03 May 2013

"Why Heavy Armor?" Asks Nat'l Defense Mag

In a blog post, the author raises questions about why and how the Army should field heavy armored forces.

Army officials and manufacturers of combat vehicles have shifted into damage-control mode as the service’s flagship armor-modernization program comes under attack on multiple fronts.

The ground combat vehicle, or GCV, is intended to replace the Bradley infantry fighting vehicle.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are increasingly doubting the Army’s buying strategy for the GCV. Budget analysts have challenged the Army’s decision to pursue a new GCV design instead of opting for existing, less costly, alternatives. And military experts are raising more fundamental questions about the GCV’s raison d’ĂȘtre. They wonder why the Army is spending billions of dollars on heavy armor for an era that presumably will be dominated by cyberwarfare, surgical-strikes and low-intensity conflicts.

A Congressional Research Service report published this month warns that Congress should consider the “role and need for the GCV in a downsized Army that will likely have fewer armored brigade combat teams.” The administration’s strategic shift to the Asia-Pacific region, the report says, “presents questions as to the necessity for armored brigades and, by association, the GCV.”

The estimated $29 billion GCV program illustrates the dilemma that confronts the U.S. military as it contemplates how it should equip its forces to fight future enemies, says Frank Capuccio, an industry consultant and a former executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Corp.

The Army wants to end production of Abrams and Bradley, but it is about to start a program that seeks basically improved versions of 70-ton vehicles. “Where is the GCV going? Where are you going to put this tank?” Capuccio asks. When one looks at the areas of the world where the U.S. military is fighting, and likely to fight in the foreseeable future, it is hard to see how heavy armor fits in the picture, he says. “Roads can’t handle the weight of the tanks,” says Capuccio. The Air Force’s cargo planes that must transport these vehicles to combat zones have limited capacity, he adds. Moving 70-ton vehicles by ship takes weeks. “Will enemies stand down for six months until we get our equipment there? I don’t think that is going to happen,” he says. “People don’t ask those questions because they do not like the answers.

By: Brant

1 comment:

Jack Nastyface said...

Why heavy armor? Because no other allied ground combat vehicle platform provides superiority in detection / observation, command and control, firepower, and protection.
If we were fielding Russian T-series tanks (where some of the older models still light up like a zippo when hit) I can see how they might be regarded as a liability. Losing a tank is as demoralizing to the "armored" side as it is invigorating to the attacking side. However, by all accounts, heavy armor losses for the US, Brits, Canada, Israel, etc are still quite low.
While IEDs and MANPAT weapons may indeed become de rigeur in future conventional and asym. conflicts, the presence of heavy armor will always have a telling effect versus the majority of soldiers who are armed with only an assualt rifle, grenade or rpg launcher. Recent examples of syrian army tank losses highlight not the fragility of heavy armor, but IMHO, the importance of using infanty in support of HA engagements.


Jack Nastyface