The U.S. Army deserves a lot of credit for the way it responded to defense secretary Gates’ decision to cancel the manned vehicle portion of the Future Combat System (FCS) program. Rather than seeing the decision as a defeat, the Army stood up a special task force to rethink its approach to future conflict and in that context redefine the kind of ground combat vehicle it requires. The plan is to exploit the technological progress made by the FCS program, particularly in networking, to deliver a new vehicle class within five to seven years.
In a period of budget stringency, the Army needs a broader vehicle strategy. The Army is vehicle rich, with its current fleet of M-1 Abrams tanks, Bradley tracked fighting vehicles, Stryker wheeled fighting vehicles, uparmored Humvees, MRAPs and the new MRAP ATVs. Now add to these the new ground combat vehicle and the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle development program. Even if the new programs are successful, the Army will retain much of its current vehicle fleet for decades to come. New vehicles might be nice but it makes sense first to upgrade existing platforms, making them capable of employing advanced systems and networks.
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