FCS And The Sherman Dilemma

FCS And The Sherman Dilemma

Beware the “Sherman dilemma,” military historian and RAND analyst David Johnson warned the Army’s FCS program. In World War II, the U.S. War Department said tanks must not exceed 30 tons, because any heavier and it would be too hard to ship them to Europe and they would be too heavy to cross the Army’s pontoon bridges. The result was the U.S. Army went to war with the M4 Sherman, a tank “clearly outclassed by the German heavy armor and antitank weapons it confronted… and, U.S. soldiers paid a heavier price than they should have,” Johnson writes in a study he did for the Army on the history of medium armored forces.

The Army’s FCS program ran into its own “Sherman dilemma.” The service originally wanted a new class of armored vehicles transportable by C-130, so they could be rapidly flown to crisis zones, which meant they couldn’t weigh much more than 20 tons. That C-130 requirement became FCS’s “pontoon bridge,” Johnson told me. The weight constraints severely limited the amount of heavy steel armor the vehicles could be designed to carry, in addition to the engine, weapons and running gear. But FCS designers didn’t adequately account for what the vehicle was supposed to do once it reached the battlefield.

The fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan has revealed the vulnerability of lightly armored vehicles to simple and often crude, yet readily available and highly lethal weapons such as the IED and RPG. In response, FCS builders added more armor and the vehicle’s weight climbed, but the original design constraints limited how much they could add.

It was the lightweight FCS vehicle’s vulnerability to anti-armor weapons that compelled Defense Secretary Robert Gates to cut the bulk of the program this week. “The program that was designed nine years ago had not really adequately integrated the lessons learned in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Gates told reporters this week, particularly, “the vulnerability of lighter armor to Explosively Formed Penetrators and IEDs.” FCS also failed to account for “operational realities,” including the value of heavy armor in low-intensity fights where lethality is very high because of readily available anti-armor weaponry.

FCS vehicles had a flat bottom, a design flaw that proved lethal to Humvees in Iraq hit by IEDs because it creates a gas trap that focuses the blast, said Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright. As FCS designers kept adding armor it became questionable whether the vehicle’s axles and transmission could handle more weight. In the end, the Army was trying to cram the mobility of an 18-ton wheeled Stryker and the survivability of a 70-ton Abrams tank into the same vehicle, and it just wasn’t going to happen, Cartwright said.

“At the low end, you’re trying to be offensive and move through an area very quickly through any kind of terrain. At the very high end, you’re moving slowly, you’re probing, you’re accepting the fact that you’re going to take on heavy fire and that you’re going to have to withstand it… a single vehicle to do this is really questionable,” Cartwright said.

Pentagon sources told me that once the FCS program’s progress on developing an active protection system — a complex defensive suite designed to shoot down incoming projectiles — ran into technological roadblocks, the FCS vehicles were doomed. The Army has long said active protection would give the FCS vehicles survivability approaching that of the 70-ton Abrams main battle tank. Former FCS program manager Army Maj. Gen. Charles Cartwright once said active protection would be one of the program’s early “spin outs” to the current battle fleet.

But the FCS active protection system has suffered serious technological challenges, as GAO auditors recently discovered. The whole effort has been classified and active protection was dropped from the list of potential FCS spin outs. Sources told me the FCS program could not successfully pull off a mobile firing test of the system. So then it came back to the issue of how much armor they could hang on the vehicles, and at less than 30 tons they just did not have enough.

The Army thought they could substitute information for heavy armor. That technology would pierce the fog of war and they could see the enemy clearly on the battlefield. That was a fantasy. Retired Army Gen. Bob Scales once told me that the FCS “bubble of information as protection” idea worked when you’re talking about a wide open battlefield. But once you get into close combat in urban areas, where engagement ranges are often measured in a few feet, the whole concept breaks down. As Gates told reporters, he was troubled by the “reliance on the situational awareness… traded off against armor” given the battlefield experiences from Iraq and Afghanistan.

“When you’re inside a real city, where you can’t see the guy with the RPG who’s hiding in an interior room, and there are 20 of them out there hiding with RPGs, you have real problems if you can’t survive RPGs,” Johnson told me. “You must have sufficient armor protection to at least stop RPGs.” The FCS vehicles did not. Nor were they protected through design against IEDs. To survive on future battlefields, combat vehicles, at a minimum, must be protected against the most common threats.

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why would artillary be rolling through urban areas anyways… its called nlos for godsakes… NON line of sight.… parkoutside the city.. There is always a tradeoff… mobility/survivability.… The Paladin… was survivable yet not mobile enough.. this one is the opposite… Make up your mind and stop wasting our money!

not too sure where his sources came from but Ive read news reports that state that the FCS program did achieve a mobile active protection system demonstration last year and that active protection was progressing according to Army’s plans. As a matter of fact I think there is film of this test on the FCS website. I personally would be surprised if the DoD cancelled a whole vehicle program based on one test as this article aludes to. Perhaps the author can go back and fact check first.

Active protection is for defense from RPG’s, missiles and possibly artillery shells and cannon rounds, but not from IED’s (at least as far as I understand the technology.)

Will Obama invest the R&D money to develop active defense? Technological problems can be overcome with time and money.

It’s funny that Obama has gone on a spending explosion for all things government — except for defense.

I’m sure it’s all from Obama’s deep, deep concern for national security.

@timbo–what about all the other FCS vehicles like the FCS Infantry Carrier Vehicle, Mounted Combat System, Medical Vehicle, Command and Control Vehicle, Recovery and Maintenance Vehicle?
They have to be able to go into urban areas.
@pvtpyle–The FCS active defense system doesn’t work in closed in cluttered environments like urban areas, according to http://​www​.dodbuzz​.com/​2​0​0​9​/​0​3​/​2​0​/​f​c​s​-​a​c​t​i​v​e​-​p​r​o​t​e​c​t​i​o​n​-​i​s​-​t​r​o​u​b​l​ed/. It’s the linchpin of the lighter armor. If it can’t shoot down RPGs then the vehicle can’t survive, due to it’s light armor.
Charley A.–You are of course, right. Active Protection is useless against IEDs in the ground. So the engineers have to keep adding armor to the vehicle to protect against this threat, and the result is that the vehicle goes overweight–which invalidates the whole premise of FCS.
Only an idiot or jim (but I repeat myself) would think that a 4% increase in defense spending is a cut. BTW jim, I still have something for you from that thread over at DangerRoom.

I’m with Gates on this one. We have not done our last counterinsurgency gig and if experience in Afghanistan and Iraq have taught us anything its IEDs are the biggest killer of our troops. From this account it appears that the Army and contractor have failed to adequately provide for defense from IEDs! This is bewildering after our 6 year slog in Iraq! How hard is it to modify the design to include a V-shaped bottom?

I’m sorry, but comparing FCS to the Sherman tank is stupid. You are essentially comparing apples to oranges.

The Sherman tank was our main battle tank in WWII. It was the badest most heavily armed thing that we had and, yes, it was hopelessly outclassed by pretty much every German tank from the Mk IV onward. The M1 Abrams fills the MBT role in the inventory today and it is most certainly not inferior to anyone else’s tank. Of course it weighs in at 85 tons combat loaded and probably gets real close to 90 tons with the additional side armor you see pictured on the M1’s in Iraq.

In general the FCS family is intended to replace vehicles that are far lighter than a tank. None of the artillery pieces, infantry carriers, mortar vehicles, ambulances or command tracks currently in service can withstand an RPG hit or a direct strike from an EFP. And until/unless you start to build those vehicles on tanks chasis they never will. I’ve written it before and I’ll say it again — weapons that are designed to kill tanks eat lighter vehicles for breakfast — and they always will.

Killing FCS because it cannot violate the laws of physics seems kind of silly to me. Now if they have something better in mind to do the job, that would be a different matter.

SECDEF Gates did the right thing with the FCS Project. In his RESOURCE MANAGMENT DECISION (RDM) he gave the right guidance for the services to follow. I HOPE THAT THE SPECIAL INTEREST congressional senators do not destroy what the sectarary and his Combatant Commanders want and what the troops need. The FCS program and the vehicles (that include the so called network) need to be canceled on the LSI Contract and re evaluated by the Army and that joint battle commnand networks are coordinated with the Air Force’s effort at Tyndall Air Force doing the same thing as the Army. The faster Congress allows Mr. Gates and the Combatant commanders move forward on the right path the better off the troops will be. Lets hope Congress and the lobbyists do not let the fog of politics mix with the needs of the front line against our enemies. Let’s hope that the institutions of the acquistion and accounting side of the pentoagon do not win the war for control of pentagon dollars.


The point of comparing the FCS to the Sherman IS to point out that the FCS can not violate the laws of physics. Limit the weight of a combat vehicle, whether that weight be 20 tons, 30 tons or 40 tons & you significantly limit its survivability on the battlefield.

No, the M1A2 SEP weighs ‘just’ 70 tons (63.5 tonnes) combat loaded.

It would be one thing if the FCS was intended only to ‘upgrade’ Light Infantry units into ‘light/medium’ mech units but the FCS WAS/IS to replace a significant number of Heavy (armor & mech infantry) units as well.

Guess the point is who decides that one class of Soldiers is more worthy than the rest of absolute protection.

Give the tank 70 tons? Why not everyone else? How much will that cost, not only to build but to train and fight with. Now you need many more heavy equipment transporters that also suck gas. How long will that force take to deploy…even by sea, because that will be your sole option.

Oh wait, what about the light guys? Do they all need nothing but MRAPs so they can go into battle immune to IEDs, but getting torn up by ATGM because they are so tall, and unable to dismount with any speed due to being 10 feet up in the air?

And what about the logisticians. They get blown up by IEDs. If instead of 300 vehicles with 30 tons of armor you have 300 vehicles with 70 tons of armor you multiply fuel consumption by 3 to 6 times. At an FCS 3 mpg if you traveled 99 miles on a typical day, 300 armored vehicles would use just 9,900 gallons of fuel a day. That could be handled by 4 armored HEMTT tankers carrying 2500 gallons. Just as critically, it is a fuel quantity that the USAF could support by air in any early contingency operations.

Now assume we have 300 vehicles using 2 gallons per mile like the Abrams. Now the same force is using 59,400 gallons a day and requires 24 tankers. And this is just one brigade. Multiply that by several brigades and then add all the additional trucks as well and you are easily talking a million gallons a day per division. All those fuel tankers use fuel too. The large fuel tankers that bring them the fuel to transload also use fuel. The Heavy Equipment transporters carrying all these vehicles use as much fuel as the armored vehicles themselves to avoid tearing up the road and putting wear on the vehicles.

Do you want to write letters to the parents of all those extra logisticians who get blown up by an IED so that all the combat arms guys could have absolute protection?

Finally, we nearsightedly forget that the world is running out of oil and that it will cost a lot more in the future. The USAF knows this because as DoD’s biggest consumer at 2.5 billion gallons a year, they are exploring synthetic alternatives.

The Army was looking at the same problem from a hybrid-electric drive standpoint. Electric vehicles produce lots of torque. Torque moves weight better than horsepower. This is technology worth getting right. If we can’t do it yet, wait until we can. If we can’t do lighter armor yet, wait until we can. Don’t rush into any decision to build a whole force of 70 ton vehicles and MRAP-like light forces.

Talk about reverting to the Cold War. Has a nation of cuddling overprotective soccer moms turned us into a nation where we are unable to accept risk. Fight smarter so we don’t get hit. Don’t say, duh I’m stupid and the enemy will always hit me first, so let’s throw money at it instead of brainpower.

Everything I’ve seen said in the media said that close active range protection was working well against RPGs. The long-range ATGM protection was the problem. Get it right. Build permanent V-hulls vehicles. But don’t be idiotic, and create a fleet of 70 ton behemoths. STUPID!

If its a lack of armor that killed this, wouldn’t the solution be to design in mounting brackets for modular armor? There are plenty of militaries that have that capability. Then you have your fast response capabilities that can be scaled up after they’ve arrived.

The NLOS cannon I do believe is an asset the army needs. $100 shell or $1 million missile, some times you don’t need the biggest stick.

On the FCS in general I’m not sure what it would accomplish. On the vehicle design side they’re trying to accomplish whats already been done with M113 Gavin. Fully matured technology with close to a 100 variants world wide. I realize that it isn’t exactly whats needed but wouldn’t taking it and adapting its design be a better way of accomplishing the Army’s vehicle needs.

On the other side of this program was the integrated battle field awareness, interoperability was the goal. Its failure was in not moving fast enough to address the short coming of partitioning the army from the interoperability with the armed forces. Air force, Navy, and Marines wouldn’t benefit from the awareness that the Army would gain. This was an ambitious project but with goals that weren’t far sweeping enough. It really needs to be a system where by all the armed forces can act in concert to such a degree that the distinctions between organizations blurr.

For those who wish to read about my arguments, the report “In the Middle of the Fight: An Assessment of Medium-Armored Forces in Past Military Operations” is available on the RAND website at http://​www​.rand​.org/​p​u​b​s​/​m​o​n​o​g​r​a​p​h​s​/​2​0​0​8​/​R​A​N​D​_​M​G​7​0​9​.​pdf
I go into much greater detail about the history of the Sherman tank in “Fast Tanks and Heavy Bombers: Innovation is the U.S. Army, 1917–1945″ (Cornell Univ. Press, 1998, 2003).
The issue, as noted by Rick, is that of placing a weight limitation on a developing technology that forces trade-offs between lethality, mobility, and survivabilty.

Every SECDEF has his own ideas of the way things should be done. He has accrued those ideas, hopefully, from time spent in the service. However, to throw the baby out with the bath water is very naive, at the very least. When we shifted to having a “lighter wheeled” fighting force type of thinking that is exactly what happened. Those involved in that course of action tied large battlefields to the large, weighty main battle tank and other vehicles. The same is happening now with this new shift in thinking. by the way, this new thinking is not out of the box but more like in the padded room. Oh, Oh, Lets throw away FCS, its too costly. True. But, with all of the hype about how our acquisition program is broken it will cost us more to scrap all of the manned ground vehicles. You see, unfortunately, in quite a large number of contracts there is a clause that says in general terms that if the development and production of the specific item is stopped and cancelled then the DoD (read that as “you and I, the taxpayer”) must pay a fee which can be rather substantial. Unlike the Comanche program with for all tense and purpose just one system contractor, FCS has multiple companies under a lead integrator, Boeing. I wonder what the cost for termination of FCS will total up at?? As someone else above, the NLOS Cannon does not enter the urban environment, but instead is located outside at a safe distance. As the Paladins that are currently in service the NLOS Cannon is used for Fires, more commonly known as Fire Support. As such, they operate behind the manuever element. Anyway, I think that one or two of the manned ground vehicles should be kept. Congress has the final say anyway. Rumsfeld found that out, but he did get through quite a lot of what he had wanted to reduce or cancel. As for the MRAP, well it is best suited for specific situations, one of which is NOT cross country and over hill and dale.

That’s my two cents.

As a historian I see the argument that Dr. Johnson is making (at least the one highlighted here). And I have to say that I agree with most all of it.

In essence he is stating that there are two major problems with the FCS program that relate to America’s WWII experience with the Sherman tank.

The first is in relation to logistics. There is an old saying goes something like, “amateurs study tactics and experts study logistics.” This relates the idea that a fighting force can be exceptional on the battlefield, but if you cannot get it there then it is worthless. Sort of like the Greek phalanxes. They were excellent fighting formations with proven ability; however, it took Phillip of Macedon to figure out how to take them on the road. Something that his son, Alexander, did with exceptional skill.

While logistics plays a part in every vehicle design Dr. Johnson asserts that the designers of the Sherman tank thought more about our own ability to move the tank to, and around, the battlefield than what would happen once it was engaged in battle. He then relates this to the FCS by stating that the designers are thinking more about the system’s ability to deploy on a C130 rather than what will happen once it closes with the enemy.

His second point is on battlefield philosophy. During WWII it was believed that tanks didn’t fight tanks. Tanks were there to take out fortifications, machine guns, etc. in support of infantry assaults. It was the job of the tank destroyer to take out enemy armor. Hence, the Sherman was not equipped with the necessary firepower to destroy tanks. Additionally, the notion that tanks didn’t fight tanks dictated that it didn’t need heavy armor. This naturally played into the logistics angle. He then relates this to FCS by stating that the idea that protection can be achieved through information superiority and active systems is a misconception equivalent to tanks not fighting tanks.

I don’t think Gates has “thrown the baby out with the bath water” he’s made it clear they plan to apply the innovations of FCS to any future vehicle development that replaces it. By that I’d say they’re keeping the baby.

The problem with the FCS is that certain aspect of the technology aren’t just right yet, while other don’t go far enough. The problem is in wanting a vehicle to do everything, when that’s just not possible. With a very high value (or very very low level of expendibility) we place on troops it really is no surprise that the emphasis of future vehicles has swung back in the direction of heavier armor. FCS no longer lives up to the goals of Government, while it had some good features going for it they are no longer in alignment. If we purchased FCS we’d be looking for a replacement within years of fielding it. I think there are better alternatives available.

I generally avoid looking at history to determine means of crafting future warfare, because so little of history involved airpower, armor, and machine guns.

But we’ve all seen movies where the German supertanks are running out of fuel at Ardennes and send commandos to try and seize our oil supplies…so I wondered if it was true? Yes, the Germans had Oil Commandoes and German Technical Brigades. They were quite successful in France early in the war, and lack of oil may have been a goal for many invasions and Blitzkrieg in general.

Germany knew it needed to overpower the enemy before running out of fuel…kind of like the Russians could do to the Ukraine or the Chinese could do to Taiwan, before we could deploy adequate force by sea.

Brief research turned up several good sources, and recommend everyone google “Blood for Oil: The quest for Fuel in WWII.” In it you will find interesting quotes such as Field Marshal Rommel saying “The battle is fought and decided by the quartermaster before the shooting begins.” and speaking of North Africa in June 1941, “We knew our moves would be decided more by the petrol gauge than tactical requirements.”

It and other sources indicate that lack of oil was a major reason for German losses in North Africa due to a stronger British Navy and great distances that would run German armor out of gas. Often the trucks following armor would not have sufficient fuel to return for more.

The same occurred in the battle for Austria when halfway through, both armor columns ran out of gas. The invasion of Poland caused a Panzer division to run out due to a shortage of trucks. As a result Germany was only able to seize 30% of Poland oilfields while Stalin seize the other 70%. Similar Stalin shenanigans in Romania may have been part of the reason Hitler invaded Russia. Romanian oil was a mainstay to Germany, and Stalin had negotiated for it to be his.

Even back then, Panzer divisions burned 1,000 gallons per mile and with 70–80% of its supply capability being equestrian, it could not keep up. Operation Barbossa was halted by both the winter and the horsedrawn supply lines. Even supply trucks could not handle the German winter or match German tracked mobility. German trains could not use Russian rails due to a different gauge.

Lack of fuel and production capability meant that only 52 of 322 German divisions were armored or motorized. Quantity DID have a quality of its own back then when nations actually HAD quantity. Of course, just as airpower overwhelmed German armor in WWII, today we have AH-64D firing over the shoulder to outrange tanks, and A-10s/future F-35s that would crush the little armor our foes do have…even if was superior to ours, which it would not be even in FCS form.

In fact with all the talk about Shermans, I note this quote from MG Maurice Rose saying “projectiles fired by our 75mm and 76mm guns bounced off the front plate of the Mark V tanks at ranges of about 600 yards.”

That doesn’t sound like we had too little armor…it sounds like we had too little a GUN compared to their 88mm (no such problem with the FCS 120mm). Indeed, Dave’s own study shows the Panzer Tiger I had 100mm thick armor compared to our 36.5 ton M4 Sherman’s 81mm thick armor and yet the stopping power at distances cited was very similar. Would our Red Ball express have kept up if we had tanks sized-similarly to the Germans?

In every attempt to use history against new technology, I always turn to how the battle would be fought ENTIRELY differently today with newer systems. We still would have had overwhelming air superiority and what little capability the Germans had to produce synthetic oil would have been entirely eliminated by air attacks…leading to more situations where trucks were pulled by mules, and even V-2 rockets were pulled into position that way.

We could have flown FCS units to Russia and the Phillipines to assist our allies. We could have leaped around the Hedgerows, perhaps succeeding at Market Garden as well with FCS augmentation of airborne units. Instead of just defending a tiny portion of coastline adjacent to Britain, the Germans would have been worrying about every potential area where we could airland forces. Our NLOS-launch system would have decimated German Tigers, and unmanned aircraft would have located German defenses in the Hedgerows, allowing Excalibur 155mm, small diameter bomb, and GPS MLRS and ATACMS to annihilate the enemy.

As much as historians attempt to employ hindsight and project false lessons learned into future systems…it just don’t work that way. The same Israeli armor that did poorly in Lebanon did extraordinarily well in Gaza, when it employed combined arms tactics and close air support instead of “effects-based operation” air attacks. Failures of Russian armor and airpower in Afghanistan are as much an indictment of the Russian army and our ability to supply the Northern alliance with the right weapons to defeat them.

Finally, FCS is not a medium force. When it transitioned to 27 tons, it became nearly as heavy OR HEAVIER and BETTER PROTECTED than every modular heavy brigade system it would replace EXCEPT the tank. So, the bottom line is, you can attribute much of the failure of FCS to sell itself properly, as inadequate emphasis on this fact, and too much emphasis on the network and software…where Boeing was probably making most of its money.

@pfcem (from a while back)
I’ll grant you that 70 tons is what the official specs say. An armor officer I knew back in Desert Storm told me his vehicle tipped the scales at close to 85 tons. I see no reason to doubt him. However, I have to admit that he may have been in one of the uparmored M1A1’s (M1A1 HA) they were fielding back then. While that might account for the extra weight, I have to ask if the specs include all the additional things (especially bolt on armor) that tankers pack on to their vehicles in the field. Video taken during the battle for Sader (sp?) City shows M1 tanks with massive side sponsons bolted over the tracks. If those things don’t weigh at least several tons apiece they wouldn’t be worth adding. Is that weight included in the official listing?

In any event, 85 tons, 90 or 70, these are massive vehicles. So massive that they create huge logistics problems and degrade the road network as they operate. Maybe fielding a vehicle class that does not have those problems would be a good idea.

On a side note, I am finding it increasingly ironic that so many of the people who post on these forums bashing the 19 ton MRAP as being too heavy are now bashing the FCS concept as being too light. Does anyone else find that funny?


The key to military history is logistics, the allies had it, the nazis did not. For whatever reason, tank vice better tank; horses versus trucks.….

Market Garden failed because of a mix of force and logistics. Much of the initial combat load was lost at the far end. Resistance was stiffer.…

You can have access to the Saudi oil fields, but you don’t have the refined product where needed what good is the vehicle nor the relations with the Saudis?

In Spring 1944 the Germans depended on oats to fuel their transports, they spent too much money on super weapons and did not buy trucks. Maybe short oil helped that decision.

Where would an FCS objective brigade get fuel, bullets and blood at the end of an airbridge where the airlifters need refueled in and out?

And such a remote place would have value to the common defense?


You SHOULD have PLENTY of reason to doubt him IF he did indeed say 85 tons. ESPECIALLY since the heaviest Abrams during Desert Storm [the M1A1(HA)] weighed ‘only’ 68.5 tons.

Sure the US could use a ‘tank’ lighter than the Abrams. Just don’t fool yourself into thinking that anything less than 55–60 tons is going to be as survivable as an Abrams.

MRAP is a ‘bank vault’ replacing HMMWVs, FCS MCS is a ‘light tank’ replacing Abrams…

I don’t think a 20–30 ton vehicle is going to be anywhere near as survivable as an M1. In fact that is exactly what I wrote up above.

What you don’t seem to get is that the vast majority of the vehicles in the FCS family ARE NOT intended to replace tanks. NLOS-C, NLOS-M, FCS-ICV, FCS-MEV, FCS-C2; none of those are intended to replace tanks in the battlefield. FCS designs would actually be a step up in protection for the vehicles currently used in those roles. Why is not fielding updated versions of those vehicles not a good idea?

That brings me back to the part where you have the same people complaining that the MRAP is too heavy and the FCS family too light.


“Why is not fielding updated versions of those vehicles not a good idea?”

Should have been “Why is not fielding updated versions of those vehicles a good idea?”

FCS was counting on a active defense system to improve survivability, that system’s development was a basically a failure. The failure of that system to come into fruition means FCS would be less survivable than current options. As long as a goal is to improve survivability this alone makes FCS a waste.

Look, let’s call it like it is: the designers and acquisition managers for this program are incompetent, if not negligent. The FCS lead systems integrators have done an awful job, sometimes in their own interest, it seems, rather than their customers. The program is all balled up, while the Army waits for.….an overpriced, ineffective set of vehicles. Time to fire the contractor and Army acq executives who made this happen. And their general and 0–6 comrades. Let’s hope for incremental change, but change that works. The Army has wasted so much time and money. I hope Obama cleans out the next of people who do not know what they are doing.

I won’t deny that the entire procurement and development aspect of the FCS manned vehicles family has been horribly messed up but they could still be decent light vehicles which could equip several divisions. The original plan to have them eventually replace the Abrams and heavy vehicles was foolish but such designs could still be of some use.

If we do cancel these vehicles however, which is looking likely we should continue development of active defense systems which could be used on current vehicles even.

loggie 20 said: “Where would an FCS objective brigade get fuel, bullets and blood at the end of an airbridge where the airlifters need refueled in and out?”

“And such a remote place would have value to the common defense?“
Sorry for late response. I’m on vacation now.

C-130J, KC-130s, C-17 w/ center wing tanks, and even KC-45s could airland fuel and ammo at remote locations. You want locations remote enough to airland sufficient force for a credible defense and perhaps other airpower such as the F-35 VSTOL and AH-64D. Once that defense is on the ground, you can always airdrop other supplies GPS parafoils, employ LAPES, and use helicopter transport of 500 gallon drums and cargo nets with ammunition.

The ground force then becomes a magnet or tripwire so that if attacked by forces crossing an international border or into friendly parts of attacked nations (Kurd-example), or attacks from out of hiding, our airpower and long-range NLOS fires, and 120mm mid-range tank munitions can decimate the enemy.

Earlier, we saw that if you fielded all tank-sized vehicles at current 2 gal per mile fuel consumption rates of the Abrams, that the force would require 6 times the fuel of an FCS-size force. You then are forced to supply with nothing but sea-transport which leaves you in the predicament we face in Afgahistan with long, unsecure ground supply routes.

So then you end up with combat arms Soldiers who never die because we went so far out of the way to safeguard them that only the “loggies” (and more of them) are still in danger.

Is that the route we want to go? If Apache pilots have the cajones to fly around with little to no armor near the front lines, why shouldn’t armor Soldiers share some of the common risk of other combined arms brothers driving around with less armor.

Get active defense right and you potentially lay big dividends for many types of forces. But you need lots of electricity and enhanced sensors to do active defense right, and normal powerplants don’t get it done.

70 tons on an Abrams does not assure total safety to IEDs and as far as I know, our own top attack Hellfire and Javelin would kill any Abrams any day. So do we need a 90 ton future tanks and similar armor on every other vehicle? There is a point of diminishing returns, and logistical nightmare. Do we have the manpower to have 6 times as many fuel trucks driving around?

FCS vehicles reduce crew size and reduce logistical tale. That is part of the prescription for better survivability because there are fewer targets running around resupplying front line forces, and the area the enemy has to hit to kill combat arms Soldiers is greatly reduced. Why would Strykers be the answer when they have even far less armor. A Soldier I worked with was a casualty officer for a Stryker driver who burned to death due to a magnesium fire.

If we need a larger tank, go for it up to a point. But then make trade-offs in other armored vehicles. There is little reason to have a 30 ton evacuation vehicle, mortar vehicle, or scout vehicle. Make them smaller so tanks can be larger. This kind of trade-off will leave a future Army force with the flexibility to both air and sea-deploy to be truly expeditionary in nature.


The bad guys better not have any 120mm mortars,

If you are so far away from the threat why send the ground force?

What are the costs benefits and risks? Any thing is possible, but does it make any sense?

The KC 10’s carry the kind of loads and ranges and they have not been called on.

The USAF thinks nothing of aerial refueling several million pounds of fuel a day and spending $100 billion on future tankers. Why would airlanding 10,000–20,000 gallons be a big deal and shouldn’t the ground force be entitled to some of that fuel considering the dollars being spent?

Do airborne forces make sense today with S-300 and other radar missiles that could easily shoot down planes carrying paratroopers attempting forcible entry? Do we drop paratroopers or V-22 transported Marines or deploy LAVs/Strykers to take on an armored force?

Yet, without ground forces securing airheads SOMEWHERE near a contested international border or in friendly portions of endangered nations…who is next to be invaded? Will the President have the will to order air attacks or will he acquiesce to aggression ala Chamberlain.

With and adjusted FCS, we could have air-deployed ground forces into southern Georgia to draw a line in the sand as the Russians invaded northern Georgia..just as Russians air-deployed into Serbia to make their point. If indications and warnings pointed to a possible invasion of Taiwan, we could deploy FCS forces by air to the east side of the mountain range dividing the country as part of a deployment “exercise.”

With no ground forces able to deploy by air, Turkey could easily deny us access to the Black Sea to deploy ground forces by sea to Georgia, or the Ukraine. China could invade and control Taiwan to such an extent that sea deployment or shore invasion would be nearly impossible or costly in lives. Airpower alone would be insufficient because the enemy would simply go to ground or hug civilians.

Joint forces require a credible air, ground, and sea component. Light Army and Marine forces aren’t sufficient as a deterrent or warfighting force against many threats. There is often insufficient time to wait a month to 3 months for sea deployment of the FIRST substantial armored forces.

A force like FCS, adjusted perhaps to allow a larger tank, is the sole option that makes an Army a true expeditionary force force future warfare or counterinsurgency operations. The concept is sound. Delay as necessary to allow technology to catch up, adjust weight requirements, and make trade-offs to facilitate execution.


Quite the opposite. I am VERY much get that the vast majority of the vehicles in the FCS family ARE NOT intended to replace tanks. That is ONE of the main reasons why a FCS unit would not be THAT much more strategically mobile (transportable) than a “traditional” heavy forces unit. The only MAJOR weight reduction for the FCS MGV vs the “traditional” heavy unit vehicle each replaces in in the MCS vs Abrams & that is only 60 vehicles out of >320 tracked vehicles in a signle Brigade not to mention all the trucks & other equipment that make up a Brigade.

And of course not EVRRY vehicle needs to be armored to the level of a MBT. BUT every vehicle SHOULD be armored against the threats is most likely to be engaged by.

Too much technical talk about new and better ways to spend money on things.

Stand off armor, like slat armor, secukrity fence or even chicken wire, works against RPGs-it’s a pain, but it works. And it’s cheap.

IEDs, there is no point in developing much of anything-V shaped hulls will just make them change their tactics and they’ll be blowing up whatever we come up with.

A counter IED stratagy is what we really need. Like, better intel, target teh IED makers, booby trap “lost” munitions for them to find, that sort of thing,

What I don’t understand, is during Vietnam, the enemy used RPG’s against our self propelled artillery. If you are ever at FT Sill, go to the muesum and take a look at wht the RPG’s did to our M109’s, (if they still have them on display. They may not be there any more since Vietnam has become insignificant due to the other wars they’ve had since then.
Artillery was never meant to sit in a town or city and fight a battle. With all the GPS and other equipment we have , we can place them outside the towns and call a fire mission. The Paladin offered some of the best protection of any self propelled artillery.
It is all about money. Someone or MFG company has convinced some Senator or Representive that we need a lot of the junk that is showing up in the military, so it shows up on the battlefield and the soldiers pay the price for it.
As a soldier of over 30 years I questioned how they arrived at some of the decisions then about the equipment, and today I still question it. As field soldiers, you don’t have a voice in what DOD buys, and if you do, the final decision wont be yours, it will be some politicians.

Some argument here ignores the actual content of the article.

The article does not state that the FCS is inadequate for open battlefield expeditionary force deployment. In the third paragraph, the article explicitly states:

“The fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan has revealed the vulnerability of lightly armored vehicles to simple and often crude, yet readily available and highly lethal weapons such as the IED and RPG.”

The article is clearly stating that the FCS vehicle designs are inadequate for cheap, readily available, reliable, and lethal anti-armor weapons such as IEDs and RPGs in the limited lines of approach typical of urban and suburban settings. Settings for which the FCS vehicles are simply unsuited.

People who understood armored warfare said so a decade ago. Here we have their vindication — Donald Rumsfeld’s concepts of transforming armored warfare stand clearly refuted.

Air-supplied refueling of an armored Brigade or larger would be a mammoth undertaking. The Germans tried aerial resupply at Stalingrad and failed. The Allies tried it in Market Garden at Arnhem and failed. The Allies tried it in the Berline Airlift and succeeded. The French tried it at Dien Bien Phu and failed. The clear pattern is that providing large volumes of supplies by air drop or landing is feasible — so long as no-one is trying to shoot down the aircraft.

Main battle tanks of today are the result of “survival of the fittest.” More than 90 years of research, development, and operational use have shown what works and what does not. Modern main battle tanks all share common characteristics of low profile, heavy armor, high firepower, and tracked propulsion because these are the characteristics shared by survivable combat-effective ancestors.

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