Magazine article National Defense

Slimmer Brigade Still Is Not Trim Enough

Magazine article National Defense

Slimmer Brigade Still Is Not Trim Enough

Article excerpt

Against the hoopla surrounding the selection of a new armored vehicle for the Army's so-called "interim brigade combat teams," service officials are grappling with the reality that, no matter what vehicle is chosen, the brigade still is too heavy to deploy in 96 hours.

The four-day benchmark was mandated by the chief of staff of the Army, and is intended to make these brigade-size units "quick-reaction" forces that the United States could dispatch to hot spots around the world.

The interim brigade combat teams, or IBCTs, will be self-sufficient units the Army plans to field late next year. Self-sufficiency means they will not require major overseas airports and seaports to receive troops and equipment.

Two IBCTs are training at Fort Lewis, Wash. They expect to receive new interim combat vehicles by March 2001. A contractor for the nearly $7 billion program was to be chosen last month.

These new vehicles will not be tanks, obviously. The tanks are the reason the Army has been dubbed "too slow" and "too large" to be effective in urban conflicts, for example. The new vehicles will be expected to go to places where tanks can't go.

Currently, however, "with the amount of troops we have in this [IBCT] outfit, we can't get there in 96 hours," said Ty Cobb, acting chief of the advanced systems concepts office at the Army's Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM). These time estimates, he explained, were based on how many airfields would be needed to deliver troops and equipment.

TACOM estimated that an IBCT, with about 4,000 troops, must weigh no more than 7,800 short tons to meet the 96-hour goal.

Each IBCT has three infantry battalions. It will have 18 155 mm towed howitzers, 340 armored vehicles and 543 tactical wheeled vehicles. Every platoon has Javelin anti-tank weapons. Configured as such, this IBCT weighs nearly 12,000 short tons, and would need between 7.5 and 10.9 days to deploy, said Cobb, during a recent TACOM-sponsored conference in Dearborn, Mich.

If the howitzers were substituted by wheeled high-mobility artillery rocket systems, called the HIMARS, the weight would drop by nearly 1,000 short tons, and the deployment time would be shortened to between six and nine days. But, "as it stands today, we cannot get there in 96 hours," Cobb said. To reach the weight of 7,800 short tons, the brigade only would be able to bring two infantry battalions, and no howitzers.

Paul Chiodo, acting associate technical director of TACOM's Armaments Research, Development and Engineering Center, said some weight reductions are expected in the future, with the introduction of a new 155 mm howitzer, a joint Marine-Army system that is scheduled to begin production in 2002 or 2003. That howitzer weighs 17,000 pounds, and should drop to 9,000 pounds, said Chiodo.

One way the Army believes it can cut down the weight of the brigade in the near future, Cobb asserted, is by slashing the amount of supplies brought to the battle.

Most of that "logistics support" weight is in the form of fuel and water.

TACOM currently is studying the use of advanced fuels and lubricants as a potential assist in lightening the logistics load.

Gilbert Piesczak, team leader of advanced vehicle technologies at TACOM, said his office is looking at fuel additives, synthetic lubricants and new refinery processes. …

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