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Lack of Strategic Lift is Well Known

     We seem to have to reinvent the wheel each time we assess our logistical requirements.  Is this because the Pentagon luminaries do not communicate at all? ALL of these items are overtly obvious to any NCO with logistical experience and all of these specific items were examined in minute detail during the desert shield/storm build-up with ALL the short comings noted and discussed during NCO academies and S.O. schools, & at no end.  I am curious as to what benefit we military are deriving from the coffee-bearers at the Pentagon if in fact we are even needing to revisit the issue.

      As an NCO of limited military experience (1963~present) I am wondering what happened to the academy motto of not confusing efforts with results?   OR... are there higher ranking individuals whom do not wish this information to be widely dispersed to avoid embarrassment? Do they suppress facilitating the changes?  The NY Times says we have very few 9mm rounds and I know we don't have as frequent of range fires and little attention to the marksmanship program as compared to the 80's focus on that.  I am familiar with duty rotations thru the Pentagon being of relatively short duration, but this is a bit ludicrous.  I read some of your references to the Osprey (and some from others) and it appears that we will have to weed out about 15 years worth of officers who are not familiar with history.  The corporate memory doesn't seem to exist in the U.S. military at this point, or I am now recognizing the reason that I am only an NCO.                            

                                                                              US Military NCO

M1 Diesel Upgrade

      I enjoyed your article about a possible M1A3 upgrade very much and must say that I agree with you almost fully.  The thing that I disagree on is that you say that a smaller engine than 1500 bhp (like the 1050 bhp engine you referred too) can be adopted for a tank like the M1.  I don't believe that a tank as heavy as the M1 is helped by that decrease in speed and acceleration. The Swedish Leopard 2/Strv 122 with its 12 cylinder 1500 hp diesel MTU engine had the lowest diesel consumption compared to the rest of the tanks during the Hellenic Tank Clash... You know where the Greeks compared the modern MBTs...

      1050 hp is simply too low I think. Other than that you make a strong case too introduce the M1 into the diesel community.  I also agree on your reasoning about urban warfare. Close interaction with own infantry is needed to achieve safe passage for the entire unit. This was proven during my battalion's last exercise where we fought a FIBUA scenario... The tanks companies got beaten pretty hard before they could get through. This much because of the lack of close infantry support.

                                                                            Peter Eriksson

Diesel switch not so simple

      The decision to buy a turbine engine tank was a political decision. The Army had intended to select the GM version, which had a diesel engine.  However, at the eleventh hour, The DepSecDef apparently ordered the Sec Army to reverse the decision and select the Chrysler version, which had the gas turbine engine.  You may recall that, at the time, Chrysler was in serious financial difficulty.  Indeed, it is arguable that had Chrysler not been able to later sell their tank unit to General Dynamics for $650 million, they might have
gone bankrupt.

     As for converting the M1 to a diesel engine, not so fast.  When the M1 was first fielded in the Germany, there were serious operability problems during the winter months due to diesel fuel waxing that plugged the turbine engine fuel filters. The Army's solution to the problem was to convert to the use of JP-8, which became available at the time due to efforts by the Air Force and Army aviation to eliminate JP-4.  The Army now runs nearly all of it's TO&E equipment on JP-8. 

      That said, conversion to a diesel engine powered tank would, in my mind, suggest another fuel conversion as the diesel tank engine would certainly perform better running on diesel fuel. Thus the price of poker is not merely an engine replacement program, but also conversion of a major portion of the Army and Defense Logistics Agency's petroleum infrastructure/ war reserve fuel stocks as well. How many USMC spaces do you suggest we give up to pay for that? 

  Steve Bliss
                                                                     BG, USA (Ret)


Ed.   That's a good point, but it would take years to convert to diesel, so it should cost little with long-range planning.  In addition, the war stocks could be cut if less fuel is needed, and diesel engines immediately save money in fuel training costs.  The best way to solve the shortfall in CSS units is to reduce CSS requirements.

      I was surprised that no soldiers were outraged by my argument to cut active duty soldiers to pay for more strategic lift, although some noted that there is plenty of headquarters and base manpower fat to be found.  The U.S. Marines also need more transport, particularly amphibious ships and seaplanes, so I'd cut 20,000 bodies from the Marines to pay for them.  

Hybrid Tank Engines

     Excellent article on replacing turbine tank engines with diesel.  Have you also considered that the benefits you mentioned could be improved even more by using a hybrid diesel-electric engine?  As you probably know, a hybrid engine uses a conventional engine (diesel, gasoline, piston, rotary, turbine, etc.) along with an electric motor to assist during peak power requirements, drawing on batteries which are constantly recharged by the engine.

     With this configuration, the diesel engine need only be sized to meet cruising power requirements, and can operate all the time at its most effective speed or be turned off entirely during idle, resulting in significant fuel savings.  A hybrid electric engine can also be operated in electric-only mode, bringing not only the infrared, but also the acoustic signature down to nearly nothing.  We're not talking about pie-in-the-sky future tech, either.  Hybrid engines have been used for over 100 years, beginning with early steam-electric cars, and most notably with submarines.  The Army is currently looking at a hybrid Hummer for many of the same reasons.

                                                                                     Eric Lewan

Ed.  I think the hybrid Hummer is a great idea and is ready for production; it was developed by DARPA not the Army or Marines.  I'm not sure what size batteries are needed to drive a 70-ton tank, and that would require years of "research", which is the Army's favorite way to delay changes.  I'd say press ahead with the proven diesel engine upgrade plans while researching a hybrid.

Comanche Racket

      Your comments about the RAH-66 meld with the "R&D Racketeers" editorial in the March issue.  This program has eaten a huge chunk of the Army's budget each year for decades, it was the LHX before, and will add no new capability.  The OH-58D is outstanding for recon and our other helicopters are great so long as they are maintained.  Cancel the RAH-66 racket and use that funding to maintain and modernize our current helicopters.

                                                                                     Captain US Army

Rear Guard Units  

        Rear "Guard" platoons, companies or battalions could be attached to brigades or divisions in a similar fashion to the current U.S. Army practice of assigning STRIKER (STRIKE Reconnaissance) platoon to maneuver brigades.  Actually, the STRIKER platoons could be integrated into these "Guard" units, as the mission that STRIKER Platoons currently perform is very similar to what the Guard units would be doing. 

  During offensive operations, Guard platoons could be used as both high mobility scouts and flank defenders.  Upon making contact, they would begin making harassment attacks and calling in artillery to put the enemy units on the defensive, as well as forcing them under cover.  Commanders, as well as the troops, would know that they would have dedicated flank protection throughout the attack, as well as knowing that any enemy units that they were about to engage would already be in a defensive posture, and possibly still under cover.  Once the main force units had engaged, part of the Guard units would continue to provide flank defense, while the remainder would continue to scout, but this time around the perimeter of the enemy units, to look for break-through points or reinforcements. 

     Guard units would have to be light, high-mobility, and fast,  regardless of the type of unit that they were attached to.  This would most likely mean Humvee's, or some other similar type of vehicle, such as the new Wolf Fast Attack Vehicle that the Marines have, or, with armored and mechanized units, possibly something like the British Scimitar and Sabre reconnaissance vehicles.  Each platoon-size unit would have a mixture of weapons, such as TOW's, Mk19's or some type of auto-cannon such as the McDonnell Douglas 30mm ASP (a modified version of the M230 cannon on the Apache), and possibly recoilless rifles, plus the standard infantry weapons.  Additionally, if the STRIKER Platoons were integrated into the Guard units, then each Guard platoon would also have a Fire Support Team Vehicle.  The combat power of these units would be limited, but their psychological effect on our side, and the enemy's, would be immense.    

                                                                                               Matt Szelog