Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy
The Army's combat vehicle modernization strategy as a whole envisions both new vehicles and incremental technological improvements, informed by a continuous assessment, adaptation and innovation of capabilities, including commercial off-the-shelf solutions. Power generation, gun design, transportability and autonomous technologies will be just a few big pieces of the bigger picture, and they're not likely to come together all at once, but in iterative stages of modernization that require detailed discussion, just as the double-V hull was introduced to the Stryker platform in 2011 to improve survivability.
Army leaders are targeting two sets of plans for vehicles. One is a set of light infantry vehicles with more mobility and firepower that includes the Ground Mobility Vehicle, the Light Reconnaissance Vehicle and a Mobile Protected Firepower Vehicle. The other is the Next Generation Combat Vehicle, which is being considered for the long term, with a cross-functional integrated concept development team planning to study it in 2017, according to Army officials. But with no ground combat vehicle currently in development, the M1 Abrams tank and Bradley fighting vehicle are likely to remain the Army's workhorses for decades to come.
Mismatched operating concept-to-environment was a factor in the demise of the ASM, which attempted to next- generation the Cold War systems via the Block III tank, Crusader artillery system, and future infantry fighting vehicle. This attempt occurred at a time when the Soviet threat driving the increased capability waned, and the FCS was not prepared to address the asymmetric threats arising in the post-9/11 environment.
During fourteen years of war, modernization efforts logically focused on fielding vehicles designed for counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Army investment in combat vehicle modernization diminished, slowing the pace and scope of Army modernization efforts comparable to allies, as well as potential adversaries. New vehicle programs such as Future Combat System (FCS) and ground combat vehicle (GCV) were cancelled and did not deliver new capabilities to the force. Meanwhile, observations of recent combat experiences (Israel in Lebanon and Gaza; France in Mali, US in Sadr City, Russia and Ukraine) have highlighted the criticality of combat vehicles, and expose gaps in US Army capabilities.
The CVMS assesses current combat vehicle fleet and combined arms formation capabilities, and prioritizes across formations and timeframes. Timeframes are defined as near- (2016-2021), mid- (2022-2031) and far- (2032-2046) but are not fixed, and can adjust to acquisition and programming timelines. The CVMS does not address tactical wheeled vehicles, dismounted Soldier capabilities, integrated fires, network or mission command capabilities, or maneuver support systems. It is limited to brigade combat team (BCT) organizations under current Tables of Organization and Equipment, but addresses the possibility of future organizational change.
The U.S. Army Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy provides an enduring U.S. Army combat vehicle modernization strategy (CVMS). The strategy establishes the ends, ways and means to modernize Army combat vehicles in the near-, mid- and far- terms to meet the mobility, protection and lethality capability requirements of future Army formations. Scope The CVMS assesses current combat vehicle fleet and combined arms formation capabilities, and prioritizes across formations and timeframes. Timeframes are defined as near- (2016-2021), mid- (2022-2031) and far- (2032-2046) but are not fixed, and can adjust to acquisition and programming timelines. The CVMS does not address tactical wheeled vehicles, dismounted Soldier capabilities, integrated fires, network or mission command capabilities, or maneuver support systems. It is limited to brigade combat team (BCT) organizations under current Tables of Organization and Equipment, but addresses the possibility of future organizational change.
Combat vehicles provide Soldiers and units with the combinations of mobility, lethality, and protection necessary to defeat enemy forces, seize, occupy and defend land areas, and achieve positional and psychological advantages over the enemy.1 A modern and ready combat vehicle fleet is essential to achieve overmatch, which is the combination of capabilities that prevent enemy organizations from successfully using their equipment or employing their tactics.2 While fighting against increasing capable and elusive enemies, maintaining overmatch requires combat vehicles that are resistant to enemy anti-armor systems, are able to maneuver to positions of advantage across a wide variety of terrain, and provide advantages to commanders and Soldiers across the full range of military operations.
Combat vehicles are essential to joint combined arms operations, operations that integrate infantry, armor, artillery, engineers, aviation, and joint capabilities. Combat vehicles have proven their value in all types of terrain and tactical environments from open desert to mountains, jungles, and cities. Combat vehicles provide general capabilities to Soldiers that enhance their ability to fight, including networked communications, load carrying, and power generation. They also fulfill roles essential to seizing, retaining and exploiting the initiative in battle. These include close combat, reconnaissance, protected Soldier and leader transportation, indirect fire, route clearan obstacle reduction, mission command and communications, medical evacuation, maintenance, and sustainment.
Combat vehicles allow forces to seize the initiative against the enemy through speed and surprise. Air-deployable vehicles provide mobility, protection, and lethality to initial entry forces during joint forcible entry operations to ensure they are able to fight against capable and numerically superior enemies until reinforcing entry forces or follow on entry forces such as armored BCTs and Stryker BCTs either arrive by sea or draw prepositioned vehicles. Mobile, protected, precision firepower allows lighter forces to defeat defending enemies and ensure freedom of movement and action for infantry in close combat.
Stryker BCTs provide commanders high operational mobility allowing rapid expansion to exploit initial entry success. However, they lack sufficient lethality to maneuver against determined enemies with modern weapons. Armored BCTs overmatch fully alerted enemy forces and enable commanders to retain freedom of action, defeat enemy forces, and consolidate strategic gains. They also require continuous modernization to retain this overmatch against the full range of evolving threats.
The Army organizes combat forces into BCTs with 4,500 to 5000 Soldiers. There are three types of BCTs: infantry, Stryker, and armored; trained, organized, and equipped for complementary roles in combat. Each BCT is comprised of a brigade headquarters to provide mission command; three maneuver battalions that provide combined arms operations capability; a cavalry squadron for reconnaissance and security missions; a field artillery battalion to provide lethal fire support; an engineer battalion for mobility, counter-mobility and survivability; and a support battalion for sustainment, logistics, and key enabling capabilities.
The infantry BCT’s greatest limitation is its tactical and operational mobility once deployed. This capability shortfall (or gap) is especially critical in joint forcible entry scenarios that rely upon swiftly seizing key terrain or facilities to establish a lodgment for follow-on forces. The infantry BCT lacks a lightweight combat vehicle that provides mobile protected firepower (MPF) to enable freedom of movement and freedom of action, which are essential to expanding a lodgment and preventing enemy counterattack. This vehicle is essential to defeating local fortifications, point defenses, and blocking positions to maintain momentum. Without the combat vehicle, the infantry BCT requires reinforcement with heavier armored vehicles for close combat against capable enemies. The infantry BCT’s combat vehicle requirements are the most pressing across the Army and require the highest priority.
The Stryker infantry carrier vehicle, the primary maneuver vehicle in the Stryker BCT, lacks the sensors and weapons to detect, recognize, identify and suppress or defeat threats at extended ranges or provide fire support for infantry as they dismount in close proximity to the enemy. The lack of sufficient mobile protected direct fire support throughout the formation makes it difficult to maintain freedom of movement and action, and makes the formation’s Soldiers vulnerable to surprise encounters with the enemy. Moreover, force protection improvements to protect the Stryker from IEDs and RPGs in Iraq and Afghanistan have significantly reduced the vehicle’s tactical mobility.
The armored BCT provides the Army with a powerful mix of combined arms capabilities and the mobility, protection and lethality necessary to seize, retain, and exploit the initiative. Equipped with Abrams main battle tanks, Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, Paladin self-propelled howitzers, and over a hundred other tracked supporting vehicles. Challenges to the Bradley fighting vehicle, in particular, are increasing. The Bradley lacks sufficient protection against underbelly threats. Many enemy combat vehicles outgun it, and it has lost mobility due to the increasing weight of theater-specific force protection upgrades. The M113 family of vehicles is obsolete, because of inadequate protection and electrical generation capability. Evolving protection requirements have increased the Abrams’ weight beyond the capacity of recovery and transportation assets, while increasing formation fuel demands.
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