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Stop the Army’s Dangerous Game

McG

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An interesting discussion of where the US Army's force development path has been leading it.  At least some elements are applicable to the Canadian Army, where we are following similar models with things such as the TAPV.
Stop the Army’s Dangerous Game
The service’s visions of light troops mounted on wheeled vehicles are setting up the Army — and the nation it serves — for humiliation and defeat.
Douglas Macgregor
Defense One
15 June 2015

Today’s Army is on a dangerous path to humiliating defeat if — and quite likely, when — it takes on Russian, Chinese, or even second-tier nation-state forces equipped with modern military technology from Russia or China. Animated by visions of light troops mounted on wheels or falling out of airplanes, it is building a force for uncontested, permissive environments against weak peoples without armies, air forces, air defenses, or navies.

Members of Congress must pay attention. The nation cannot afford more multi-billion dollar failures like the Comanche Attack Helicopter (RAH-66), the Crusader Artillery System, Future Combat System, and the Ground Combat Vehicle, or GCV. Nor can it afford to shrink its few armored forces and replace them with light infantry. We already have a Marine Corps. We do not need a second one.

In his 1999 book, “Management Challenges for the 21st Century,” the late Peter Drucker told his business audience, “If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old… People in any organization are always attached to the obsolete.” Sen. John McCain was channeling Drucker when he argued last year for an end to “business as usual” in the Pentagon. Well, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee can start with the U.S. Army:

First, direct the Army to scale back its plans for more “light” vehicles: Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, Strykers, and Ultra-Light Combat Vehicles. One military analyst summed up the problem: “Wheeled armored vehicles can’t outrun what they can’t outgun, and they can’t outgun what they can’t outrun.” This truth has been proven, most recently, by the Israeli Defense Force’s operational experience in Gaza.

Second, tell the Army to look at — and report back to the SASC on — the Puma, a 43-ton, 1,003-horsepower German infantry fighting vehicle, or IFV. In 2013, the Congressional Budget Office took the rare step of identifying the Puma as the best available option for the Army’s GCV program. After evaluating four vehicles, the CBO analysts concluded that the German IFV was the least expensive, the most capable, and — because it is already in production — at the least risk of missing its budgetary or capability goals.

It would take U.S. defense firms at least a decade of research and development to produce a single prototype with the survivability, mobility and firepower of the Puma, designed by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) in Munich to ward off a range of new threats, including improvised explosive devices and explosively formed penetrators. (Its primary armament is a Rheinmetall 30mm MK 30-2/ABM (Air Burst Munitions) auto-cannon in an unmanned turret, but can be refitted with other weapons, from precision-guided missiles to 120mm smoothbore cannon.) And any purchase of the Puma could be linked to congressional support for KMW’s manufacture of the Puma by American workers in the United States.  Americans build German cars in the USA.  Why not German armored fighting vehicles too?

Third, direct the U.S. Army to examine alternative force designs. To date, service officials have constrained their so-called experimentation to tinkering with familiar organizations—battalion, brigade, division—and resisted real innovation that might better exploit new technology. New organizations are the keys to future victory.

Unconstrained thinking is vital to this process. No Fortune 500 firm would reduce its workforce by one-third without carefully reorganizing the corporation with one eye on the current market and the other on future business. Yet the Army’s senior leaders are doing the opposite. They are telling Congress the U.S. Army cannot change, that a force structure with its roots in World War II is inviolate, and that only more money can improve Army readiness and capability.

Why? Why is the industrial-age Army structure the only answer to the nation’s warfighting needs? Why must the service’s organization for combat and its human-capital strategy remain stuck in the Cold War?

National militaries that are allowed to live in the past, that fail to shed outworn assumptions about warfighting, play catch-up when war comes. Catch-up always leads to an enormous loss of human life and, frequently, to total defeat. Given the mentality of the Army’s senior leaders, only determined oversight from the Senate and House Armed Services Committees can stop the U.S. Army from playing this dangerous game.
http://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2015/06/stop-armys-dangerous-game/115300/?oref=d-dontmiss
 

tomahawk6

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Colonel Macgregor was one of the best out of the box thinkers we had.He probably should have retired with a star or two.Anyway he doesnt like wheeled vehicles.Heavy armor is hard to deploy rapidly.So what are you going to do ?
 

Infanteer

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Col Douglas MacGregor is always worth listening to - his two books were directly behind the entire transformation initiative in the U.S. Army.  He is also a big critic of the over-bloat in the plethora of HQs and Commands.

His ideas have evolved somewhat - in his first book, he was a proponent of a "Light Recon-Strike Group" equipped with wheeled vehicles, but in his follow up book he dropped the idea entirely.

In essence, he is correct.  Quit trying to make light combat vehicles.  Heavy organizations need simple, heavy vehicles that allow them to fight and survive.

Light Forces do things that don't involve fighting enemy tanks.  They do not need vehicles to fight in/from, but rather battlefield mobility.
 

tomahawk6

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I would disagree with you Infanteer about the use of light armor.What combat environment do you see Canada involved in the future.In the past you were well served by the LAV.The problem is that no vehicle can have enough armor to survive an IED or anti-tank missile.Speed is your only real option.We have developed the TROPHY system to give armor a chance against missiles and the Russians have a similar system.I have long felt that infantry in their classic role is the best defense for armor.Wheels vs tracks is a much debated topic and it boils down to cost.Wheels are cheaper than tracks.The Army has been able to fund Stryker brigades and heavy armored brigades.With the downturn in the budget,the Army may be forced to decide.Technology might arrive one day where we can afford Heinlein like armor which are air cushioned vehicles with force fields.
 

cupper

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But doesn't there need to be some sort of tracked capability with respect to terrain limitations for wheeled vehicles?

Wasn't this part of the impetus for bringing back the Leo's in Afghanistan?
 

Underway

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cupper said:
But doesn't there need to be some sort of tracked capability with respect to terrain limitations for wheeled vehicles?

Wasn't this part of the impetus for bringing back the Leo's in Afghanistan?

Leos were brought in for three main reasons, all of which are classic tank advantages.  Weight to crunch their way through obstacles like mud walled grape fields, armoured protection to deal with heavy blasts, and heavy direct fire capability which was sorely needed at the Battle of Panjwai. 

By statistics the safest vehicles in Kandahar were the TLAVs.  When I left in 2010 we had suffered exactly 0 casualties in that vehicle up to that point in the conflict.  We figured this was mainly due to its cross country ability so it could avoid main routes or drive on the shoulders of roads that were often targeted.  The TLAVs small size and lighness seemed to give it some mobility advantages.  But if it were to be hit by an IED I do believe the fuel tanks were right under the floor.

And for the sake of the argument the LAV 6.0 upgrade is making the LAVs a midweight vehicle of about 25-28 metric tonnes or so.  The original base model Stryker starts at around 18 ton.
 

vonGarvin

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Underway said:
But if it were to be hit by an IED I do believe the fuel tanks were right under the floor.
One of my BG's TLAVs was hit by a very powerful IED in 2009.  It and its crew survived a bit dazed but relatively unharmed.  The blast was underneath.  Now, fuel does pass under the floor, but the tanks are in the back.

tlav_arv_2_13_of_21.jpg
 

Underway

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Technoviking said:
One of my BG's TLAVs was hit by a very powerful IED in 2009.  It and its crew survived a bit dazed but relatively unharmed.  The blast was underneath.  Now, fuel does pass under the floor, but the tanks are in the back.

tlav_arv_2_13_of_21.jpg

Since it's essentially a box why do you think the TLAV survived?  No V shaped hull, limited ground clearance,  not a lot of belly armour.  Luck?  Not a square hit?  Don't get me wrong the TLAV is possibly my favourite vehicle in the CA, rubber tracks, new power pack and recycled turret.  It just an amazing concept and design for light track.
 

a_majoor

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The IDF uses a wide variety of vehicles, including HMMWV's, heavily modified M-113's and other "light" vehicles. Their Combat Guard prototype weighs in at 8 tons, and is capable of high speed movement both cross country and on the road. To say or think that the IDF is exclusively wedded to heavyweight vehicles like the Merkava tank and Namer/Achzarit HAPC's misses the more essential point; the IDF has a wide range of tools in the toolbox so they can deal with a lot of different contingencies.

The biggest problem with American procurement programs is there are too many damn cooks trying to add some special sauce to the project, bloating the time and cost, and creating "camels" (horses by committee) rather than viable combat machines. Americans are world beating engineers in a wide range of technologies, so the problem isn't that they don't know "how" to do things, their engineers don't know "what" to do since everyone adds and subtracts things and no one seems to know when to stop. The Crony capitalist game and the fact the defense market is a "monopsony" makes it difficult to get real competition between suppliers and get real products out the door in a timely manner. Can you imagine if a smartphone, car or computer company tried to do business the way major American defense contractors did?

In the Canadian context, I might suggest a close look at the ROK's K-21 series of vehicles, which are built from composite materials and have much of the advertised protection of the PUMA with much less mass. The basic hull is an IFV, but a tank version with a 120mm cannon exists, and the basic hull could be easily adapted to a family of vehicles for engineers, GBAD, artillery platforms and so on, creating large savings in the logistics and training chains as well. The other benefit to doing so would be GDLS would have some real competition , which would provide some real benefits to us and the taxpayers who fund this.

WRT new organizational structures, I wonder about the utility of that. The ancient Spartan army had units analogous to the platoon, company and battalion, and the Roman "tent group" was the size of a modern section. There must be some deeply ingrained reasons these structures have existed through the ages despite massive changes in military technology and society. If there is an advantage to be gained through organizational changes it would be through the revamping of the command and control structure of higher headquarters (something we have argued about at length in various other threads), to make information flow far more quickly to lower level organizations without micromanaging them, and without the organizational burden of carrying around a massive C3 infrastructure, similar in some respects to how the various insurgent and terrorist groups operate.
 

vonGarvin

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Underway said:
Since it's essentially a box why do you think the TLAV survived?  No V shaped hull, limited ground clearance,  not a lot of belly armour.  Luck?  Not a square hit? 
The blast was directly under the hull.  It was not a shaped charge, so the blast took the path of least resistance, which in this case was off to the sides, front, and back.  The belly armour was strong enough and the vehicle sturdy enough to withstand the shock.  The vehicle was lifted off the ground as well during the blast, and a road wheel or two was torn off.  But in the end, the vehicle was able to be repaired quite quickly and the crew was ok, except for a bit of a shake up.
 

daftandbarmy

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Technoviking said:
The blast was directly under the hull.  It was not a shaped charge, so the blast took the path of least resistance, which in this case was off to the sides, front, and back.  The belly armour was strong enough and the vehicle sturdy enough to withstand the shock.  The vehicle was lifted off the ground as well during the blast, and a road wheel or two was torn off.  But in the end, the vehicle was able to be repaired quite quickly and the crew was ok, except for a bit of a shake up.

And the TLAV is more 'infantry useful' and better looking than those ugly, expensive, MRAPs etc.

That's good enough for me. Let's get a few hundred of them. Now.
 

vonGarvin

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tomahawk6 said:
Flat hulls are usually a death trap.Give me a V hull anytime.

The TLAV hull could easily be modified to make it a V hull.  But the results of our experiences with them speak for themselves.  The trick is to have a path of least resistance that allows non-shape charge explosions to vent away from the hull.

 

vonGarvin

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tomahawk6 said:
and a shaped charge ?
A shaped charge is a completely different type of blast.  V Shaped hulls do nothing against them.  It's a different game with them where you need armour thickness, or spaced armour, etc to deal with them.
 

daftandbarmy

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Technoviking said:
The TLAV hull could easily be modified to make it a V hull.  But the results of our experiences with them speak for themselves.  The trick is to have a path of least resistance that allows non-shape charge explosions to vent away from the hull.

How are they as an APC operating with Leo2 tanks? I assume that the M113 lineage means that they do OK.
 

Kirkhill

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Medium = (Heavy + Light) / 2

A proper Light Force backed by a proper Heavy Force is more useful than a Medium Force that requires the same assets as a Heavy Force to deploy but doesn't supply the protection to operate in a Heavy Force environment.
 

GnyHwy

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I've always subscribed to the thinking that you can never be right.  It is better to not be wrong so much that you can't adapt.  There is a quote that covers this, but I can't find it or remember who said it (some Sir). 

The trying not to be wrong and our limited budget has probably led us down the medium path.
 

vonGarvin

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daftandbarmy said:
How are they as an APC operating with Leo2 tanks? I assume that the M113 lineage means that they do OK.
The T Lav with the more powerful engine, etc than the vintage M113 means that it ought to keep up to the Leo 2 in tough terrain.  This is only a swag on my part, given my limited experience in the T-LAV working with the Leo 2.
 
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