The United States Army is at a crossroads when the Pentagon focuses on fighting a strong and powerful adversary after nearly two decades of conflict against insurgencies in the Middle East.
Russia is a traditional challenge for the United States Army, with its large mechanized formations that threaten the Baltic, as well as formidable long-range ballistic missiles, artillery and ground-to-air missiles.
On the contrary, a hypothetical conflict with China will focus on the control of maritime and airspace over the Pacific Ocean.
To remain relevant, the army will need to deploy long-range anti-ship missiles and helicopters in remote islands, allied states such as Japan and South Korea, and even on the deck of U.S. Navy ships.
Almost all major army ground war systems were put into operation in the 1980s or earlier. Five ambitious programs to replace armored troop vehicles, artillery and obsolete helicopters required $ 30 billion to achieve impressive failure.
For example, in 2017, the army formed eight multifunctional teams led by brigadier generals to quickly develop a new generation of equipment at the lowest cost. These powerful modernization initiatives are collectively referred to as “the big six.”
Long range precision fire (artillery)
The United States Army was known for its generous, rapid and accurate use of artillery support during World War II. However, in recent conflicts, the US military has increasingly resorted to precision airstrikes.
But reserve air support would be far from being able to find a partner with a formidable air defense capability. In fact, long-range missiles and artillery attacks may be necessary to destroy the air defense “slamming the door” of the anti-aircraft power.
Half a dozen projects aimed at providing precise attacks by land to targets located tens or hundreds of kilometers away.
To begin, the army plans to upgrade its M109 Paladin M109 tank shells from the 1960s with long range Extend Range guns , increasing the normal firing range to 43 miles and possibly even with piston guns, increasing the range to 81 miles.
Another artillery support, the truck-based M270 and a smaller M142 rocket launch system, will have a long-range missile that will double its range to 93 miles.
In addition, its ability to launch a large 180-mile ATACMS tactical missile will be replaced by two smaller 310-mile precision impact missiles capable of reaching moving targets (ships).
After the attempted destruction of the improvised explosive device, the army is developing even more long-range weapons: a hypersonic missile with a range of 1,499 miles, which can be extremely difficult to defend and has deadly capabilities against ships, and a strategic cannon long-range giant, which should have a range of 1,000 miles.
Next generation combat vehicles (armored vehicles)
The army’s second priority is to replace the M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, which are increasingly vulnerable and of low power.
In 2018, the army decided to continue improving the Bradley engine, but canceled the replacement of the tower.
Instead, look for a combat vehicle (OMFV) capable of transporting larger units, an automatic 30-50 mm cannon (Bradley has a 25 mm cannon), as well as new missiles and active protection systems. Raytheon/Rheinmetall Lynx, General Dynamics Griffon III and BAE CV-90 Mark IV are currently in competition.
The independent Mobile Protected Firepower program is looking for a fast and transportable light tank. Currently, it is planned to use a dozen 105 mm M8 Bufordov armor cannons against Griffin II tanks equipped with 120 mm guns.
The army has also begun to buy Bradleys without turret for use as a multipurpose armored vehicle, replacing the old armored M113 troop vehicles in auxiliary functions such as military equipment, general transport, ambulances, command posts and mortar transport.
And some of its Stryker APC wheels receive dragon towers with 30mm cannons and Javelyn anti-tank missiles to give lighter vehicles the chance to fight the mechanized forces of the enemy.
The army is also installing active defensive Trophy and Iron Fist systems in the Abrams and Bradley tanks . They detect incoming missiles and block or shoot them down before attacking. Because long-range anti-tank missiles destroyed hundreds of tanks during the Middle East wars, including Abrams, a Saudi-controlled missile, the APS can significantly increase survival.
Future vertical elevation (aviation)
Helicopters are essential for the battlefield and operational mobility; however, they are also expensive, relatively slow (150 to 200 miles per hour), short range and vulnerable to enemy fire.
The Army is waiting for a radical new “Future Vertical Elevation” system to eventually replace its more than two thousand medium-sized Blackhawk helicopters and its heavily armed and armored Apache ships.
Two innovative flight prototypes are competing. The Bell V-280 Valor is an airplane with a tilt rotor: it can turn its engines from a helicopter to a configuration similar to an airplane.
The Bell V-280 Value more complex and expensive would probably count with greater speed (320 miles per hour) and range.
The Sikorsky SB-1 Defiant is a composite helicopter with two blades of counter rotation one on top of the other and a thrust rotor.
Defiant is probably better in low-speed maneuvers in the style of a helicopter, at the expense of speed and fuel efficiency.
The Army also withdrew its last OH-58 scouting helicopters in 2015, only to discover that the Apache helicopters were a poor replacement. As a result, the Army is looking for an agile exploration helicopter.
New unified network
The Army would like a new unified, deployable Command, Control, Communication and Intelligence (C3I) network in the field that links its ground war systems .
The last attempt to establish such a network, called WIN-T, was canceled after spending $ 6 billion due to its vulnerability to electronic warfare and cyber warfare. In 2014, the Army observed how Russian forces jammed, hacked and geographically located the Ukrainian nodes of command and control, and even attacked them with lethal attacks.
The Army intends to buy as much software as possible to avoid spending years and dollars on the construction of a new system from scratch. The new network must be standardized but modular, transportable and cybersecurity.
A separate team of “ Navigation in secured position and timing ” is developing redundant navigation aids so that ground forces function smoothly in circumstances of GPS denial, in particular through the use of “pseudo-satellites” deployed on land or air .
Air and missile defense
In the last half century, the courtesy of the US Air Force’s air supremacy. UU. It has reduced the demands of the Army’s land air defenses, which have been greatly reduced. However, the new threats posed by drone attacks and the proliferation of ballistic and cruise missiles have made the reconstruction of the air defense branch a high priority .
The Army is currently focusing on the “Short Range Air Defense Maneuver,” vehicles that accompany frontline troops to shoot down low-altitude threats.
The Army plans to launch 8 x 8 Strykers armed with Stinger and Hellfire missiles, anti-drone interference and thirty-millimeter cannons.
It is also a provisional system of Israeli Iron Dome missile systems, whose ammunition could be adapted to the Multiple Missions Launcher.
The Army is also developing a 100 KW laser mounted on a vehicle that could be used to burn sky drones profitably .
For the broadest air defense, instead of developing new missiles, the Army is spending billions of dollars to improve its existing Patriot and THAADS systems by joining its dispersed radars and fire control systems into an Integrated Command System Battle of Air Defense and Missile (IBCS) network.
The soldiers’ milk
Melee infantrymen represent only 4 percent of army personnel, but have suffered 90 percent of victims in conflicts since 2001. The “Soldiers Mortality” initiative is divided into two teams.
One focuses on improving “human” factors using more realistic training simulators and retaining noncommissioned officers and experienced officers through better benefits and incentives.
The other team plans to acquire assault rifles and “New Generation” light machine guns , probably using the 6.5-millimeter Creedmoor round, which is considered to have superior penetration power compared to the armor. The Army is also designing an infantry ” Head’s Up Display ” screen with integrated night vision, and tactical data, and with a view.
The Army is killing or reducing 186 old programs and acquisitions, including reducing the size of CH-47F heavy transport helicopters and replacement orders from JLTV Humm-Vee, to ensure that the 31 Big Six initiatives receive a goal of 33,000 million dollars in financing until 2024.
To avoid the dramatic previous failure of “superprograms” such as the Future Combat System, the Army plans to adopt ready-to-use solutions whenever possible, and test numerous projects operatively before deciding which ones deserve funding for their large-scale development and production.
Time will tell if the army’s new approach, seemingly more agile, will dodge the bullets that brought down previous modernization efforts.