Tuesday, May 23, 2017, 14:39 (GMT+7)
On U.S Army's mordernization

Recently, facing the rapid changes of the world situation and the robust development of the military science and technology, there have appeared changes in the military doctrine of some countries. As for the US, the strategic emphasis is placed on the modernization of the armed forces, including the Army. This is a comprehensive renovation with huge budgets, causing international concern.

Stemming from its strategic goals, over the past years, U.S Army has undergone a major renovation program through modular systems to build “Brigade Combat Teams” and a modernization program called “Future Combat System”. This ambitious program, worth USD 230 billion, started in 2003 with the involvement of 550 contractors, aimed at synchronously modernizing forces, namely tank and armored, army tactical missile, and unmanned reconnaissance vehicles. According to the Pentagon’s report, with this renovation, the U.S Army would be lighter, more mobile, network connected and capable of engaging anywhere in the world. However, according to evaluations of strategic planners and military scholars, the modernization program of the U.S Army hasn’t met expectation. This is shown in the fact that its 8 newly developed combat vehicles have not been put into service; 43 brigade combat teams have been founded but their effectiveness has not been convincing enough. For this reason, in 2009, the “Brigade Combat Team Modernization” program was initiated to replace the “Future Combat System”.

Accordingly, equipment for U.S Army troops will be invested with focuses on weaponry, the systems of protection, information, guiding, personal and group control. For the near future, it is impossible for tank and armored force to be equipped with new weapons due to the huge budget needed. Meanwhile the “Future Combat System” program aiming to replace all M1A1, M1A2, M2A3 tanks has cost a large portion of budget but failed. Therefore, the U.S will focus on improving and upgrading the existing weapons for the tank and armored force in particular and for the Army in general.

The M1 Abrams tank of the US Army (illustrative photo)

At present, the U.S Army modernization focuses mainly on improving and upgrading the available weapon systems to increase their lifetime from 10 to 20 more years. To make the best use of its limited budget, U.S Army has applied the principle of “Supplying essential weapons and equipment for key soldiers”. Implementing this principle, the U.S Army prioritized 17 weapon systems for innovations, such as: AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, the M1 Abrams main battle tank, the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System, the Patriot surface to air missile, etc. Particularly, U.S Army identified Information Technology as the main road to improve the smartness of weapons and equipment. Accordingly, the upgradation of M1 Abrams tanks, M270 MLRS, etc has been carried out in the direction of digitization, with the supplementation of infrared sensors, global positioning systems, automatic controls. In addition, IT, guiding technology, stealth technology, and new material technology are also integrated into the existing weapon systems.

According to the Pentagon’s experts, in the modern warfare, U.S Army will involve in large scale combined forces combat with high requirements, fast changing, and unpredictable combat models. Therefore, the modernization program must aim at timely detecting the targets, quickly calculating variants to destroy the targets in the condition of continuous maneuver. To do that, U.S Army must fully explore network technology, develop the integrated recce and fire command and control system. However, recent small wars have unveiled inefficiencies of network-based C4ISR combat model. Facing the problems, the U.S Department of Defense mapped out a plan to build a global network. Accordingly, U.S Army modernization will base on the “Network Centric Warfare” doctrine and deploy the advanced communication system to gain information advantage in the battlefield. For the operational requirements, information, network, and systematization will be the main directions for developing combat equipment in order to overcome shortcomings of the available weapon and equipment systems, meeting the requirements of quick deployment of forces in the battlefield and combat. In combat, the Army will employ manned vehicles for combats at tactical and operational levels. Unmanned vehicles, such as UAV, and robots are important supplementation to bring its strength into full use. UAV will be equipped to units from platoon to company, battalion, and brigade levels.

According to the Pentagon’s plan, U.S Army will consist of 3 forces, namely: traditional force, meeting the current and future demand forces. It is anticipated that after two decades of reform, U.S Army will be a meeting future demand force by the year 2020. This force will place emphasis on mobility and speed rather than size; be easy for deployment and sustainment and depends more on stealth technology, precision guided weapon and information technology.

Besides, during the course of innovation and modernization, U.S Army also attaches importance to the enhancement of effectiveness and combat capability, research and development costs, and technical maintenance. To meet those requirements, emphasis is placed on the renewal of management and operation with the Ordnance Corps being the managerial agency. Accordingly, the upgrading process of the old weapon systems will not follow the traditional method of setting out requirements for contractors to fulfill. Instead, there will be cooperation between the Army and the contractors. Upgradation will be conducted mainly in maintenance facilities of the bases of which weapons and equipment are to be upgraded. The biggest advantage of this method is that it can utilize all technical force and available equipment of the Army, leverage the knowledge and skills of facilities to reduce costs and risks during the upgradation. Also through this way, soldiers will grasp the structure and principles of weapons and equipment as well as the maintenance experience so that they can enhance their maintenance skills in combat condition.

In general, the US Army modernization is done in three aspects. First, in concept, network centric warfare will be the mainstream, basing on the advanced information technology to gain initiative in the battlefield. Second, utilizing the application of new and high technologies, studying and manufacturing the “system inside the system” in integrated types; combining manned and unmanned systems; creating advantage capabilities of the Army in the areas of surveillance and reconnaissance, command and controll, maneuver, attack, fire support, logistics, and maintenance, etc to solve the problems of combat capability and modernization trend of the U.S Army in the next 20 years. Third, attaching importance to the spiral incremental accumulation; basing on experience withdrawn from training, reality of the combat field, technical maintenance costs to make corresponding adjustments. This is an ambitious program of the Pentagon in order to gain overwhelming capabilities for its Army and sustain its military superpower in the world. However, regarding its huge expenses and the stagnation of the U.S economy, the modernization program is facing severe objection right in the U.S. International opinion holds that the U.S Army modernization program not only triggers a new arm race globally but also pushes international security into an unpredictable future.

Senior Colonel Dang Dong Tien

General Department of Technique

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