While the problems facing the US Army grow, its future is in danger. The conflict in Iraq is wearing out vehicles four times faster than normal peacetime usage. The wartime "blank check" era is over. War funding is now limited to keep the federal budget in check, so the Army is expected to pay some extra costs associated with the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thousands of vehicles due overhaul are parked at depots to await their turn, while pre-positioned wartime stocks of equipment are all gone, except for a brigade's worth in Korea. Despite the largest US Army budget in its history, it has not bought any tanks for years, and the only armored vehicles purchased this past decade are awkward lightly armored and lightly armed wheeled Strykers.
Congress awards the US Army billions of dollars each year for equipment, but this has been diverted by powerful lobbyists in Washington DC who created the idea of a Future Combat System (FCS). This is just a concept, yet all big defense contractors are getting their piece of this pie. As one Army General described it, "I don't know what it is, but it will involve robotics." The projected price for the FCS is now $161 billion, which is a remarkably high figure and remarkable itself because it is just a concept. This estimate rose 63% over the past year because of "restructuring." The lead contractor is Boeing, a politically powerful corporation with no experience in making combat vehicles, yet vast experience in designing ultra-expensive and complex aircraft.
The idea of a single type of FCS vehicle for a modern army is unworkable. The M-1 tanks in service are great. They can be overhauled to last for decades with a few minor upgrades. The focus should be on reducing fuel consumption and adding gun shields for close-in fighting. In addition, the Army and Marine Corps have an urgent requirement for a small, yet heavily armored vehicle to support infantrymen in close quarters, and during heliborne and airborne operations, which is described in an article in this issue about Rhinos. These simple, low-tech vehicles can be constructed with little development funding and produced at low costs.
The ideal FCS has already been developed and is in production -- in Sweden. The Bofors CV 90 family of vehicles is superb. They began development in 1984, went into production in 1993, and have proven popular in all Nordic armies. There are several variants that use the same chassis and engine. Bofors is now owned by United Defense/BAE Systems, so they can be manufactured under license in the USA with minor modifications to incorporate the latest American communications and target acquisition technology, and American diesel engines. This family of vehicles with highly sloped armor and a 40mm automatic cannon (pictured above) can replace the Bradley, a good vehicle but with a fat Sherman tank profile and just a 25mm gun. They can also replace most M-113s, and eventually the wheeled Strykers equipped with an unimpressive .50 caliber (12.7mm) gun. As the Army replaces these three separate types with the CV-90 family of common chassis and engine, support costs will fall sharply while firepower increases dramatically.
The CV-90 air defense variant with a 40mm gun and internal radar is vastly superior to the Army's awkward Bradley air defense variant. These are excellent for gunning down aircraft, helicopters, cruise missiles, incoming SCUDs, UAVs, APCs, and infantrymen. All these threats will be outranged and outclassed by its 40mm automatic cannon spewing out five rounds a second. In addition, anti-aircraft guns have always been ideal for urban warfare since they can super-elevate to shoot upwards at tall buildings. Rounds from 120mm tank guns are good, but they usually punch too far into a building and past the target while causing unneeded structural damage and killing civilians hiding deep inside. In addition, the concussion from a 120mm gun blast may knock-out friendly infantrymen toward the front and even sides of a tank. This is why a rapid-fire 40mm gun is more effective for street fighting.
There is even a CV 90 medium tank variant with either a 105mm or 120mm gun. While heavy tanks remain vital for future wars, lighter tanks have their advantages, primarily in fuel savings and air transportability, so the Army may order a few hundred medium tank variants that are half the weight of the mighty M-1s. However, CV-90s with a 40mm automatic cannon can also disable heavy tanks. Rapidly impacting 40mm rounds can damage optical sights, explode reactive armor, and may panic the crew. Hits may damage tracks, tank machine guns, or the main gun itself. A rapid fire 40mm gun can also lay down an impressive barrage of cover fire for advancing infantrymen.
If the Army chose the CV 90 family as the FCS, American modifications will take just 2-4 years so production can commence by 2010. No one expects anything from the current FCS concept for at least a decade, except budget increases to deal with "robotics" and "networking" and "restructuring". As Army Generals turnover every two years and budget battles continue, defense contractors are happy to collect large annual FCS research grants. Meanwhile, the Army's core fleet of armored vehicles are falling apart, especially with heavy use in Iraq. Army officers must scream loudly to force a realistic decision about the FCS this year. The best choice is proven Bofors CV-90 family.
Note: I haven't received payments or anything from Bofors, or any organization related to the CV-90 program, and I don't have a new Swedish girlfriend. I truly believe the CV-90 family is what the future US Army needs. Also, my book is finally finished an available on-line: The Spectrum of Future Warfare
Carlton Meyer editorG2mil@Gmail.com
G2mil editorials may be freely distributed without permission
Spring 2006 Articles
Letters - comments from G2mil readers
have been returned to the Members Library
Rhinos - small heavy armor
Allow ALL GIs to drink at base clubs - they deserve it
What Our NCOs Are Saying - combat Marines from Iraq
President's Proposed FY2007 Budget - actual DoD documents
US Navy Surge - most ships now deployed for an "exercise"
Army's Armored Force - mix of old and new
Changing the US Army for COIN - how the Army failed in Iraq
Russian air show - great pics
Tilt Rotor Comparison (pdf) - performance is poor
Gauss Pistol - a hobby coil gun
Might the Arabs Have a Point? - Pat Buchanan still kicking
Army's Rising Promotion Rate - more mid-grade officers needed
Telling it like it isn't - censored news
Dutch Commander Criticizes US military - ops in Afghanistan
US Constitution in Peril - Bush claims ultimate authority
Heckler & Koch G11- the gun that never was
Assassin's Gate - America in Iraq
Lawmaker hits incursions - Mexican military escorting drug shipments into US
Purpleheart Breakers - smearing vets
Homicides of Detainees in US Custody - official US military documents
Walter Cronkite's Vietnam Moment - says US must leave Iraq
Previous G2mil - Winter 2006 issue
The Spectrum of Future Warfare - Carlton Meyer's new book
Past Editorials - by Carlton Meyer
Library Tour - visit G2mil's library
Library Entrance - members only
All material in G2mil Copyright 2006
G2mil, patents pending on some items. Links to www.G2mil.com are
All material in G2mil Copyright 2006 G2mil, patents pending on some items. Links to www.G2mil.com are encouraged.