After becoming Chief of Staff of the Army in the summer of 1999, General Eric K. Shinseki officially announced on 12 October 1999 his objective to make the Army a more strategically responsive force. To do this he planned to develop a force that would be deployable, agile, versatile, lethal, survivable, sustainable, and dominant at every point along the spectrum of operations and concurrently established the goal of deploying a combat-capable brigade anywhere in the world within 96 hours after liftoff, a division on the ground in 120 hours, and 5 divisions within 30 days.
As might be expected, the drive to create a more strategically deployable force had critical implications with the existing Crusader program late in 1999. Considered to be too heavy by many within the Army for the medium-weight forces envisioned by General Shinseki, the Army contemplated terminating the Crusader to save money for the new medium brigade and suitable systems. Hard work by the Field Artillery School, in particular TSM Cannon, and negotiations during the last two months of 1999 prevented eliminating the Crusader, although several programs, including the Multiple-Launch Rocket System Smart Rocket and the Army Tactical Missile System Block IIA, were canceled to help fund the medium-weight brigades to be formed and their equipment and weapon systems.
Because General Shinseki disliked the Crusader's and the resupply vehicle's weight but liked its capabilities and wanted it to be an integral member of the Army's dominant maneuver force, the Army revamped the Crusader program beginning in December 1999 to make the self-propelled howitzer and its resupply vehicle lighter and more strategically deployable.
Restructuring involved decreasing the overall weight of the self-propelled howitzer from 55 tons to 38-42 tons and the resupply vehicle from 50 tons to 38-42 tons to permit loading two self-propelled howitzers or two resupply vehicles on a C-5B aircraft and carrying them 3,200 nautical miles but retaining the key performance parameters. To reach the weight restrictions the Army planned to replace the current vehicle structure and components with lighter weight materials, to utilize modular add-on armor kits to augment the basic hull and turret structure to enhance protection against specific regional threats, to reduce the ammunition and fuel payload, and to utilize a lightweight engine that would be common with the Abrams tank. This would permit reducing the length and width of the vehicles and create additional weight savings. Also, the Army outlined developing a wheeled version of the resupply vehicle that would weight 38-42 tons and would increase road speed, slipped fielding back from 2005 to 2008 to develop the technology and to make the necessary modifications to the program, and intended to use the Crusader as a technology base for other systems. Because the reduced weight Crusader would not be suitable for the medium brigades, the Army determined to give it to the counterattack corps (III Armored Corps) and to field only 480 Crusaders and resupply vehicles. This was down from 1,138 that would have been fielded to the active component and part of the Army National Guard.
As the contractor United Defense started with preliminary redesign work and as the Army searched for an engine, the system encountered additional challenges. During appropriations debates for FY 2001, senators and congressmen discussed killing the Crusader program again. In fact, the Senate Appropriations Committee proposed that the Army refocus the system as a technology program to further field artillery evolution within the Future Combat Systems program and reduced funding for the howitzer from $355 million to $200 million in the FY 2001 Defense budget, pending Office of the Secretary of Defense delivery of a "quick-look" analysis of alternatives to Congress by December 2000.
Although the Senate Appropriations Committee cut the Crusader by $155 million, the system still enjoyed the support of Congress as whole. Some members of Congress expressed the desire to give the Army more time to make sure that Crusader's restructuring was done properly and endorsed the service's plans to lighten the howitzer.
In December 2000 the Army and the Office of the Secretary of Defense furnished Congress with its report. According to the report, the Crusader program was moving in the right direction. The analysis showed that the system would be more operationally effective and over time less costly than other field artillery systems. Congress accepted the report and restored full funding in February 2001. Meanwhile, Crusader design refinement continued, and the initial Crusader howitzer prototype at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, proceeded to demonstrate the critical performance requirements in advance of the next program milestone review in 2003.
The Crusader Program successfully completed its system-level Preliminary Design Review (PDR) on November 14-15, 2001. The PDR effectively completes the program's transition from its original 60-ton design to a more mobile, deployable yet equally lethal 40-ton system design. The PDR successfully demonstrated the readiness of the program to transition to detail design, marking a significant step towards Milestone B in 2003 and delivery of the first operational prototypes in 2004. The next major program milestone, the Crusader Critical Design Review, is scheduled for February 2003.
The Executive Level Review (ELR) 09 on January 2002 provided the opportunity to review and approve the results of the PDR. The ELR focused on survivability analyses, requirements compliance, risk management, performance assessments and an analysis of Crusader's vital role in any conflict. In addition, the ELR validated findings from the program's Preliminary Design Review (PDR), an important milestone confirming the program's technical maturity to meet Milestone B exit criteria. Milestone B is the critical program review before continuing into System Development and Demonstration.
On 28 February 2002 United Defense L.P. announced that the Crusader Self-Propelled Howitzer One (SPH1) prototype has set a new one-day record of 176 rounds fired and successfully met and exceeded the Army's rate of fire and Multiple Round Simultaneous Impact (MRSI) firing exit criteria for Milestone B, due in April 2003. To accomplish the Milestone B rate of fire objective, Crusader fired 15 round missions at ranges of 10,15,25, and 30 kilometers at a rate of fire greater than 9 rounds per minute. Crusader exceeded the milestone requirement by over 3 rounds per minute. To accomplish the MRSI mission objective, Crusader fired six four-round missions where all rounds impacted within plus or minus 2 seconds of each other at a range of 17 kilometers. Crusader is not only exceeding the Milestone B exit criterion of plus or minus 4 seconds, it is meeting the objective performance requirement. The Crusader successfully repeated the MRSI mission several times, at ranges of 8, 25 and 30 kilometers.
On July 26, 2002, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Edward C. "Pete" Aldridge, Jr., signed a memorandum directing the U.S. Army to take prudent and deliberate actions to bring about an orderly termination of the Crusader program. In the memo, the Army was directed to ensure that current technology development continues either as part of an indirect fire technology demonstration or as part of other transformational programs. On the same day, Secretary Aldridge provided Congress with the Army's Indirect Fires Report and a reprogramming request to transfer $32 million from Crusader to new variants of the Future Combat Systems (FCS). Congress has approved the reprogramming request.
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