The Crusader SPH and RSV, formerly known as the Advanced Field Artillery System (AFAS) and Future Ammunition Resupply Vehicle (FARV), were originally two of the five common chassis vehicles in the Army's Armored Systems Modernization (ASM) program. The other vehicles were a Block III tank, a Future Infantry Fighting Vehicle, and a Combat Mobility Vehicle. The changing threat and budget realities led to a restructuring of the ASM program that deferred all the ASM components except Crusader.
The SPH was originally expected to have a regenerative liquid propellant gun armaments system. The underlying mechanism of liquid propulsion consists of the injection of a fluid propellant through the annulus formed by two moving pistons into a combustion chamber, where the ensuing combustion causes acceleration of the projectile.
Initially part of an ambitious acquisition program in the 1980s aimed at reducing procurement and sustainment costs by introducing a family of armored vehicles mounted on a common chassis, the Crusader, a self-propelled 155-mm. howitzer, and its resupply vehicle promised to revolutionize cannon field artillery and to serve as the next-generation self-propelled howitzer. Even though studies conducted late in the 1970s and early in the 1980s recognized the need for Crusader, the US Army Field Artillery School (USAFAS) validated the requirement for the howitzer and its resupply vehicle once again in the 1990s. According to TRADOC System Manager (TSM), Cannon, in the Directorate of Combat Development (DCD), the system would give the Army a dynamic warfighting capability. The M109A2/A3 self-propelled 155-mm. howitzer and its successor, the M109A6 Paladin self-propelled 155-mm. howitzer, lacked sufficient mobility, survivability, lethality, and effectiveness for combat in the twenty-first century. In all areas of concern, the Crusader exceeded the capabilities of the other two howitzers significantly and would be the premier cannon system in the world upon being fielded in 2005.
As demonstrated by Operation Desert Storm early in 1991, the Army critically required a new field artillery system to replace the M109A2/A3 because the Paladin that was scheduled to be fielded shortly would provide only a temporary solution. Of the three combat arms (Infantry, Field Artillery, and Armor), the Field Artillery had the most obsolete systems. Yet, the Armored Systems Modernization program as it was structured through mid-1991 made Crusader the fourth priority behind the Block III tank, the Future Infantry Fighting Vehicle, and the Combat Mobility Vehicle.
In view of this incongruity with reality, a General Accounting Office (GAO) report and the Senate Armed Services Committee's Fiscal Year (FY) 1992 budget report severely questioned the Army's priorities. Pressured by the General Accounting Office report and the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Army revamped its Armored System Modernization program. On 30 October 1991 the Army sent Congress a position paper that explained a reordering of priorities. The Army deferred further development on the Block III Tank, the Future Infantry Fighting Vehicle, and the Combat Mobility Vehicle.
Options to resume development on the systems would be left open to meet the threat, while key components -- cannon research and engine development -- would be retained in the technology base for continued development. Developing the Crusader became the number one priority for the armored forces.
The Advanced Field Artillery System (AFAS) was conceived as a 155 mm self-propelled howitzer system that will provide a significant increase in artillery survivability/lethality, mobility, and operational capability and effectiveness through use and integration of advanced technology in its subsystems and combat components. The AFAS will deliver unprecedented firepower capabilities at extended ranges. Some of the AFAS critical technologies and capabilities include a regenerative liquid propellant gun, XM46 insensitive liquid propellant, autosettable multioption fuze, automated ammunition-handling system, enhanced survivability, and improved mobility. The FARV is an armored resupply vehicle that will provide the foundation for resupply of ammunition and fuel for the AFAS.
Inserting high-payoff technologies in robotics, automation, expert systems, vetronics, and improved ammunition propulsion into the resupply process, the Future Armored Resupply Vehicle (FARV) would provide the necessary ammunition to meet the expected firing rates; meet the goals for autonomous operations; and capitalize on cost and operational advantages of component commonality. FARV critical technologies and capabilities include a teleoperated docking arm, automated ammunition resupply system, automated fuel transfer system, and improved mobility.
In 1991, the Army selected liquid propellant (LP) as the propellant of choice for its 21st century artillery weapon system. In 1992, the Army successfully completed LP firings at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona; demonstrated fuze and projectile compatibility; demonstrated high output and quality LP manufacturing process; and successfully demonstrated the firing of a multi-option Fuze for Artillery. In 1993/1994, the Army fabricated/assembled a RLPG weapons hardstand which demonstrated 12 rounds per minute automated ammunition handling, azimuth and elevation slew rates, pointing accuracy and integrated technical and tactical fire control; fabricated and assembled an Automotive Test Rig with a LV100, 1500 horsepower engine, electric drive and self-cleaning air filter; fabricated and assembled a four-man reconfigurable crew module which demonstrated man machine interface, full audio, video and data collection capabilities; successfully pumped LP at greater than rates (60+ gallons/minute); and demonstrated ammunition transfer rates of 12 rounds per minute.
In May 1994 the House Committee on Armed Services expressed concern about the decision to proceed with liquid propellant (LP) for the advanced field artillery system (AFAS) cannon. Recent test results had created doubt that the current schedule can be maintained. The LP cannon promised greater range and lower per round cost, but stretched the AFAS schedule by two years. If the LP program cannot improve its performance it will take the Army several more years to develop LP. This will require a restructuring of the program for the alternative unicharge cannon propellant. The committee believed that this risk was unacceptable. It directed that the Army should focus on fulfilling fundamental deficiencies in its artillery for range, rate of fire, and mobility in the most prudent and cost-effective way. The committee directed the Secretary of the Army to: (1) Continue AFAS chassis work to take advantage of the nearly $1 billion in prior investment; (2) Bring forward both LP and unicharge gun concepts through a maximum 12-month intensive test and evaluation phase. Downselect to a single cannon once sufficient testing has been completed to assure that overall AFAS program goals will be achieved without further backtracking; (3) Unify a contractor team to undertake integration designs to accommodate either unicharge or LP; (4) Slow the field artillery resupply vehicle (FARV) development. Develop a strategy that would provide the highest priority for early selection of unicharge or LP in the demonstration / validation phase. This will permit the FARV to be accelerated for integration into the latter portion of the demonstration/validation schedule.
The Government made a decision in early 1996 to transition Crusader armament to the Army's Solid Propellant Development Activity. This decision was based on the projected inability to reduce development risk for the Regenerative Liquid Propellant Gun (RLPG) to acceptable levels in time to support the Crusader schedule.
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