According to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the Department of Defense will pursue strategic and force planning “to assure that the U.S. invests in the force for the future to assure that we have the necessary margin of safety needed in the 21st Century, while, at the same time, assuring the ability to deal with likely threats in the nearer term.” If the proper portfolio of U.S. military capabilities is developed and sustained, potential adversaries may be dissuaded from developing dangerous new capabilities.
What kind of capabilities does Rumsfeld have in mind? The desired investment portfolio includes some areas that push the boundaries of modern science such as space control, missile defense, information operations, and unmanned vehicles. Other areas, perhaps less technically daunting, still require major investments. These include intelligence, precision strike, strategic mobility, command, control, communication and information management, logistics, and strategic mobility, among others.
Fortunately, as the Secretary’s strategic review has shown, there are a number of promising candidate systems that could provide the needed margin of safety while substantially enhancing near-term capability. One of the foremost of these is the Comanche. Officially, the Comanche is planned to be the U.S. Army’s next-generation armed reconnaissance helicopter. But it is much more than its mission description suggests. Due to its stealthiness, maneuverability, technological sophistication and digitization, it will be the world’s most advanced helicopter. As a “system-of-systems,” the Comanche will possess a unique combination of attributes, advanced tactical intelligence, tremendous precision strike, enhanced C4, and great strategic mobility.
Its designation as an armed reconnaissance helicopter means that the Comanche can fight as well as gather intelligence and scout for the Army’s primary attack helicopter, the Apache. It is planned to carry up to 14 Hellfire anti-ta.nk missiles, 56 70mm rockets or 28 Stinger air-to-air missiles. The weapons are carried in a retractable launcher to maintain the Comanche’s stealth profile. It will operate with a set of advanced sensors, including second-generation forward-looking infrared (FLIR) sensor, low-light-level television, laser ranger/designator, and millimeter wave radar. The combination of these digital sensors with powerful computers and software and advanced weapons means that the Comanche will be able to track, recognize, target and strike adversaries long before they are aware of the Comanche’s presence.
The Comanche will provide unparalleled combat capability on the battlefield. It also manifests many of the characteristics of desired future capabilities identified by the Secretary. Acquiring the Comanche is one way that Secretary Rumsfeld and the U.S. Army can provide that portfolio of investments needed to ensure the margin of safety for the U.S. in the 21st Century.
Dr. Goure is a Senior Fellow with the Lexington Institute.
Find Archived Articles: