supplies.

This industrial investment follows the leaked US intelligence documents, which indicate an alarming rate of ammunition consumption in Ukraine that is expected to deplete by early May.

Either way, whether this incident plays some part as an impetus for this investment decision, the US has always acknowledged the need for its industrial modernisation to more efficiently deliver US stocks that will struggle to match demand.

There are factors beyond the Russo-Ukraine War that require the US to ramp up its missile propulsion needs; for example it must outpace the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s weapons capability, which has seen a lot of investment, according to GlobalData. Due to the growth in the missile capabilities of adversaries China and Russia, the US is expected to continue spending significantly on missiles over the next ten years to ensure its continued militaristic edge.