Magazine article National Defense

Army and Industry Execs Plan Ammo Needs for New Brigades

Magazine article National Defense

Army and Industry Execs Plan Ammo Needs for New Brigades

Article excerpt

As the Army began sketching its promised medium-weight brigades at Fort Lewis, _Wash., Army logistics leaders met with industry executives to begin planning for the ammunition needs of the new units.

The new outfits-called brigade combat teams-are intended to overcome the problems that the Army experienced during NATO's 1999 war With Yugoslavia. During that brief conflict, the Army had trouble moving its heavy combat units, with their 70-ton MIA Abrams tanks, to the borders of Kosovo in time to be of use.

Embarrassed by that experience, the Army has set out to create combat forces that are easier to deploy than its traditional heavy armor, but more lethal and better protected than its lighter units,

Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, Army chief of staff, wants to develop the capability to put a combat-ready brigade anywhere in the world within 96 hours, a division on the ground in 120 hours and five divisions within 30 days.

Army officials said it might take a decade or longer for the service to fully meet this goal.

"The chiefs vision is a real tough mark on the wall for us to meet," Maj. Gen. Joseph R_ Arbuckle, commander of the Army's Industrial Operations Command, based in Rock Island, Ill., told industry representatives at the Munitions Executive Summit, held last month in Tysons Corner, Va. The conference was sponsored by the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA).

As a first step, Shinseki ordered the rapid-fire conversion of two existing brigades--one heavy and one light, in the Armys I Corps at Fort Lewis into prototypical units for the entire service, equipped with state-of-the-art, medium-weight armored vehicles.

In January, at the Armor Center in Fort Knox, Ky., the Army tested 35 such vehicles made by firms from the United States and six other countries-Canada, France, Germany, Singapore, Switzerland and Turkey. Officials plan to decide this summer which vehicles to buy, in order to have the first ones at Fort Lewis before the end of this fiscal year.

The Army is looking for vehicles that are significantly lighter than the tanks, fighting vehicles and artillery pieces that it currently uses. They also want a uniform platform that meets all the new brigades' requirements, including command and control, anti-tarik and reconnaissance missions.

One option being considered is to reduce crew sizes-from four for the Abrams and three for the Light Armored Vehicle (LAV)to two for the new platform, according to Maj. Gen. John E Michitsch, program executive officer for Ground Combat and Support Systems (GCSS), headquartered at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J. But that wont save enough weight, Army officials said.

"The real key [to a lighter combat brigade] is going to be to lighten up the logistics," said Arbuckle, "and that means primarily fuel and ammunition."

The heaviest part of an armored unit is not the vehicles, Army officials said. Rather, it is the fuel for the vehicles, followed by the ammunition, and then the vehicles themselves.

Searching for a Weapon

The weapon to be mounted on the vehicle has not yet been determined, said Army Maj. Gen. John S. Caldwell Jr., head of the Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM), in Warren, Mich., adding: "We are encouraging the Army Material Command to keep the requirements to a minimum, and see what industry can come up with."

The 120mm main gun, mounted on the Abrams, is considered too large for the middleweight vehicle envisioned for the new brigades, officials said. Even the 105mm, found on older models of the Abrams, "looks really huge on an LAV (Light Armored Vehicle)," said Col. (P) William Lenaers, commander of the Army's Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC). Nevertheless, he concluded: "We need to have a 105 out there that can take on and kill heavy tanks."

Certainly, to fight heavy tanks, the new vehicles will need more armament than the 25mm chain gun or even the TOW anti-tank missiles currently on the LAVs used by the Marines, Army officials agreed. …

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