All told, CRS identifies 24 specific weapons systems or cross-platform capabilities with critical Rare Earths components, including:
JDAMS smart bomb converter kits, the Tomahawk cruise missile, Predator unmanned aircraft, the Zumwalt DDG 1000 guided missile destroyer, the Joint Strike Fighter, the FCS Future Combat Service armored vehicle and Army’s Stryker armored vehicle’s long-range area-denial capability, the SaberShot Photonic Disrupter - a non-lethal flash-blinding laser - fin actuators on the JAGM Joint Air-Ground Missile, to be used by the U.S. Army, Navy and Marines, jamming devices used by all services, Nickel Metal Hydride Batteries, Ground- and Airborne-Laser targeting systems, radar, sonar transducers, CHPS Combat Hybrid Power Systems to support silent operations, the Laser Avenger anti-IED weapon - and the Navy’s Electromagnetic Railgun, capable of launching a projectile 100 nautical miles.
In short, all the stuff U.S. warfighters need to control and defend the battlespace.
But if we’re worried about what will happen if China cuts off our Rare Earths supply, yet another new study, this one by the GAO, suggests that we also have to worry about counterfeit parts that make their way into the defense supply chain - including military-grade components in our defense electronics.
In its own “sting operation,” the GAO found a dozen instances of counterfeit electronic components - all of them from a single country of origin: China.
According to Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) - along with Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), the co-commissioners of the GAO study: “The Chinese government’s refusal to shut down counterfeiting that occurs openly in their country puts our national security and the safety of our military men and women at risk.”
A growing number of government agencies are realizing the dangers of resource dependency, an epiphany that should lead to a reexamination of policies that could promote domestic production not only of Rare Earths, but a range of other metals critical to our economic strength and national security.
And yet the department charged with ensuring our national security sees no danger. “Let not your heart be troubled” may make a marvelous moral precept, but it’s less compelling as a national defense strategy.
The Resource Wars is one conflict our military machine seemingly wants no part of. Here’s hoping the foreign-sourced parts in our warfighting machines hold up if they’re ever put to the test.