Tracing military supply chains back to their roots is equivalent to mapping military history. As early as 700 BCE, the Assyrian people were transporting wood, iron, food, and supplies over mountains and across desert terrain to support their soldiers. They didn’t have airdrops and comm links to requisition quick aid or refill rations, so they relied on horses, camels, and livestock to transport—slowly—the necessary supplies for weapons, armor, and sustenance.

Supply chains look much different today than 700 BCE, of course, but they also look much different than 1917, when modern military logistics were implemented during WWI. Just like warfare and the technology we use in combat, military supply chains are constantly adapting and evolving to meet the needs of our servicemen and women.

At Greenwood Aerospace, we understand the importance of a well-maintained supply chain. Our 41 years of experience serving all branches of the U.S. military—along with some of the largest defense contractors in the country—have enabled us to provide top-notch logistics and supply chain support. Our expert services include:

In this article, we cover everything you need to know about how military supply chains have evolved and impacted each branch of the U.S. military over the years. We explore:

  • What differentiates military supply chains from other supply chains
  • How supply chains impact each military branch differently
  • How military supply chains have changed over the years
  • What Greenwood Aerospace offers for your supply chain issues

Check out everything you need to know about military supply chains and the services we provide below.

What Makes the Military Supply Chain Different from Other Supply Chains?

Before getting into the specifics of the military supply chain, it is necessary to understand the different services provided by the various supply chains: 

  1. Military supply chain
  2. Government supply chain
  3. Defense supply chain
  4. Commercial supply chain

Each has unique characteristics, requirements, and regulations that businesses need to understand to navigate successfully. 

For example, the military supply chain involves all branches of the U.S. military, meaning the supply chain needs to account for MIL-SPEC and government standards as much as it does cross-channel shipping and desert transportation. Similarly, government supply chains reach diverse branches of federal oversight, making it challenging for businesses to understand and comply with regulations and procedures.

By understanding the differences between these supply chains, we here at Greenwood Aerospace are able to tailor our contractual demands and procurement contracts to meet deadlines, ensure quality, and offer competitive pricing. Dealing with military supply chains is vastly different than facing commercial supply chain difficulties, and our decades of experience have provided us with the ability to navigate supply chains to our clients’ benefit.

Let’s take a look at what makes the military supply chain different from other supply chains.

Military Supply Chain

The military supply chain provides the necessary goods and services to all branches of the military. This includes everything from military aircraft parts and ammunition to packaging and ground support equipment. The military supply chain is complex, and often involves multiple contractors and suppliers to meet the demands of air forces, battleships, ground troops, and more.

Military supply chains differ from other supply chains in their specific assistance of military duties, ensuring supplies and materiel not only reach their destinations, but meet military specifications and standards in the process. Military standards include:

To ensure that materiel entering the military supply chain meets quality specifications, MIL-STD sets five types of defense standards: 

  1. Design criteria
  2. Interface
  3. Manufacturing process
  4. Standard practices
  5. Test Method

Throughout the entire military supply chain, aerospace suppliers and contractors play a critical role in ensuring these standards are met. These companies are responsible for designing, manufacturing, and maintaining a wide range of aircraft, satellites, and other technologies that are used by the military and government. They may also provide support services, such as training and maintenance, to ensure that these technologies are effective and reliable.

Defense Supply Chain

The defense supply chain is a subset of the military supply chain that specifically focuses on the production and delivery of defense-related products and services. This includes everything from aircraft missiles to cybersecurity and intelligence services. Military defense contracting is highly regulated and often requires specialized knowledge and expertise. 

The defense supply chain is closely related to both the military and government supply chains. It is a critical component of the military supply chain, providing the necessary equipment and technologies that are essential to carrying out military operations. 

Government Supply Chain

The government supply chain is a complex and highly regulated system that involves federal, state, and local government agencies. The government procures a wide range of goods and services, from office supplies to aerospace technology, to support its operations and fulfill its missions. 

Businesses that want to participate in government contracting need to understand the procurement process and unique regulations, as well as the needs and preferences of government decision-makers. 

For aerospace suppliers and contractors, the government supply chain offers significant opportunities for growth and expansion. The aerospace industry provides a range of products and services to support government agencies and military operations, including aircraft, satellites, space systems, and related technologies. 

Aerospace companies must comply with strict regulations and quality standards to ensure the safety and effectiveness of their products and services. They’ll also face competition from established government contractors, suppliers, and emerging decision makers in the market. 

Commercial Supply Chain

If you have read the news in the past year, supply chain management has been a key buzzword for every shortage, delay, or supply issue. Everything from baby formula to lithium batteries has been affected by supply chain issues, introducing much of the world to the concept and demands of supply chain management. 

Commercial supply chains—as opposed to government and military supply chains—involve public buyers on a global scale, often indirectly. Whereas government and military supply chains depend on high-ranking decision makers to dictate the demand and movement of supplies, commercial supply chains rely more on public buying trends and needs. 

Commercial supply chains impact aerospace in similar ways as government, defense, and military supply chains. When energy shortages influenced shipping routes, all industries were affected. With aerospace parts and distribution, commercial shipping delays can hamper procurement as much as defense supply chain shortages. That’s why Greenwood Aerospace works with our extensive network of suppliers to combat supply shortages and shipping delays to bring you cost-effective, expedient procurement of all your flight program’s parts and aircraft requirements.   

A Brief History of the Military Supply Chain

Thinking of modernization of the military supply chain often brings images of World War II to mind: the development of airdrops to resupply ground troops; GMC CCKW “Jimmys” wheeling soldiers and supplies across rough terrain; the implementation of the U.S. Navy Fleet Train to support the treacherous crossing of the Pacific. 

The cargo door of an aircraft is open as a parachute deploys from a crate, ready for airdrop.
Airdrops became instrumental in supporting ground troops during WW2. Image source

Possibly due to the sheer advancements in military logistics from WWI to WWII, the modern military supply chain is attributed to the Second World War when, in fact, modernization of military supply chains began decades—even possibly centuries—earlier. 

The Military Installs Modern Logistics

We can trace a crude form of logistics back to the Egyptian pyramids, but modern logistics as we know it is often attributed to the British and American militaries circa World War I.  

A war fought on an unprecedented scale, the Allied troops needed to leverage every option to secure victory against the Central Powers. Their greatest advantage being their access to resources–thanks to the production capabilities of the U.S., Japan, Great Britain, and Russia–the Allied forces implemented a supply chain to move weapons, ammunition, and vehicles to the frontlines. 

Many contend modern logistics predates WWI, with military forces transporting forces and supplies ever since Mesopotamians invented roads. Logistics on the scale and functionality as we understand it today more closely resembles the Allied forces’ use of supply chain management. 

The Military Supply Chain Today

With almost 800 U.S. military bases worldwide, the necessary logistics to support and maintain a successful military supply chain demands knowledge of all climates, topographical and political. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, submits five principles of logistics for all militaries to follow. They are:

  1. Cooperation
  2. Economy
  3. Flexibility
  4. Foresight
  5. Simplicity

Today, the U.S. Department of Defense is spearheading efficiency in military supply chains through these principles, as well as through several internationally-implemented practices, including:

  • Focused logistics: the process of combining logistics with information and transportation technologies to perform operational and tactical duties at the highest level of efficiency 
  • Lean logistics: the process of executing logistics while reducing waste through five steps: define, measure, analyze, improve, control

Delays and shortages in commercial supply chains can have serious consequences—we witnessed this with medication and baby formula shortages. More often than not, though, delays are a nuisance rather than a dire situation. In military supply chains, logistical missteps can mean tactical disadvantage or even loss of lives. It is imperative to national security and to the lives of our servicemen and women that all military supply chains are operating at peak efficiency. 

How Military Supply Chains Impact Each Branch of Our Armed Forces

Greenwood Aerospace has supported all branches of the U.S. military, providing military aircraft parts to our Air Forces, military and defense contracting, and foreign military sales assistance to foster relations between our military and its allies. To name a few, we have worked with:

  • U.S. Air Force
  • U.S. Army
  • U.S. Navy
  • U.S. Marines
  • U.S. Air National Guard

Just as each branch of the military provides specific expertise and function, each military supply chain differs to meet the needs of their respective branch. We explore the differences in military supply chains between branches, detailing the operations that keep our troops fully supplied and ready for duty.

U.S. Air Force Military Supply Chain

Commanded by the Air Force Global Logistics Support Center, or AFGLSC, the U.S. Air Force supply chain is split between two branches:

  • 448th Supply Chain Management Wing
  • 635th Supply Chain Operations Wing

These arms of the AFGLSC are further divided into subsections, with the 448th overseeing the 848th Supply Chain Management Group and the 948th Supply Chain Management Group. 

The logistics needed for each of these supply chain subsets to support not just their parent branch but the Air Force as a whole require maximum readiness and foresight. The Air Force military supply chain an estimated 50 countries for foreign military sales, and controls approximately $62 billion in buying power for parts, aircraft,equipment, and vital supplies. 

While individual military supply chains primarily focus on supporting their branch of the military, many, like the U.S. Air Force military supply chain, impact and support multiple branches and agencies. The Air Force directly and indirectly aids the Army, Navy, and U.S. Defense Logistics Agency through its supply chain.

U.S. Air National Guard Military Supply Chain

A support branch of the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Air National Guard falls under the purview of the Air Force Global Logistics Support Center. Logistically, the Air National Guard aligns more with Army National Guard functions, operating within and serving their local communities. National Guard military supply chains need to account for natural disasters and CONUS transport to guarantee effective operations and personnel support.

U.S. Army Military Supply Chain 

U.S. Army Supply Chain Management (SCM) focuses on three primary resources for procurement, transport, and maintenance: 

  1. Ammunition
  2. Fuel
  3. Water

These three relatively basic requirements for military operation cause some of the most difficult logistical maneuverings in SCM. This is why the U.S. Army has developed the Army Logistics University (ALU), a “composite campus” aimed at improving logistics across the military, such as advanced military packaging and aviation logistics. The university is comprised of three colleges and one academy:

  • Logistics Leader College
  • College of Applied Logistics and Operational Studies
  • Technical Logistics College
  • Logistics Non Commissioned Officer Academy

Operating with the Department of Defense, the Army military supply chain has access to over 100,000 suppliers and 2,000 inventory management systems. Its parts supply inventory is valued at almost $100 billion, and is the backbone of military supply chains. Between this and the ALU, the U.S. Army is on the forefront of innovation and development for all military supply chains.

U.S. Navy Military Supply Chain 

Navy Supply Chain Management, or SCM, is the largest investment of resources through Naval Supply Systems Command, or NAVSUP. NAVSUP invests over 3,000 personnel and $43 billion of inventory into SCM. 

Navy Supply Chain Management operates under two support systems: 

  1. Fleet Supply Support
  2. Program Support

Under its Fleet Supply Support, SCM follows 7 basic tenets, which are:

  1. Determine Requirements
  2. Allocate Material
  3. Manage Repairs
  4. Contract for Repair Services
  5. Develop Allowances
  6. Manage Financials
  7. Provide Customer Service

Through its Program Support system, SCM focuses more on life cycle and logistical capabilities. Its 8 oversights include:

  1. Life Cycle Management
  2. Reliability Improvement
  3. Interim Support
  4. Security Assistance
  5. Integrated Logistics
  6. Maintenance Planning 
  7. Deployable Capability
  8. Configuration Management

In relation to aerospace, the U.S. Navy deploys 11 of the largest aircraft carriers, providing necessary tactical support to our air forces around the world. Its military supply chain not only supports our brave Naval soldiers and officers, but our Air Force and Air National Guard fleets as well.

U.S. Marines Military Supply Chain 

The first men and women into combat, the U.S. Marines have served the United States since before our country even technically existed. Founded in 1775, a year before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Marines formed as “a few good men” by Captain Samuel Nicholas, seeking to defend the new nation from its British aggressors. Ever since, the Marines have been the first line of defense in every major war and military action, defending our freedom and securing our citizens. Their military supply chain is instrumental to not only our soldiers, but our way of life.

The U.S. Marines operate through the Supply Chain Management Center, or SCMC, to monitor and integrate supply chain improvements that can provide operational advantages to the Fleet Marine Forces. 

The SCMC enacts three primary military supply chain functions. They are:

  • Class II Fielding and Sustainment Support Services
  • Coordinated Secondary Reparable Management
  • Supplier Relationship Management

Through seven different divisions across 15 international sites, the SCMC ensures the safety and functionality of our brave men and women in the Fleet Marine Forces.

A Greenwood Aerospace employee carts boxes marked with Beechcraft labels through an office building.
Greenwood Aerospace supports your supply chain needs.

Greenwood Aerospace Mitigates Your Supply Chain Stress

Need a partner to tackle all of your supply chain issues? Greenwood Aerospace has over 41 years of experience solving supply chain problems for some of the largest defense contractors in the U.S. Contact us now, and one of our expert representatives will respond within one business day. We offer all of our clients the same great service, including:

  • Mitigated supply chain stress
  • Supplier evaluations for past performance insights
  • Streamlined task optimization
  • GPIQ predictive analysis to forecast future demand

We proudly support all branches of our military, and service all forms of long-term, short-term, single request, and repeat customer contracts. Request a quote or email us at, and we will begin solving your supply chain issues shortly.

We are excited to get to work assisting your supply chain needs!