The Next Army Procurement Disaster Pt 1
Here we go again…
You would think of all the services, the US Army would learn the lessons of expecting too much out of a single program, especially after its Future Combat Systems debacle. So much wishful thinking, as revealed by plans for a new 50-70 ton, tracked Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV). Here specifically are what the Army expects this miraculous multipurpose vehicle to perform:
- Carry an infantry squad
- Equal or surpass the under-belly protection offered by MRAP.
- Tracks for off-road mobility
- Side protection of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle
- Operational mobility of the Stryker
- A powerful cannon
- Active defenses as well as armor
Sigh, they never seem to learn. Andrew Oh-Willeke, the Washington Park Prophet laments Military Procurements One Size Fits All Disease:
The problem with the Ground Combat Vehicle program is that it simply tries to do too much in one vehicle. A vehicle with integrated non-lethal technologies has its place; but not in the same vehicle that is capable of withstanding on onslaught of fire from autocanons, provides 360 degree protection from rocket propelled grenades and has defenses against heavier anti-tank guided missiles and sabot rounds.
The need to have all nine members of an infantry squad in a single vehicle (in addition to three vehicle crew) is not obvious. Speed and the kind of off-road capabilities that you can only get in a tracked vehicle aren’t good companions.
The strong desire for off-road capabilities doesn’t seem to be a good fit with how the Army uses its vehicles in practice. The primary design feature of the Humvee was off-road capability comparable to that of tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles. It delivered, but in practice was almost always driven on road anyway, even in places like Iraq where there are extreme threats of bombs buried in roads.
A focus on a bigger canon doesn’t necessarily make sense against the backdrop of a military environment where the trend has been heavily towards missiles for technological reasons. For example, in the Gulf War, Bradleys which have infantry squad sized anti-tank missiles instead of the heavy tank round of the Abrams tank, proved just about as effective as Abrams tanks which are designed for anti-tank warfare, at destroying Iraqi tanks.
It’s a Sickness!
The bottom line being:
The simple truth is that U.S. military has a hard enough time making single purpose vehicles.
The multimission mantra has infected the military like a disease, giving us very complicated, yet mediocre platforms, at gold-plate prices, which do not work very well. During the world wars, and partly for a while thereafter, weapons were built with a single purpose in mind, like small destroyers for ASW escorts, that also proved excellent for various missions such as radar pickets, anti-aircraft ships, even fast troop transports. There were also attack planes, close support planes, and always handy mine sweepers. The author goes on to detail a record of failure when sensible procurement was rejected for “one size fits all” weapons:
- The Marine Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle
- The Navy’s Zumwalt class destroyer
- The service-wide F-35 Lightning
- The V-22 Osprey
- The Littoral Combat Ship
That last was my own addition!
Later-Some Modest Proposals!