The war in Iraq has made one fact clear: the U.S. Army and Marine Corps need units organized around medium armor. Light forces and vehicles are maneuverable but lack force protection and striking power. Traditional heavy forces, while providing excellent protection, are strategically ponderous, logistically expensive and largely inappropriate for peacekeeping missions. Had more medium armor been available in Iraq, American lives could have been saved.
The United States Army is poised not only to transform itself but, potentially, to write an entirely new chapter in the history of warfare. It hopes to accomplish this feat by redesigning itself into an expeditionary force capable of projecting significant land power rapidly and over long distances. One of the defining goals of defense transformation is to deploy a major warfighting force anywhere in the world within ten days, fight and win decisively in thirty days and reset the force for another contingency within another thirty days (the 10-30-30 construct). To do this, the Army must get lighter while becoming more mobile, digital, survivable and lethal. It must learn to exploit information, to operate as part of a joint force and to create new organizations and operating concepts.
One step in this process is to create a more rapidly deployable medium-weight capability in the current force. The Army did so by acquiring a wheeled vehicle, the Stryker, which would be more readily transportable than existing heavy armor and better protected than light vehicles. With ten variants, the Stryker will equip at least six Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs).
Another step is the restructuring of existing Army divisions into more modular formations based on a Unit of Action (UA). The goal is to use existing equipment and manpower to both expand the number of combat brigades in the Army from the current 33 to as many as 48, and simultaneously create brigade-size maneuver UAs that are more deployable, agile and flexible than existing brigades. Maneuver UAs plus other UAs specialized for strike, reconnaissance, support and maneuver enhancement can be organized into larger Units of Employment (UE) in any combination necessary to support a Combatant Commander’s needs.
Beyond the Stryker Brigades and the restructuring of the current force, the Army is planning to create a Future Force that will consist of relatively smaller, lightweight UAs capable of rapid deployment and a high operational tempo with significantly reduced logistical support structure. The centerpiece of the Future Force is expected to be the Future Combat System (FCS). The FCS is more than a single weapons platform and will serve more than one kind of warrior. It is an array of up to 18 platforms, manned and unmanned, ground and airborne. It is envisioned as a network-centric “system of systems” centered on a common vehicle chassis. The Army has declared that it wants the first FCS-equipped UA by 2014.
The initial draft of this paper was written by Dr. Daniel Gouré and Kenneth A. Steadman.
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