Saturday, February 23, 2013

Military roundup


TARDEC: Army must re-think doctrine to cut vehicle weights | Defense Tech:

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DefenseTech.org has a brief article up, which touches on the internal debate about the weight of the Army's future combat vehicle fleet.

It's more than a little depressing that we're still having a debate at this point. Over the past thirteen years successive visions have come and gone, along with platforms that never got past their costly design phases. The netcentric Force Twenty One update of the Cold War Army was unilaterally scrapped by Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki in favor of an all wheeled medium-weight future. Which was shot down early in its transition in favor of the more balanced and drone-friendly Future Combat Systems. Which was scrapped after its various sub programs took on lives of their own and costs spiraled out of control.

Wash, rinse, and discard.

The Army has gained invaluable experience in counter insurgency, special operations, and light infantry operations this past decade. It's successfully introduced numerous improvements in the spheres of body armor, soldier carried weapons, sensors, and battlefield networking equipment. All the same, those years have largely been an expensive wasteland of missed opportunities when it comes to developing a replacement for our legacy vehicle force. One that could have leveraged the most promising technologies that emerged during the late 90s and 2000s.

The fact that we're also still debating the weight of the future vehicle fleet is maddening...err...interesting. There are some obvious potential benefits in attempting to reduce the weight of the force. The Army's heavily armored vehicles like the Abrams and Bradly may provide considerable survivability in the face of heavy fire, but that protection costs. Keeping armor functional in the field carries a hefty logistical and monetary price.

On flip side, the future of force-on-force combat looks to be urban. While counter insurgency operations have generally demanded lots of boots on the ground, cultural knowledge, and social mapping, big kinetic clashes from Grozny, to Palestine, to Second Fallujah have all take place in cities, and they were won by the heavy combined arms team of tanks and mechanized infantry. The ability to absorb hits at short range in restricted terrain and deal out devastating responses have been key when facing large number of combatants close in. Likewise, the heavy use of roadside bombs in Afghanistan and Iraq saw a considerable up-armoring of the Army and Marine's light vehicle fleets in an attempt to protect soldiers and Marines from increasingly powerful IEDs.

Me? I suspect that the future is as mixed as the present. Stealthy medium-weight vehicles in the countryside, linked to gestalts of sensor systems and armed with weapons that are both long-ranged and frighteningly accurate. At the same time there will be heavy gun platforms and robust infantry fighting vehicles for combat in dense terrain and built-up areas.



The Evolution of Irregular War | Foreign Affairs:

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Foreign Affairs has an excellent long-form article on the evolution of geruilla / insurgency warfare. One that takes a long view across the breadth of history and pre-history. The author does a great job of considering issues from nomads versus agrarian states, to  the late 1800s emergence of nationalism, public opinion as a force to be reckoned with, and communications technologies from the printing press onward.

Dystopias 

The next Future Dystopias article is now a work in progress. Midterms have come and gone, As and a B have been scored, so now it's time to get some more blogging  and futurism before the school term enters into it's home stretch.

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