Future Combat Systems in the Crosshairs
Britain’s FRES future armored vehicle program had a full February – but May may be murder for the US Army’s $160+ billion Future Combat Systems program. News that even the promising NLOS-C mobile howitzer would break the C-130’s 20-ton cargo weight limit by a considerable margin (estimate: 27 tons, which works well in an A400M but not the C-130J) makes it clear that FCS’ armored vehicle core is unlikely to ever deliver its most important benefit: deployability. Meanwhile, bipartisan recommendations from the House Armed Services Committee propose a nearly $900 million budget cut in FY 2008, and have the US Army arguing that the future of the program is in danger.
DID’s “FCS Rolls on, Boeing Receives Another $219M” has accumulated a number of reference links to sites and articles over time, both pro and anti. Government Executive Magazine’s “Fighting Folly” falls very clearly into the “anti-FCS” category, drawing on various published sources and experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan that argue for FCS’ vision as deeply and dangerously flawed at a fundamental level:
“The most significant conceptual flaws are in three areas: the notion that near-perfect battlefield knowledge, or situational awareness, is achievable; the vulnerability of what is known as the aero-mechanization concept; and questions about the survivability of lightly armored vehicles. Much of the critique, chronicled in a series of papers approved for release by the Army, has been borne out by fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Defense journalist Stephen Trimble’s blog The DEW Line offered a good assessment. He correctly describes it as an “unusually one-sided critique,” and is critical of Grant’s lack of ink for Army, corporate or independent sources whose take on the program, aero-mechanization (whose advocates include FCS critics), et. al. might offer a countervailing view. At the same time, Grant’s research and sources do make the arguments he assembles. “Fighting Folly” is best described as a good piece of advocacy research, and the program’s advocates will have to deal with its assembled arguments as they make their case.