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Does GCV Death Let Army Think Bigger?

by christian on October 15, 2010

From Aviation Week’s DTI

By putting its $40-billion ground combat vehicle (GCV) procurement plan on hold, the U.S. Army is giving itself a breather to come up with a new strategy for its ground vehicle force.

The Army canceled the GCV request for proposal (RFP) this summer and froze funding and development for all major ground-vehicle programs — even Block 2 work on the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, which the GCV is supposed to replace.

Army ground programs — particularly the GCV — are victims of the Pentagon’s obsession with reviewing and revamping the Defense Department procurement mindset for big-dollar programs. The Army and Pentagon also want to put the brakes on the service’s ground-vehicle programs to ensure it buys the right equipment for the mission. The Army and Defense Department are analyzing whether they are buying — even developing — the right vehicle for the job. Indeed, the military could move away from tracked vehicles, except for specific missions.

“Tracked vehicles are not necessarily the best option for what we plan to be doing,” says John Gresham, a defense analyst and author of books on military equipment and operations. That would be a point of departure for the Army, whose doctrine and checkbook has heavily favored tracked vehicles.

The Pentagon reported about $13.7 billion in transactions for those vehicles in 2008, a 57% increase from 2007, according to an analysis of data provided by the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting. Procurement of those vehicles ranked 10th in Pentagon expenses in 2009 and second in 2008, racking up $16.8 billion in contracts and modifications, the analysis shows.

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{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Rifle 308 October 15, 2010 at 12:01 pm

As to that picture…. it's BOLO junior!!! Or maybe a BOLO Mark 1?

Somewhere Keith Laumer is smiling…



Belesari October 16, 2010 at 9:10 am

Accually the first BOLO was simply a M1A2 with a massive intelligence upgrade. So….


blight October 16, 2010 at 9:36 am

Yup, definitely too small for a Bolo Mk1. However when Laumer wrote, it's likely he didn't think teleoperated vehicles was the way to go.

Bolos were souped up tanks before they turned into unmanned fighting machines. More specifically, the Mk1 was:

"The General Motors Bolo Mark I, Model B, was little more than an upgrade of the Abrams/Leopard/Challenger/LeClerc/T-80-era main battle tank of the final years of the Soviet-American Cold War. (At the time the first Bolo was authorized, GM decided that there would never be a "Model A" or a "Model T", on the basis that the Ford Motor Company had permanently preempted those designations>) Equipped with a high-velocity main gun capable of defeating the newest Chobham-type composite armors at virtually any battle range and with a four-man crew, the Mark I was an essentially conventional if very heavy (150 metric tons) and fast (80 kph road speed) tank in direct line of descent from World War I's "Mother" via the Renault, PzKpf IV, T-34, Sherman, Panther, Tiger, Patton, T-54, M-60, Chieftain, T-72, and Abrams."

The one feature the Bolos did have which I found odd was speakers. Hilarious visions of an Abrams with loudspeakers blaring the national anthem aside…


STemplar October 15, 2010 at 12:13 pm

I applaud any decision to slow down and think about where we will be deploying, and what we will be doing. We knew 20 years ago we would be in the fights we are in right now, and we did pretty close to zero to prepare for this fight. We have a very good idea of where we will be in 20 years and what we will be doing, or wanting to do. It would be swell if we would match our procurement to our needs. I think we are somewhat, but I also think there are dinosaurs in DoD wanting to continue to arm for fights that already happened, or never did and never will.


Belesari October 16, 2010 at 12:06 am

Ah but enemies dont just fight the way YOU think they should. The moment we lose those abilities then our enemies will adapt to that way of fighting.

So the "we will only fight this way in the future no more of _ ever again!" will once again be wrong.


STemplar October 16, 2010 at 6:03 am

So what you're saying is we should immediately field 3 regiments of horse mounted lancers, since we clearly lack that capacity at the moment…………


Belesari October 16, 2010 at 9:08 am

No, captain smartass. What im saying is that only the most arrogant believe they KNOW the future. You dont design your military to do one thing if you have the vast amount of potential battlefields and types of warfare as we do. You design it to be good at a large number of operations, theaters of conflict and capable of defeating a range of oponents.

The point is as you posted lower Admiral Mullens "we do not know the next war" which is true. Remember assume makes a ass out of you. But in this case it would mean dead men and women . Dead fathers, mothers, sons, sisters, brothers, uncles, etc.

But hey remember after WW2 when we said we wouldnt need carriers again? I mean we didnt did we? And no fighters needed guns? Of course missiles are like Chuck norris left foot they never miss right?


STemplar October 16, 2010 at 1:56 pm

We don't know the time and place of the battlefield but an intelligent assessment of the current geo political realities can lead one to a pretty good idea of where the problems are going to be. Looking back at the last 20 to 25 years of history there really isn't anything surprising about where we are right not. Had the leadership paid closer attention to those warnings we would have already had vehicles and capabilities to counter IEDs in a COIN environment. We would have had plenty of COIN aircraft. We would have cut the numbers of F22s far earlier. The NGB would probably already be under construction. We would have realized a long time ago the USMC is not going to storm Iwo Jima again, because there is zero need to conduct warfare like that anymore.

It's real easy to say things like 'vast amount of potential battlefields", but the reality when one looks at the actual situation in the world is there really aren't a 'vast" number of theaters we are going to be involved in. There is actually a pretty narrow field. We can afford one military and it falls to us to pick one. The one we will need, or the one we want, can't afford both anymore. 'Because we need the capability' doesn't cut it in these economic times. The bottom line is what we need probably isn't as expensive as what the defense industry wants us to buy.

If anyone thinks for one moment that those pushing for some of these over expensive, Cold War leftover systems, is doing so from a firm belief they are necessary for US security, and not because some defense company has assured them of a job post retirement, or dropped cash in the campaign box, then those people are hopelessly naive. George Washington and Eisenhower both essentially warned us of the mess we are in right now in regards to the military and finances, we should have paid more attention.

jsallison October 16, 2010 at 7:22 pm

welp, we have made use of special ops dragoons in the recent past. And I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of them carried big sticks, so I ‘spect you’re a day late there, ST. Fortunately BigDef didn’t see a buck in it soon enough or they’d still be researching destrier development.


STemplar October 16, 2010 at 11:04 pm

Spec Ops riding horses to Northern Alliance camps hardly qualifies as Dragoons. Particularly when some had to be helped out of the saddles.

roland October 15, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Nice imagination but not impossible. How about this: Perhaps man of the future will explore the universe and create its own space Odyssey exploratory ship. Just sayen…peace!


Christian October 15, 2010 at 4:52 pm
PhilFry October 15, 2010 at 5:44 pm

I wasn't aware tanks had avionics.


blight October 15, 2010 at 7:13 pm

Since avionics is an hybrid word of aviation and electronics, you are correct. electronics will do. the things people do for nomenclature…


Justin H October 15, 2010 at 7:19 pm

Maybe with the recent advances in solid state, fiber, and other high power lasers, the Army might just be interested in putting one on a new GCV in a couple years.


Justin H October 15, 2010 at 7:21 pm

There is a GCV out there that has wheels, but also uses removable tracks that are fitted onto the wheels. I think thats an idea we should seriously consider for our next gen GCV.


STemplar October 15, 2010 at 7:32 pm

An honest analysis of what kinds of fights we will be in, and potentially where would be a great first step in determining what to buy. At the end of the Cold War all the experts were talking about low intensity conflicts in the third world. We knew the middle east was a powder keg.

So what kinds of systems did we buy/develop? The F22, the F35, Comanche, Crusader, and we wanted to get rid of the A10s. Essentially few of the procurement decisions at the time took heed of the predictions. I've read pieces from sitting generals/admirals now, Mullens I think was one, talking about we won't know the next war, to which I say baloney. Everything I ever heard anyone talk about was low intensity back in the day, and with the exception of the Stryker we bought practically nothing that was really suited to the last nine years of combat we have been in. We came up with rapid fielding programs, because clearly the plain ol procurement system was broken. We knew what we needed and we bought little of it.

So without getting into some 'ditch the USMC' debate or 'tracks or death' or 'the F35 is crummy and the F22 is God' drivel, I would like us to just take a look at what we will be doing in 20 years. I know we can make very accurate predictions of what we will need to be able to do in order to maintain stability in the world. Lets just do that.


Engineer October 15, 2010 at 11:01 pm

We can't do that! Why…… you'll ruin everything!!!!!!!!!!!!!


@Earlydawn October 16, 2010 at 12:06 am

Yeah dude, that thing is practically identical to the ground hunter-killers..


blight October 16, 2010 at 9:30 am

To a bean counter looking at masses of Cold War hardware and being asked to throw it out early is borderline anathema. That and fiscal realities are what will tie down innovation. A major reason why armies didn't mechanize before WW2 was sheer cost, and especially during the depression experimentation is an expense nations would attempt to minimize.

However, as long as we continue to support small development projects and have the willingness to grow the ones that demonstrate potential (with potential not being measured by generals with turf to defend) we will have an idea of what tech can do for defense.


roland October 16, 2010 at 2:12 pm

That looks like a transformer rorbot of somekind. Interesting imagination.


blight October 16, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Transformer? It's not even a mecha. It's Cameron's HK-Tank.


Max October 16, 2010 at 5:25 pm

It never ceases to amaze me how the MI Complex is always pushing "the latest and the greatest" with all the bells and whistles, when what we already have (with incremental upgrades) will do just fine in most cases. I'm for big defense budgets, but much of what is spent is wasted on Rube-Goldberg schemes, all for one purpose: keeping the defense companies profitable and in business.


William C. October 17, 2010 at 1:32 pm

To put it in British terms: Bollocks. At a certain point "incremental upgrades" of 30+ year old designs simply aren't worth the money that could be invested in a new design. We are overdue for modernization in many areas. A future IFV could be a massive leap over the Bradley in terms of armor protection, defensive systems, weaponry, and other areas.


elgatoso October 17, 2010 at 4:07 pm

The problem with your view is that we are using 100 years old technologies (steel,combustion engines , chemical weapons and so )


danf October 16, 2010 at 7:10 pm

First priority must be absolute air dominance, period. That means developing, building, deploying aircraft like F22 and the generation after that. Expensive, yes.

Does counter-insurgency really make sense. Endless, low-medium intensity war ? Should we consent to fight war in environments where time can be used against us so effectively ? What are the alternatives ? What was our national security/policy goal in Afghanistan in the context of the war against islam ?

I think the idea of moving more of the heavy mission to ARNG is interesting…

Navy and Air Force are keys to the future as US global commitments and basing freedom shrink.


jhm October 17, 2010 at 12:21 am

your so right.


Cranky Observer October 17, 2010 at 8:28 pm

> What was our national security/policy goal in Afghanistan in the context of
> the war against islam ?

Wow – we're fighting a "war against Islam" now? Funny, that wasn't what the neocons told us when they kicked the whole thing off.



Anon October 16, 2010 at 8:10 pm

"That would be a point of departure for the Army, whose doctrine and checkbook has heavily favored tracked vehicles."

Sounds like someone's trying to rewrite history, especially when it comes to the FCS disaster.


jhm October 17, 2010 at 12:33 am

whoops, just confused gcv with weird robot, my bad, ignore previous commetn


William C. October 17, 2010 at 1:27 pm

And yet who says we won't fight a conventional war. All of those projects you listed were key in ensuring we maintain the ability to defeat a more "conventional" opponent.


Marvel October 18, 2010 at 10:52 am

I think DanF is on the money.


Fred October 18, 2010 at 11:35 am

That is the "Ground Apache" concept that was in Carlton Meyer's book about future warfare. just take the proven Apache attack helicopter system and mount it on tracks.


RPF October 18, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Why not just develope the "Hover Tank" from Sgt. Bilko…LOL


googleyes October 19, 2010 at 10:37 am

We should just buy the new German IFV.


Negotiate a license build here to put Americans back to work and give the middle class workers soemthing back (pay,) spend less than the billions the taxpayer would pay in reasearch and development.


roland October 20, 2010 at 2:11 am

At this recession time I think e need to be realistic. I do blieve the imagination is great but we still have a war in Afghanistan and on the whereabout of Osama to take care of. Its been 10 years now ever since we are fighting terrorism in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. It looks like we are fighting a superpower yet still unwon. I think this wars should be taken care of first before jumping on the next ambitions.


M&S April 24, 2014 at 12:13 am

The F-22, Comanche and Crusader began life in the Cold War and were already extant (start dates in the period 1984-86), so it is not fair to state that that they were ineffective because they did things with a particular mission set in mind.

Indeed, the A-10 which began life as a Vietnam Skyraider replacement was -always- a lousy tank buster and remains a lousy CAS platform, with no weather penetration, limited standoff ordnance, a massive volume penalty inherent to the gun and next to zero loiter or altitude performance. When CAS was called for in OEF, it was always the Marines with their Cardinal Point system who were preferred exponents because they would run in from a FAC-A or SCARs direction and drop and come off even as the next jet was slotting into the wagon wheel. Much faster and more precise than an A-10 with direct, overhead, CAS.

An F-22 can fly legs of 600nm each at 600-700 knots which is to say, if you have a 1,200-1,500nm radius, you can make it compatible with just a few, staged, tankers and X8 GBU-53. This is _not_ possible with the wandering circus that is a Gorilla strike package, 'Navy style' with all the fixins', including SEAD, EA and Escort. As you have to literally drag them all the way there and back and minor differences in loadout, let alone platforms, make a total hash of their SFCs and necessary tanking points.


blight October 15, 2010 at 1:28 pm

The problem with that is that armored forces are expensive to train and maintain-and not all states (or combinations of states) can afford, or would be willing to pay that kind of money to do so. If anything, states have preference towards aviation units which can be useful in the disaster relief context.

You are still correct when it comes to the time lag between mobilization and deployment. However, it has been cheaper to pre-position supplies overseas and to push equipment towards the destination independently of troops, who can train in the states on one set of equipment and fly out to meet up with new equipment being shipped from pre-positioned stocks much closer. This cuts transportation costs, and also eliminates the awkward issue of shipping green trucks from the states to a desert country. I've seen the parked NG equipment that has returned from overseas return in a mixture of green and tan vehicles.


Engineer October 15, 2010 at 10:58 pm

Having spent over 20 years in the Guard, I can tell you that they have been moving toward the "Light Side" since the mid 90's. Cost of maintaining the heavy equipment is one reason, as well as the difficulty in training on the equipment close to Home Station. Most Light Infantry Battalions can train within 50 miles of their Home Station which helps. Right now the states seem to favor aviation, engineer, infantry, and MP units.


jsallison October 16, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Which, strangely enough are just the sort of units that’d be useful in civil emergencies, who’da thunk it?


STemplar October 16, 2010 at 11:01 pm

You do a swell job of insulting people here. If I am counted in such company as George Washington or Dwight Eisenhower in regards to seeing the issue of a corporate industry trying to control the agenda in Congress, and not with the likes of surly insolent folk such as yourself I think Ill sleep just fine sir.


William C. October 17, 2010 at 1:29 pm

The defense industry is not evil and has been a major player in pushing technological innovation in this country. We need the industry and what they sell, like it or not.


Mufasa October 17, 2010 at 11:45 pm

Defense corporations are not the magical gatekeepers of technological progress. They have, of course, contributed substantially, but maybe the extent to which they have is largely an artifact of the way in which our government spends money on science funding and weapons procurement rather than an intrinsic feature of reality? Within the framework of late market capitalism, getting the government to have taxpayers subsidize advanced r&d can really only be done effectively under the pretext of national defense, which (obviously) must be provided for anyway. The government cannot be active in directly developing technologies for consumer use on the scale of the assistance it currently provides to defense research. The government can't be allowed to own much capital so it can't develop technologies into products itself, and it can only develop certain technologies and release them into the public domain without stepping on toes and interfering with competition. The result of so much militarily oriented research spending is ultimately spinoff products which enjoy heavily subsidized development undertaken at relatively little risk. Insofar as this is true, it is correct to roughly equate dismantling the MIC with slowing the pace of technological development. Of course, one shouldn't limit oneself to thinking within the current framework. There are real costs to such a system, which the last decade ought to have made obvious even to Belesari. Pointing these deficiencies out and calling for a solution shouldn't automatically be taken as naivete regarding current political reality.


GatorSalior October 18, 2010 at 9:37 am

Just one question ST, if there is a zero chance of the USMC storming Iwo again why are the Chinse and Russian's building up there Amphib capabilities??

And BTW as the CNO pointed out last week since we are being kicked out of most of our foreign shore bases where is the response to a threat going to come from???? (sorry I guess it was 2 questions) The Clinton class cruise missles – Bill did love them.


Chimp October 21, 2010 at 6:20 am

That's true. However, a military is the tool you use for defeating an enemy. If you compromise on that by justifying the military in terms of its peacetime utility, you're increasing the chances that someone elses military will defeat you.

Using soldiers for civil defence is like using nuns for sex education for teenage boys. There's certainly a willingness to do the job. The skills and equipment don't match, hover.

As an aside… having spoken at length with a younger relative who serves with a LAV III unit (more or less the same as the US Stryker) in a current hotspot… "too light for combat and too heavy for hearts and minds" was his comment.


blight October 21, 2010 at 2:45 pm

The Army should consider activating more reserve divisions, then explicitly instruct reserve units to coordinate more closely with national guard units. A reserve unit is cheaper than active duty units and easier to bring up to speed than drafting regular people during wartime. That or changing high school PE to emphasize physical fitness (strength training, not just having people walk a mile in twenty minutes, which is kind of sad…), rifle and bayonet drill over basketball, and having weekend field trips to the forest for wilderness training instead of field trips to a museum.

The spartans might be vaguely pleased, but someone would be sure to complain…


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