View Full Version : A Future Combat System

Taras Bulba
Wednesday, February 8th, 2006, 08:25 PM

A Future Combat System

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 all 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 operations 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 size 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 also 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 turn over 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 editor@G2mil.com

Dr. Solar Wolff
Friday, February 10th, 2006, 06:26 AM
Equipment problems in Iraq really just bring up other issues. For instance, if equipment is an issue, why are the insurgents doing so well without any? Second, why has it taken four years to train an Iraqi army? Are Americans bad teachers? It can't be that Iraqis are bad students because the insurgents seem to be able to train Iraqis on their side in no time at all. Indeed, these insurgents must be supermen because their numbers are estimated at less than 10,000 while America has a baseline of 130,000 and as many as 150,000 troops there now. So even with the "New Iraqi Army" on our side, our 150,000 troops and all our military equipment and air cover, we are still only just holding our own. Remember Afghanistan and how we made fun of the Soviets? Taras Bulba is so kind.