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FCS Out — What’s In?

by Ward Carroll on April 9, 2009

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One thing I’m curious about is what Gates said this week on the Army’s vehicle modernization program and, specifically, his line:

“The current vehicle program, developed nine years ago, does not include a role for our recent $25 billion investment in the MRAP vehicles being used to good effect in todays conflicts.“

In canceling the FCS ground vehicle program, Gates seemed to be saying there would be a role for the MRAP as a replacement for some FCS ground vehicle variants. That worries me a bit because as has been well documented here, the MRAP is of very limited use in most tactical situations and can be more of a detriment to a counterinsurgency than a help.

There’s been some more scuttle butt on this over at a well known loop that I’m not able to reveal to protect sources, but the back and forth has been whether the MRAP could be replaced by more Strykers. Michael Yon is arguing that the Stryker fits the bill in most of the situations that MRAPs were used for in Iraq and now in Afghanistan with more firepower and better all-terrain capability.

As someone who’s spent some time in Iraq in Strykers (and Bradleys) in Iraq I’d have to agree with Yon that the vehicle is pretty damned awesome and adaptable as heck. I agree with Yon that the MRAP could have a role in securing and convoy escort along MSRS and other LOCs. But I also see an enduring role for up-armored Humvees and the coming era of the JLTV. Of all the tactical vehicle modernization programs in the works, it’s the JLTV that I believe has the most promise and enduring effect.

Buy more Strykers with the latest bad-ass weapons systems, armor and C2 gear; kick up the JLTV program and keep the MRAPs for route clearance and escort and we should be good until it’s time to replace the Bradleys and M1s…and those should be fun ones to watch.

PS– I have contacted the Army on when it will release its service budget with specific programs and dollar figures. Apparently, Gates’ announcement was just that — an announcement of “priorities” and not the formal budget roll-out which officials say will come in early-to-mid May. Then we’ll get the R1s, P1s and other documents with specifics on who gets what.

And a source tells me he thinks the services might be going back to the drawing board:

Looks like SECDEF is going to force their hand. Frankly, I think both services are probably reviewing their plans in light of SECDEFs budget announcement this week, the upcoming QDR, and fiscal pressures that will call into question any major acquisition program.

– Christian

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