Magazine article National Defense

Army Modernization

Magazine article National Defense

Army Modernization

Article excerpt

* In the excellent story of the Army's Ground Combat Vehicle, (Army's Ground Combat Vehicle: The Saga Continues, Oct 2011, p.32) I very much enjoyed the opening line: "The Army's quest for a new combat vehicle is one of the Pentagon's longest running, most drama-filled procurement soap operas."

The story then states that this "epic tale" spanned over a decade and began in October 1999 when then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki announced that the Abrams and Bradley would be phased out and replaced by lighter vehicles. Sorry, but that's not even half of it.

This woeful saga of failed replacement of the Abrams and Bradley fleets by lighter, faster and more fuel-efficient vehicles actually started back about 1984 with the Army's Armored Family of Vehicles (AFV) program. At that time, the Army's combat developers envisioned a family of 32 different armored combat and combat-support vehicles in three weight classes with emphasis on commonality in operation, training, and repair parts and components for the entire Army, to begin fielding about 1992.

Having little to show by about 1988, the program devolved into the Heavy Force Modernization of 24 vehicles in two weight classes for only about one-third of the Army with fielding delayed. Eventually it shriveled further into Armored Systems Modernization of only six vehicles, also for only one third of the force, with fielding pushed further back to about 2000 or beyond.

This effort was finally broken up into separate acquisition programs. The Future Combat Systems was soon dropped as it was no better than an Abrams. The Combat Mobility Vehicle engineer breacher was spun off into the "Grizzly," an Abrams variant that was eventually cancelled due to its own lack of progress. The Future Infantry Fighting Vehicle and Line-of-Sight Anti-Tank were delayed indefinitely and forgotten. The Advanced Field Artillery System and its accompanying Resupply Vehicle sort of evolved into or paralleled (depending on whom you ask) the Crusader Field Artillery System, which was finally aborted under FCS.

But more important than reviewing history is learning from it. Why does this nonsense happen? How can such foolishness continue for almost three decades? Well, the explanation is simple, as Grace V. Jean's story about the Army's Robotic Mule being deployed to Afghanistan (Oct. 2011, p. 27) so well illustrates.

Light infantry soldiers are forever overburdened, carrying crushing loads. The impedimenta of modern warfare is simply too great to carry on one's back. …

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