Leadership: April 19, 2004


U.S. Army researchers, after scrutinizing operations in the 2003 Iraq campaign, have concluded that what happened during those operations contradicted the armys plans for a new generation of lighter armored vehicles, and dependence on improved communication and reconnaissance to avoid or destroy enemy anti-vehicle weapons. The army report, done at the Army War College, has not been published. Its said that only twenty copies were made and they are not being widely distributed. 

The army has a major fight with Congress shaping up as the new family of armored vehicles (FCS or Future Combat System), because the technology is largely unproven and the cost will be huge (nearly $20 billion.) In 2003, the Iraq fighting showed that heavy armor still proved decisive. Better communications (stuff like Blue Force Tracker) and intelligence (the UAVs were a lot more useful than the satellites, and a lot cheaper) were valuable, but this does not justify trying to replace heavy armor with fancy footwork. Another problem is that there are lots of inexpensive anti-tank weapons out there that can destroy M-1 tanks (by attacking the thinner top armor), and these weapons will become more common in the future. But FCS will be more vulnerable from all angles, and its visionary electronic anti-missile systems, and new armor designs, may not mature soon enough to avoid a debacle on some future battlefield. What worries Congress the most, and many in the army, is the headlong effort to get the FCS designed, built and in use as soon as possible. There are many senior army commander who prefer to take advantage of a lot of technology that is available right now, rather than betting on stuff that hasnt left the laboratory yet. The Army War College report will probably eventually surface, and become a major issue. But the problems have been debated quietly for years. Expect the volume level to go up quite a bit when the contrary (to mainstream army thinking) hits a wider audience. 


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