Skip to comments.Army Seeks Short-Term Payoff From Future Combat Systems
Posted on 11/23/2003 5:19:13 AM PST by Cannoneer No. 4
The Army is redirecting priorities in the Future Combat Systems program, in an attempt to meet short-term needs for new technologies. This shift in emphasis means the program will be less about developing futuristic concepts and more about upgrading the current tanks, armored infantry vehicles and trucks.
Program officials assert that the chief of staff of the Army, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, supports the FCS and intends to keep the $15 billion project on track to field a new family of vehicles by 2010. But the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan clearly have forced the Army to reassess the program goals. While the FCS previously was viewed as a long-term modernization effort, now the chief wants FCS to begin delivering technologies as soon as possible.
The plan is to spin off capabilities out of FCS into the Abrams tank and Bradley infantry vehicle fleets, said Lt. Gen. John S. Caldwell Jr., military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition. But he cautioned that the FCS program is not being significantly restructured or downscaled. Rather, other programs will be adjusted to take advantage of the new technologies developed in FCS, Caldwell told National Defense.
Since the FCS got under way more than three years ago, the predominant message heard from senior officials has been the notion of FCS as a network or a system of systems that would usher the Army into the information age.
Each FCS brigade, called a unit of action, will run 30 million lines of software. More than half of the money in the program will be allocated to ground combat vehicles and C4ISR (command, control, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) systems.
A seamless network of light ground vehicles and aircraft remains the essence of the FCS, but program officials now are stressing that FCS is first and foremost about putting technology in the hands of soldiers. During an industry conference last month sponsored by the Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command, in Dearborn, Mich., the program manager for FCS, Brig. Gen. Donald F. Schenk, told contactors that they need to work fast.
Despite widespread skepticism that the program may not be able to deliver a new generation of vehicles to begin replacing tanks and Bradleys in less than a decade, Schenk said that the goals are achievable. But in his opening comments to the conference, he acknowledged that, with the Army at war, the focus has changed. The technologies of the FCS could transition to other programs more quickly than most people think, Schenk said.
Among the technologies that could spiral from FCS into the current force are wireless communications systems, active protection for vehicles, diagnostics devices to predict engine failures, hybrid-electric power units and advanced truck suspensions, said Albert Puzzuoli, deputy program executive officer for Army ground combat systems.
But for FCS to be successful, he stressed, the Army and its contractors must fix a vexing problem that affects todays weapons systems: electronics obsolescence. The term refers to the difficulties in upgrading older weapon systems because the electronic components often are out of production and not available in the commercial market. This could pose serious hurdles as the Army figures out how to upgrade the Abrams and the Bradley, so they can remain in the fleet for at least 20 more years.
The Armys ability to spiral technologies out of FCS into Abrams and Bradley depends on how we attack our electronic obsolescence problems, Puzzuoli told the TACOM conference. One solution would be to develop a new, less complex electronic architecture in the Abrams and Bradley that is somewhat compatible with FCS, he said.
Unless this matter is resolved, he added, FCS, one day, will suffer electronic obsolescence issues.
Puzzuoli suggested that one of the more pressing technology needs in the near future will be to equip the Abrams tanks with new or remanufactured engines. The Army had awarded a contract to Honeywell Corp. in 1999 to develop a new turbine engine, the LV100. The plan was to build 1,600 engines to be installed on all Abrams tanks and Crusader artillery vehicles. But the cancellation of Crusader and cutbacks in the Abrams upgrade program drove down the number of engines to fewer than 600. An expected higher price for the LV100 (as a result of a smaller order) and technical problems experienced in the program have prompted the Army to reassess whether it should cancel the project and start over.
We are currently evaluating the status of that program and where the future lies, Puzzuoli said.
The current engine, the AGT1500 turbine, is fuel guzzling, has poor reliability and high maintenance costs, he said.
In fiscal year 2004, the Army will need to overhaul more than 1,200 tank engines, a threefold increase over 12 months. The Anniston Army Depot, in Alabama, currently overhauls about 400 engines a year.
The commander of TACOM, Army Maj. Gen. N. Ross Thompson III, said he fears that shortages of key components could severely undermine the depots ability to deliver enough engines to meet the Armys needs in Iraq.
The potential cancellation of the LV100 is not related to the increased need for AGT1500 engines, Thompson said in an interview. If they dont continue the program, well have a competition to reengineer and increase the reliability and the durability of the AGT1500.
Also of immediate need in the field is additional protection for Humvees and other trucks that are not armored. As U.S. forces in Iraq endure continuing attacks by rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and various explosive devices, TACOM officials are rushing to come up with countermeasures, such as armor kits.
Ideally, TACOM would like to build more of the up-armored Humvees, but the production line only can assemble 220 per month. The Army has asked for at least 3,500.
Until enough up-armored Humvees can be delivered, TACOM is providing interim alternatives, such as armor kits and a newly designed armor door that can be applied on existing Humvees. The Armys depots will make 1,000 armor doors for immediate delivery to Iraq, Thompson said.
Armor kits also will be needed for medium and heavy trucks, he said. Future Army rotations in Iraq will see fewer Abrams and Bradleys, and more wheeled vehicles, including the new Stryker.
Contractors, meanwhile, await specific direction from the Army on how it will go about transitioning from the current force to the so-called Future Force, equipped with FCS technology.
Much of the technology the Army wants in FCS already exists, experts contend. Vehicle manufacturers are coming forward with unsolicited concepts that aim to prove that.
United Defense LP, for example, recently unveiled a 20-ton armored vehicle equipped with a 120 mm gun that was fired at a shooting range in California, according the UDLP officials. The demonstratorpowered by a hybrid-electric engineis a modified armored gun that originally was developed in the early 1990s for Army light forces and subsequently was cancelled to fund other programs.
UDLP resurrected one of the six 105 mm prototypes and installed a 120 mm gun designed at the Armys Watervliet Arsenal.
The company claims that the vehicle is not intended to meet FCS requirements, given that the Army selected General Dynamics as the provider of direct-fire vehicles for FCS. UDLP was designated the supplier for the artillery systems.
In what appears to be a tit-for-tat move, General Dynamics unveiled its own concept for a 20-ton 105 mm howitzer, which would be compatible with the Stryker family. Company officials said the Army has not yet settled on whether the FCS howitzer will be 105 mm or 155 mm, even though UDLP is developing a 155 mm non-line-of-sight cannon for FCS.
As far as FCS requirements are concerned, the Army has been really vague, said Dean Lockwood, combat vehicles analyst at Forecast International, a market research firm. For that reason, contractors are showing what is possible and what is not.
Lockwood believes that the Army is moving toward a hybrid force of light quick-reaction and heavy armored units. With FCS, they want something in the middle. Stryker, he said, is the first incarnation of FCS. Its the test-bed and interim program for it.
Marine Lt. Gen. James Cartwright, of the Joint Staff, called FCS the most transformational thing that is going on in the Department of Defense.
Given the uncertainty about future conflicts and geopolitics, the Army knows its goals are probably ambitious, Cartwright said in a speech to the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement. The schedule may slip, but theyve got the right mindset, said Cartwright. Theyve got a heck of a challenge.
I was later told of some kind of kevlar or other type of matting that can be put down on the floor of the HMMWV, to protect against any shrapnel, but we were unable to get it. It is necessary, because you can't stick sandbags under the brake and gas pedals. However, from that point on, we never drove off the roads again. Just like in Bosnia - stay on the road.
We didn't think there was any threat from landmines, given the heavy presence of friendly forces in the area and the number of times that we had driven in that particular area. Either that mine had been there for a while and a whole lot of people got lucky, before us, or Haji pulled a slicky-boy when nobody was looking - and did a good job of camouflaging it. But, once we were wise to this threat, we never got hit again. Just as we were wise to the IED threat and never got hit by those either. In Baghdad, where so much of the violence is concentrated, the need for protection against landmines is minimal (zero, if you abide by our new rule of not driving on any dirt) because almost every part of the city that you will patrol is paved. As previously stated, the best defense against IEDs is vigilance. The guy in the turret will still be killed by an IED, in an M1114. If you sit Qatar-6 style, then you can detect the IEDs before you hit them - and they are not too difficult to spot, in a city. A bunch of wires, leading to a burlap bag, trash bag, rock pile, trash pile, et cetera - kind of sticks out. Additional countermeasures include driving in the middle lane of a highway, to ensure that you are as far from the blast of an unseen IED as possible; be alert for explosives on telephone polls or pedestrian overpasses; never drive under an overpass without clearing (Haji likes to chuck grenades at you); use Bradleys whenever possible - they provide all the advantages of the M1114 and almost none of the disadvantages. There should never be a patrol composed exclusively of HMMWVs, if there are FMC Bradleys sitting around, unused.
The photos below are of an M1114 that also struck a mine with its left front tire, on April 1, 2003, in Afghanistan. None of the occupants was injured, though it is worth noting that the blast only left a crater about 2 feet wide and 32 inches deep. The one that my vehicle hit left a hole 2 to 3 times that size. This may be because the mine had been placed upside down, to create a larger surface area for the vehicle to initiate the mine - not sure.
Close yourself in and lose situational awareness or open yourself to the initiating blast
Not saying gun hummers are worthless. A mix of guns and dismounts is probably ideal
The key thing though is to react aggressively. You've got a better chance of getting the bad guys if you dismount and chase them
Be careful of JRTC LL from the MILES war. It's a good training simulation - as good as we can do - but it is not combat.
In some ways it's a lot tougher
In other ways it's not as realistic
. Remember, everyone there is afraid of losing
But no one is afraid of DYING
Makes a big difference in how the bad guys set up to hit you
They want to live through it, if you stay on the vehicles, odds are you'll never catch them. There is no one tactical catch all, there are situations in which what you described is dead right and I should have caveated my statement
All things being equal though, I think you're better off dismounting and attacking the ambush than staying with the vehicle (if all you've got is small arms)
Good comments though
All the best
Nor would I advise anyone in a hummer with a mounted crew served weapon (50 Cal, MK-19) to dismount. the firepower is too valuable
It's everyone else with small arms. Vehicle mounted systems can suppress, but unless the terrain is favorable (and if the bad guys are smart they'll set up an ambush where it isn't) they don't have much of a chance of chasing down foot mobile attackers in a semi urban area
Go after them, every minute you stay in contact increases your chance of getting them.
This ins't Vietnam or the JRTC. There's no company level baited ambush waiting for you. Just at most a couple of dozen assholes running for their lives after taking what they thought was a free shot
All the best
You don't know WTF you are talking about.
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