Wednesday, April 3, 2019


The Army has determined that the replacement for the Bradley Fighting Vehicles must offer less protection than the Bradley because they require that two of the Bradley replacement vehicles fit on a single C-17 aircraft. The M2 and M3 Bradleys, although lighter than an M-1 tank, still comes in too heavy for more than one per plane. You can see where they used to advertise 2 Bradleys/C-17. We ran through the same thing with the uparmored HMMVW. Add the armor and it was a very different vehicle.

Those in a position to remember the end stages of the Bradley procurement will recall that an Air Force Colonel at the Pentagon Office of Test and Evaluation managed to convince most of the dunderheads that the Bradley must be fully fueled and armed and then shot with anti-tank weapons in order to discern whether or not the infantry/cavalry fighting vehicle was up to snuff as a tank. When the Army's Program Manager refused to go along and pointed out that the Bradley was not acquired, designed or built as a tank his objections were poo-pooed by the Colonel and Congress and much of the public as insufficiently germane.

I was a Program Manager for a Navy Patrol Boat contract many years ago and I had two pages of specifications delivered from the Pentagon office in charge of Expeditionary Warfare back then; OPNAV N85. One of the first requirements was that the boat must be air transportable on C-130 aircraft. That set the upper limits on everything about the boat from width, height, weight, etc. We demonstrated that it would fit on delivery by taking the first boat from the builder, driving it over the highways and bridges from Kingston, Canada to Fort Drum and loading it on a C-141 which has essentially the same door dimensions as a C-130.

I was not involved in the next patrol boat acquisition for the same expeditionary force which showed that the idiot in charge of that procurement left out any requirement for the boats to fit in any aircraft. When it was delivered it suffered from two major design flaws. It was too big to fit in anything the USAF flies and it wouldn't fit under normal height highway bridges which meant that quite a few had their mast and radars snapped off when they were loaded on low-boys for transport from the building yard to the end users.

When we invaded Iraq, part II, the only boats that could respond instantly were the handful I bought as PM and the remaining boats from the first patrol boat acquisition. It took almost a year to customize the third generation patrol boats to hinge the masts and get them to fit, into C-17 aircraft. They still wouldn't fit in anything older than the C-17. They were not really all that expeditionary but they did have air-conditioning!

We all know what happens every single time the people who write the Request for Proposals skimp on the necessities of modern combat. It is called creep. It's obvious that even if a vehicle is delivered that meets the criteria specified, the add-ons that make it a useful weapon system will quickly mean that it will grow too heavy to fit two on a single aircraft.

Depleting the armor on the outset is always a mistake. We saw it with HMS Hood's fate and earlier at Jutland where the Admiral in command is said to have remarked, "Chatfield, there seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today." The Royal Navy lost two of its lightly armored Battle Cruisers in the opening salvos of the battle because their armor was sacrificed for speed and left the ships and magazines vulnerable.

And we saw it with the M551 Sheridan light tanks.

You would think the army would have learned something from the past but they appear to be as resistant to the lessons of battle and history as our Navy. It was with something like awe that I witnessed NAVSEA procure additional armor, after the boats were built, for the 3rd generation patrol boats to the tune of over a $1,000,000 only to find out, too late, that if it was actually bolted onto the boats the additional topside weight would cause the boats to flip over and sink. NAVSEA is home to the only naval architects in the Navy. It's their job to run stability calculations on things we buy that float before we buy it.

We really should be designing our weapons for war rather than for our aircraft.  One admiral famously remarked that the docks and piers exist to support the fleet, not the other way around. OTOH, we always took into account the constraints of width and draft in places such as existing canals in Suez and Panama.

Do you think anybody at TRADOC is paying attention to FEDBIZOPS and things like the new future army combat vehicles?


Sea Dragon said...

We had a couple of patrol boats in Panama back in the mid 80's, each of which could be hitched to a deuce and a half with a month's supplies, driven into a C-130, and delivered anywhere the aircraft could land.

HMS Defiant said...

And that was what you could do with the next two generations of patrol boat. Obviously, Spec Boat went down a different route with the Mk III and follow on. The Mark V was airliftable but I'm not sure about the Mark III.

HMS Defiant said...

Do you recall an officer, last name Butler? He was there back then. I knew him later in the 80s.

Brig said...

I know nothing about this, but have questions (I know, what does she want now?)
Do the problems arise from the designs/engineering, or the bean counters or other factors?
Seems it would be prudent to have the designers/engineers have to actually operate (in the field) the prototype they design. Or maybe have a good ol country boy check it out. A little common sense goes a long way to mitigating trouble.

Sea Dragon said...

The name is familiar, but I can't place him...

HMS Defiant said...

It goes back to people knowing better denying reality. What they want exceeds their grasp and while we used to be better at knowing our limits and the limits of technology and industry, the people in the Pentagon are now prone to knowingly exceeding the reality and pushing the so-called envelope. They got Littoral Combat Ship of uselessness and still no mission modules to do any of the things the ship was ordered to be able to do 15 years ago.
You look at what JFK ordered as a national priority, "to put Americans on the moon in 10 years." NASA did it because it was a national priority. Without that kind of impetus and follow-up, it is always just another new version of the Emperor's New Clothes and Beggers that ride horses.
Industry is less willing to accept the onus of meeting unrealistic designs and the last one I saw get burned for it was SAIC and their Greek Olympic contract where Greek courts held them to the letter of the RFP and their proposal.

Brig said...

Thanks for the explanation.

capt fast said...

stryker is a better mission package than bradley for troop transport and scouting. they both get stuck in the mud but the stryker troops endeavour to not stick out like a sore thumb like the bradley troops do.
When you need an MBT you don't send in a bradley. the M2 has it's uses but one of those is not to fight an MBT. so, why is it armed to do that? M2 needs sensors and comms more than it needs ATGM and a turreted cannon. M1 bradley needs troop seats and space for infantry weapons more than it needs a turreted cannon. Infantry weapons are now so powerful and portable that infantry can be successful in engaging MBTs. All a turreted weapon system on an Infantry transport does is make it a bigger target. The army lost sight of the basic mission of the bradley long ago and has done it's best to screw up the stryker system.
I believe it is all about EGO on the part of army command and their desire to stuff as much varied mission capability into a platform until it is so oversized it is useless because it cannot get to the fight.
And now I see that the NAVY has these same issues. I wonder if some admiral somewhere is dreaming of the submersible nuke aircraft carrier capable of landing troops and armor on a contested beach head.

capt fast said...

at any rate, the stryker can get to the battle in better quantity and in less time than bradley. it does the mission it was designed to do and fits the concept of "air transportable" better than bradley.
Building in mission flexibility into combat vehicles really is in the broadest terms, a losing proposition. It would be likened to putting bomb racks on a F14 and sending it to put holes in mud. oh, wait. the Navy did that...

HMS Defiant said...

When you need an MBT? You tend to send what you have. Get anything hull down with the TOW or Javelin ready to kill MBT? You have a chance to stop and kill MBT. One of the things we kind of noticed a few decades ago was that we were in a serious MBT tank deficit and many of the ones we kept around (M60) were unlikely to be winners in a tank duel against the best the enemy had and there was a way to make tank killers out of other things already resident on the battlefield.

I read and enjoyed John Ringo's Centurion. If you haven't, I recommend it highly. It captures some of the essence of Strykers and the men who take them into battle. It turns out the main gun on the M2/M3 could chew the hell out of older Soviet tanks operated by Iraqis in ODS.

Yes yes, we have to avoid basing our needs/requirements on the last battle/war. I think the emphasis various non-flying and non-naval people are placing on fighting peer/near peer enemies is the right focus for training our ground forces.

The Javelin came out a few / many years after the M2 and M3 rolled out or were put out for bid as a tight set of specs. It had to ford rivers by swimming, it had to do x, y, and z. The TOWs came later. The turrets were to destroy the USSR's APCs which could purely kill the hell out of M113s all day if left to their own devices.

One of my personal bugaboos was the HMMVW. We were buying a variant for our navy purpose and traded with ARL at the Proving Grounds for some of theirs because the rear axle weight with hitch was so damned limiting. And then everyone freaked out that the soft skinned HMMVW was meat on the hoof for IEDs and Congress and everyone else freaked out that the Army was soulless enough to buy a jeep replacement just like the jeep by $60,000 more expensive/jeep replacement.

Acquisitions is about trade-offs, mutatis mutandis. Going into the DoD5000 process equipped with stupid specs in the RFP that will instantly be overwritten by those who have seen the elephant is kind of my point.

What are the missions/roles for the follow on to the M2? Is it once again waging war in an urban environment thick with IEDs and shaped charge IEDs? Is it like the Russians in Chechnya finding out their tanks are toast for molotovs dumped on the engine intake decks?

MBTs are toast for any competent Javelin team. There may no longer be much of a role for such heavy things just as their is no role for battleships anymore. I would still prefer to see some rationale for the RFP that even bothers to specify any kind of protection more enhanced than required by RPGs and AKs.

HMS Defiant said...

viz the M2/M3. The RFP was released by the Army in very early 1970 when the Fulda gap was covered by at least 7 American divisions and the British Army of the Rhine and the Germans. The IFV/CFV were part of our European based NATO forces and more would show up via REFORGER via sealift. They weren't really envisioned as an Air Expeditionary item because back then the Air Force didn't have many planes that could fly them anywhere, much less Europe and those planes would be flying tanks long before anybody thought about sending personnel carriers to Germany, Holland, Blighty.