Army Slaps Gear On Chopping Block

Army Slaps Gear On Chopping Block

The Army unveiled its 2010 modernization strategy this week and we had a chance to ask Lt. Gen. Robert Lennox, deputy chief of staff for programs, about the service’s plans and what’s new. Affordability, that’s one thing that’s new.

The Army modernization plan contains the usual keywords and phrases such as versatile, networked and full spectrum. But the Army’s new weapons, vehicles, aircraft and sensors must also be affordable, Lennox said today, echoing other military leaders who realize that federal deficits are viewed by some lawmakers as a national threat.

As the Army’s top buyer, Lennox said he’s demanding a cost benefit analysis of all existing as well as new systems and what value they bring to soldiers. Weapons systems that are redundant or that fail to provide for soldiers fighting today’s wars will fast fall out of favor. Getting new technologies and gear to soldiers quickly has also moved up in importance. “Speed matters,” said Lt. Gen. William Phillips, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition.

A review of the Army’s vast weapons portfolios revealed an outdated requirements process that was outdated and uninformed by current lessons learned. Too much war gaming was done on big conventional battle scenarios, Lennox said, which led them to do some “dumb” things, like stocking up on weapons that aren’t terribly relevant in irregular wars such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

A good example of a weapon that meets the Army’s new criteria is the 120mm precision mortar round (with an initial buy of 5,000 rounds) which the Army is rushing to the Afghan theater. An example of a weapon that does not: the Non-Line of Sight-Launch System (NLOS-LS).

Lennox said the Army hasn’t made an official decision on what to do with NLOS-LS, but he made it pretty clear that the program has lost favor among the Army leadership. File NLOS-LS under redundant. He listed a number of precision indirect fire systems that would appear to fit a very similar bill as NLOS-LS: the Multiple Launch Rocket System, the Excalibur 155mm precision round, the 120mm precision mortar round, joint fires such as JDAMs, helicopter fired Hellfire missiles.

Battlefield experience from Iraq and Afghanistan has also influenced the Army’s decision on the way forward with NLOS-LS. “The amount of expenditure of precision indirect fire weapons has not been through the roof, it’s been less than we expected… We were surprised to find that there wasn’t more precision being fired.”

As for the other technological “spin outs” which will go to infantry brigades, a collection of sensors and robots, Lennox acknowledged that they’ve had their share of problems, but he believes the fixes have been made and will be evident in the next round of tests scheduled for September.

Another big piece of the modernization strategy is providing troops in even the most remote parts of Afghanistan with what is essentially a mobile wi-fi hot spot providing voice and digital communications, what the Army calls “battle command on the move.” In the U.S. we have cell phone towers and relay stations every few hundred feet providing iPhone and Blackberry users constant connectivity. That’s not the case in Afghanistan.

“In the places we fight, you have to take the network with you. Our radio systems are built-in cell phone tower mesh networks,” Lennox said, It’s a cutting edge when you have to carry wireless cell phone towers with you.” WIN-T and the Army’s piece of the Joint Tactical Radio System will provide that mobile big pipe, he said. The Army expects the costs for those radios to come down over time. The key is to get the network right. Once the network is built out, the Army can plug in a variety of mobile devices.

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So, it sounds like our ability to precisely strike targets has outrun our ability to find targets to strike in the first place.

Hopefully the investment side of the equation is putting more money into ISR to find those targets. Without precision targeting, our precision strike weapons can’t do much.

I would like to understand more about what they mean the requirements process is old and outdated…when in reality its that no one understands how to do it. Admittedly we made it more complex by adding JCIDS and other layers but in all honestly it works if you aren’t trying to wedge something in that doesn’t belong. The rapid fielding and equipping processes have made some very very serious mistakes that will take us years to correct. While they did good things they did bad things in equal measure.

Our leaders, in essence, need to get their collective heads out of their fourth points of contact and stop trying to protect the old order and do what needs to be done. They spend more time concerned about branches (infantry, armor, artillery…) then they do about what is really needed to make up combat power. figure the heritage crap later.

It’s good to see innovation, sad to see the flops. But it’s all good, the Brass has the stones to admit they have a few turkeys.

Too bad about the N-LOS

The brass better admit that they have too much invested into electronics and high tech. The reliance on too much high technology is evident in the newest gear the army is trying to milk from the American tax payers. The need for computerized radios that can be jammed, or worse yet targeted in on is going to get a lot more people killed.

Good Evening Folks,

Not much to say here, what Lt. Gen. Lennox is saying sounds about right. The Army is saddled with to much equipment that has been bought to fight a war(s) that never happened and never will and equipment of dubious quality, need and utility and is in desperate need of what is needed to prosecute the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to favorable conclusions.

The decision to buy for current needs and not for the fickled imaginations of “Military Futurists” who are drumming up business, and personal commissions, for defense contractors, and to put the economic screws to contractors to develop equipment, platforms, weapons and systems at reasonable prices and to deliver it in time to meet current battlefield needs, is the right decision.

I guess this is what might be called common sense, or as close to it as the Army will ever get.

Byron Skinner

What the Army needs to do is expand GCV into a key component of it’s modernization plan. Start with the infantry fighting vehicle variant, and then move on to a self-propelled gun to replace the M109A6, and then other variants, possibly including a main battle tank.

We have a real opportunity to make a major improvement over the Bradley with the IFV variant. Better weaponry, significantly better armor protection (possibly comparable to the Abrams), new sensors, active defense systems, and more. It will be heavier than the Bradley no doubt, but if we wanted light, we should have stuck with the whole FCS MGV program.

It is unfortunate the NLOS-LS program did not work out. There is still potential in the concept however, as demonstrated by previous missile systems like EFOGM.

Well let’s just hope they mean it. The last 10 times I heard “we’re getting serious about cost & reliability” they just came back three months later with a rebranding campagin to sell us the same stuff. The real problem is (once again) the process.

We used to figure out what/who we were fighting, and figure the most effective (and cost efficient) way to go about it. Now we kill proven and reliable solutions by either adding in “capabilities” they don’t need, or starting programs to design the ultimate XXXX. Both result in 200x more money and time being spent on a problem that already had a cost effective (and already proven) solution.

JCIDS is not a difficult process just hard work… The process of deriving technical specifications from user requirements is a hugh problem in Material Development and take and understanding of the sciences and engineering and an appreciation of Systems Engineering and an engineering field. The requirment development process is not old and outdated we have external sources that are living (i.e. INCOSE) and continue to update the process incorporating lessons learned and best practices.


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