A US soldier sits on the top of M109A6 P

Sometimes dark clouds really do have silver linings. The winding down of two wars and the automatic spending cuts called sequestration have been brutal for the Army budget. The service recently had to cancel its top-priority weapons program, the tank-like Ground Combat Vehicle. But even if sequestration continues, said one leading analyst, ground vehicle spending has at the very least bottomed out — and it may well rebound impressively.

“Hey, there’s actually kind of a little growth profile, and actually a pretty robust growth profile if that plan can get achieved,” said Byron Callan, defense analyst at Capital Alpha Partners LLC. The budget the president submitted earlier this month — which relies on a politically unlikely roll-back of the sequester — would increase ground vehicle spending from $1.5 billion in 2015 to $5.5 billion in 2019. Realizing even a fraction of that planned growth would be great news for the Army and the industrial base.

In fact, the Ground Combat Vehicle’s cancellation may have been a blessing in disguise, because the Army sacrificed the controversial GCV to free up funds for other, more modest programs. As Callan put it to me this morning, “instead of the turkey, you’ve got a lot of sparrows, and maybe turkeys are easier to shoot at than sparrows.”

The Army no longer has one “big, iconic program” with the sort of big, iconic problems that have led to a 15-year string of failures: the sheer weight both of the freshly killed Ground Combat Vehicle and of the Crusader artillery vehicle cancelled way back in 2002; the complexity and cost both of the Comanche helicopter, cancelled in 2004, and of the Future Combat System, killed in 2009.

Instead, said Callan, “they just kind of redistributed” the money. First, just as the Army took the savings from canceling Comanche and reinvested them in modernizing existing helicopters, they’re using the savings from GCV to upgrade existing vehicles: the M1 Abrams main battle tank, the M2 Bradley troop carrier, and the M109 Paladin artillery vehicle.

“It’s not a lot of money for new-vehicle build,” Callan said, but “it’ll keep the depots busy” — (always popular with Congress) as well as the BAE facility in York, Penn., which works on M2 and M109. (The Army has proposed temporarily shutting down the government-owned, General Dynamics-operated M1 tank plant in Lima, Ohio, but Congress roundly rejected the idea).

Second, the Army is still buying two new vehicles, and while they’re less ambitious, costly, and politically vulnerable than GCV was, they are still big potential prizes for whichever company wins them. “The two jump balls are AMPV [the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle] and the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle [JLTV],” Callan said.

AMPV is a tracked support vehicle to replace an array of aging mobile command posts, armored ambulances, and the like that are built on the Vietnam-vintage M113 chassis. The only two competitors are BAE Systems and General Dynamics Land Systems, both of whose ground-vehicle sectors have suffered what Callan calls “eye-popping rates of decline,” even by defense industry standards. With AMPV estimated at an $11.7 billion procurement — much of that to be spent after sequestration ends — it’s “an absolute must-win,” he said.

“AMPV is kind of BAE’s to lose,” said Callan. BAE’s proposal is basically a less heavily-armed version of its current Bradley, which would let the Army share parts and maintenance personnel across a wide portion of its armored vehicle fleet, especially since the upgraded M109 Paladin uses Bradley components as well. General Dynamics had proposed a tracked version of its eight-wheel-drive Stryker vehicle, as we reported in 2012, but there’s been almost no news of that initiative since.

By contrast, the uparmored Humvee replacement known as Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is wide open. The stakes vary widely among the three different competitors. For aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, winning JLTV would be nice. For truck company Oshkosh, it would be important to sustaining the military side of their business. For Humvee manufacturer AM General, it’s do or die.

Whatever happens with sequestration, Callan told me he can’t see the ground combat vehicle budget going even lower: “There’s some growth. It’s just a question of what,” he said.

Ultimately, the defense budget has to fund a modern armored force alongside sexier high-tech programs like cyberwarfare, submarines, missiles, and lasers, Callan said: “I just don’t think all our military problems can be solved by air and naval power.”


  • Gary Church

    “-a 15-year string of failures-”

    The worst failure of all being the IED scandal in Iraq that ended Rummies racket and the recent inability to simply convert a tank chassis into a heavy infantry transport like the IDF Namer.

    “-The Army has proposed temporarily shutting down the government-owned, General Dynamics-operated M1 tank plant in Lima, Ohio, but Congress roundly rejected the idea-”

    An Army that wants to STOP building tanks is a HUGE red flag. Heavy armor and twenty something infantrymen are….what an army is.

    Two other countries have fielded Counter Defilade Target Engagement (CDTE) Systems while our program lags and we have the same dirty service weapon we had half a century ago (except for special forces that buy their own HK 416’s).

    Our general officers seem unable to do their jobs – and continue to be involved in scandals. We are like the largest banana republic on earth. So many officers it just…….. unbelievable.

    • Paul

      Agreed 100%, I cannot believe the number of needed projects that after billions of dollars and years being invested, usually just as they have been proven and are ready to enter production, get cancelled. They then get replaced with a new project that is meant to be cheaper and faster to develop but inevitably fails after costing more than the original project would have cost had it gone into production. Crusader and Comanche come to mind, the MRLS chassis based command vehicle and the M-8 Burfort light assault gun. Where would the US Army be now if these projects had gone into production. A long range fully networked 52 calibre (as opposed to the 39cal on the M-109) heavy SPG providing overwatch, a powerful, survivable, fully networked well armed scout helo providing ISR and CAS, a modern fully networked ACV, a light, mobile, fully networked, direct fire support platform providing close support for light forces. Nah wouldn’t need them the old existing stuff will work just fine, even though it didn’t in the past which is why there were new projects!
      Then there is the blindingly obvious XM-8 family of weapons, lighter more accurate, short stroke gas piston, design form the outset for different barrel lengths and integrating accessories. The story goes a soldier in Afghanistan asks Rummie during one of his visits when they are going to start seeing this new weapon they have heard is so much better then the M-16 and Rummie had never heard of it, he gets back to the states, looks into it and cancels the entire project.
      Armour saves lives, tanks save lives and having a suitable vehicle to move infantry to where they need to go to do their job saves lives. Cannot for the life of me understand why the US didn’t have a look at the Namer and design something similar using as many M1 components as possible and put it in production new hull, switch the power pack and drive to the front, fit the latest electo-optical gear for all round vision for the crew and passengers, a couple of RCS and off you go a world beating AFV.
      On the generals, it may not be that they are more prone to scandal but rather there are so many more of them than there used to be that there are simply a lot more scandals to get found out.

      • madskills

        As a person who served in Vietnam with the 11th ACR, I get worried when we lose our focus. Why we still use an m-16 when the m-14 was better even then. As someone who road in acavs and other vehicles, they were simple stupid weapons. Think, tracked, armored, big engine, machine guns and protection with speed(plus 40 mph), and don’t forget light. And people need to realize we used m-48 tanks because m-60s were too heavy. Make sure whatever the weapon system is chosen can do its job and can be used in all theaters(not just in industrial country roads but also dessert and jungle environments), and is light enough to transport in bulk.

        • Gary Church


          The news is not all bad; we are getting some good stuff. The grenades these things use has a very tiny fuse taking up room in it so it is several times more powerful than the one used in Vietnam.

          • Gary Church

            Marines are all such good shots. How do they do it? Most infantrymen I knew in the army could not hit the side of a barn. But that was in 1980- I have been told they are much better now.

          • madskills

            Gary, did you read about buying I think it is Swedish recoil-less rifles. The weapons we had couldn’t shoot as long as what the Taliban had except for I think it was the Javelin at $90,000 per shot. $90,000!!!!! Incredible…

          • Gary Church
          • Gary Church

            Yeah- those grenade launchers are really useful because they are high angle weapons- your own baby mortar to drop bombs on people behind a hill or building or whatever- but they do not have much range. The RPG does reach out farther than our equivalent rocket launchers so they needed something to match it and the Carl Gustav was it.

        • Tholzel

          “Why we still use an m-16 when the m-14 was better even then. ”

          Because the Army accountants knew that being able to carry 30 rounds at the weight to 20 and have them shoot out faster must be good! And to insure that the M-16 won the shoot-off, the manufacture chrome-plated the breech to prevent jamming–a very expensive process. of course as soon at the contract was won, the chrome-plating went out the window, as evidenced by so many dead Marines lying next to their jammed M-16s.

          • madskills

            I heard about the weight. When I first got one to train with, seemed like a great weapon, until you had to clean them with all those wheels…. And then there was the powder issue which increased friction. It has been a bad weapon for 50 years, but politics and Colt keep it around.

          • Gary Church

            Not quite the story I read in the book “Misfire.” The gun never had a chrome bore originally. Our forces in Vietnam were up against the AK-47 and the South Vietnamese soldiers were not doing well with the M-14. Because the AK-47 had a chrome bore it was proposed to copy this (because it made a gun so much more reliable). But McNamara’s boys decided it was not worth the money and did not chrome the bore. The Army had a contract for “ball” powder and would not use the cleaner IMR powder the gun was designed for. By regulation the weapons had to be test-fired before going overseas into combat but many failed to pass using the ball powder ammo. So the Army used their remaining stocks of original IMR ammo from trials to test fire them while issuing ball powder overseas. Criminal.
            The original weapon the Special Forces endorsed used cleaner powder and was of course well cared for by the Green Berets. The South Vietnamese troops they were leading on combat patrols survived far better in firefights with the M-16 than with the M-14. But it was a fragile weapon and prolonged hard service with the wrong ammo made it unreliable. It has since been improved of course but the original gas system- designed to avoid any patent infringement more than any performance concern- is still “dirty.” And that is the quick and dirty story of the M-16.

      • Gary Church

        The problem with powerful people is they have been following a very exact plan for a long time to get to where they are; they have to be in control. Any change rattles them and they usually react by stopping it from happening if they can. I have seen it over and over. Change is bad. Change is risky. Stick to the plan. So when something get’s a head of steam and starts rolling (usually because there is money to be made) then it is almost impossible to stop it. That does not stop people from “modifying” the original idea (notice I did not say change- change is bad). So most ideas start out not because they solve a problem but because they will make money. Then the idea gets modified in committee and even if there was some good to it that usually does away with it. And last, like I said, once everyone is invested in it then any change is not acceptable. Some ideas start out good and get ruined. Some ideas are not good to start with and enough money gets thrown at them to make them seem to work- usually not very well. Some ideas could start everyone thinking about changing other things and get shouted down; those are usually good ideas to fix previous bad ideas. Just my two cents after seeing a couple dozen assorted military machines enter service over the last couple decades.

    • Gregory Dittman

      Heavy armor is still shipped the old fashion way and it still has terrain flaws (The T-90 overheats in India’s climate and the rugged terrain and far off location of Afghanistan prevents a lot of use from heavy armor which is confined to dirt roads) and logistical upkeep problems. Also heavy armor is very likely to become obsolete in the future if the enemy has Javelin like missiles or shape charged anti tank mines (especially devices that can be triggered and then shot from a distance which would go off before they were detected).

      The U.S. army now wants an armored troop transporter that can be quickly transported, but that was the original concept of the Stryker, but the added armor to prevent crew damage from IEDs quickly prevented that vehicle from being used in that way. That is why the army ended up with a wheeled (because wheeled vehicles are lighter than tread vehicles) over weight (due to extra armor added later) and top heavy vehicle. My guess is no such vehicle can exist due to the armor weight that will ultimately be used on the next vehicle.

      • Gary Church

        “-heavy armor is very likely to become obsolete in the future-”

        Don’t think so. Body armor was obsolete and now it is back, warships carry no armor now and they are missile fodder. If any ship has a chance against missiles it is one with battleship armor but the cost of making foot thick ship armor was high and there are no factories that can do it now.

        Wheeled vehicles and tracked vehicles are two separate categories of vehicles- like airplanes and helicopters. One cannot do what the other does. Discussing them like they are interchangeable is not accurate. Only caterpillar tracks can travel over ‘terrain.” Wheels have very limited mobility even with no armor.

        Armor is expensive and going cheap has left ships and vehicles vulnerable. We seem to just ignore that ships and vehicles can carry heavy armor and be far less vulnerable. The warheads used now to penetrate composite tank armor do not mean they are suddenly naked; they are still very survivable against all the other weapons in use like auto cannons, artillery, and IEDs.

    • Truthiness

      “An Army that wants to STOP building tanks is a HUGE red flag.”

      Not when those brand new tanks are going straight to Sierra Army Depot to rot in the desert. Lima is geographic welfare for the next few years.

      • Gary Church

        The army is top heavy with officers- way top heavy. I would guess you can have at least two enlisted for what one officer costs. Infantry and tanks are what an army fights with- everything else is a lower priority; and at under ten million each the M-1 is by far the very best dollar that can be spent on defense. If the tanks are rotting in the desert with no crews then I would say it is a red flag.

        • Tholzel

          It’s not just the cost of the huge number of flag officers, it’s that they fight like crazy to seem relevant–0which means sticking their noses in where they aren’t wanted, demanding to micro-manage things they have little first-hand knowledge of, etc., etc.

  • bobbymike34

    In these budget times each service should have funds for modernizing existing weapons, funds to build prototypes with radical new technologies and funds to explore different operational concepts (like a Javelin, CKEM or Hellfire equipment UGV like Crusher or a Stryker with the entire rear area devoted to vertically launched N-LOS). You have to increase firepower while lowering manpower requirements IMHO.
    Most Army vehicles remain the best in the world and should remain that way with modernization but we must continue to explore the cutting edge of ‘what is possible’ to avoid strategic surprise

    • Gary Church

      People generally have very little understanding of how effective tanks are. One reason is that there is no room for passengers or even a back seat ride like in a jet fighter. Another reason is it is an enlisted man’s world as officers do not have the time or inclination to become qualified as a tank commander. Yet another reason is that tanks require alot of back breaking crew maintenance on the tracks and when they are out in the field they are off the road and people sightseeing in wheeled vehicles do not see them.

      So the temptation is to ignore the 100 years of evolution that has gone into how a tank fights and come up with off-the-top-of-the-head gizmos that are miraculously superior and can replace tanks. A tank crew is team of 4 men (3 in tanks designs with auto-loaders) that functions as the top predator on the battlefield- a killing machine that combines the armor of a fortified emplacement, the off road capability of caterpillar tracks, communications, artillery, machine guns, and sensors. They never travel alone and work as a team. In combat when a tank get’s hit and cannot move the crew “bail’s out” and whatever hit them gets blasted by the other tanks- and they continue to advance. The damaged tanks are recovered later, repaired, and returned to action. Tanks can open up with their machine guns with other tanks in the line of fire and not worry about it- in fact they will “clean off the deck” of another tank if they see enemy infantry climbing on it. Barricades will not stop them- they bust through or climb over and small buildings are no problem either. They will run over enemy equipment like heavy machine guns, mortars, and other weapons to destroy them, and they do all kinds of other clever things because armor guys will think about what is going in a battle.

      Officers do not like armor in my experience (unless they are armor officers). They don’t like how much fuel they burn or how they tear up the roads and many other things. But there is no substitute and that is why they remain. Take a look at this video and you may better appreciate my points.


      • mail33006


        Excellent post. You left out one thing, though, which is the psychological effect of the arrival of a tank ( or even worse- a LOT of them) on the battlefield. My buddy in Afghanistan is probably one of the few soldiers in either theater who had the misfortune of being directly engaged by an enemy tank. T55’s belonging to the local warlord arrived and started shooting up the town and their arrival completely scattered and dispersed the SF team they were working with. Even the most disciplined infantry quails at the sight of 60 ton monsters bearing down on them faster than their Humvee can take them in the other direction. And I don’t care what miracle anti-tank weapon you may have on your shoulder- it takes balls of steel to engage one of them, knowing that firing your weapon may instantly reveal your position and expose you to immediate lethal return fire.

        Those who relegate tanks to the scrap yard have probably never faced one.

        • Gary Church

          Thanks. Yeah, tanks are bullies and never show up alone. Shoot something at one and the other ones kill you. That is why they work so well. But they are penultimate; second most important. They are only there to allow the infantry to take and hold the ground. Without enough infantry the armor have no job. They need to pay those SF guys more.

          • http://ndp.ca joudoos

            But who needs the old tired A10’s without VSTOL?
            Perhaps the F35 ‘s can stealth the tanks into submission?

  • Gary Church

    With about 8700 M-1 tanks in U.S. service it might be wise for those commenting to understand that the Main Battle Tank and it’s four man crew is the second most important fighting system our country possesses. The most important is of course the infantry squad which consists of half a dozen (give or take one or two) enlisted infantrymen and their sergeant who tells them who to kill. If I recall only about 10% of our million army members are infantrymen. If that figure holds true for the Marine Corps with it’s 230,000 then we have very approximately about 120,000 riflemen along with the 35,000 armor guys in those 8700 tanks to fight with.

    To round it up in the most general terms, 150,000 troops and 10,000 armored vehicles are the tip of the spear we would use to fight a war with. This is what would do almost all the fighting and dying on the ground going head to head with the enemy. If I had to name a third most important resource it would be the transport helicopter fleet, the two most important models being the Blackhawk and the Chinook. A couple thousand of these would move troops and supplies around the battlefield but not directly engage in battle.
    And that is it. Everything else is up for discussion but IMO this is what we will fight our enemies with tomorrow and we better have them ready now.

    • Gary Church

      To put this in perspective there are approximately 760,000 state and local police officers (armed and authorized to arrest) and 120,000 federal law enforcement officers in the United States. Or about a million cops with guns. Yet we pay immense sums of money- mountains of treasure are expended- to put far fewer soldiers on the battlefield. Most of the money is spent on ships, planes, missiles, and paying the officer corps. Not to say that officers do not fight. Some of them do- But most of them don’t, as the number of officers killed in combat compared to enlisted proves. Many service members who are not infantry or armor are also killed in action. Many are killed in accidents that are not combat but are of course combat related. I have seen enough accidents and injuries due to fatigue and overwork to understand that.
      My point is that when we pay so much money we should be getting so much more. A trillion dollars(!) projected over the next 50 years JUST for the F-35 program. Something is wrong.

      • Gary Church

        And if you are wondering why I am making such a big deal out of infantrymen- it is because of a couple factors that are always overlooked. The first problem is that these guys have to be twenty somethings to be really effective; it is the reason car insurance goes down when young men turn 26. By the time you are 30 the mindset that you can fight and not eventually get killed is about gone. Not making a moral judgement here, just calling it like it is. The second problem is that after about 100 days under fire a soldier loses effectiveness permanently. They can still sometimes fight but not nearly as well as they did before. It is cumulative psychological wear and tear well documented in world war two. And last- in every major conflict we have always come up way short of infantrymen and had to throw in poorly trained replacements for the ones we use up. And they get used up quick. So while it is great for the defense industry to make all this money on cold war toys it is not going to help us win a hot one. We should be spending most of the money on the weapon that yields the lowest profit margin (infantry) instead of those that produce the biggest shareholder checks.

  • veeee7

    From a more lofty perspective, how do you all see events in the Ukraine affecting the path current budget talks? We know that the solons @ Defense must have assumed there would NEVER be another armor-heavy war ANYWHERE but look what is spearheading neo-Soviet moves right now into Crimea and Donets (how do you say “Shock and awe in Russian?). Might they want to (1) revisit Army programs that might be relevant and (2) reverse their suicidal plans for the A-10 in an armor heavy environment like Europe?

    • Gary Church

      Using the A-10 in a MANPADS heavy environment like Europe IS suicidal; for the A-10s.

  • Gary Church

    From wiki (edited by me): General Dynamics is offering the Tognum
    America/12V883 diesel engine with new Diehl 570P3 tracks. The engine – has greater torque, –
    uses less fuel while idle, and gives off significantly less
    heat-. Incorporating the diesel engine into the Abrams
    would – increase its operating range from 205 miles to 300+
    miles, and use half the amount of fuel on a combat day than the turbine
    engine. The tracks are a version of the Leopard 2’s tracks with
    different rubber pads and a larger center guide. The improved engine and
    tracks are not part of an Army upgrade program, but may be included in a
    near-term engineering change proposal (ECP) phase.[67][68]

    The M-1 has been in need of a different powerplant from day 1. It also needs an infantry transport version on the same lines as the IDF namer. Unfortunately this is not as easy as it sounds because the Namer has the engine in the front which facilitates a rear door.

    The GCV program was an inexcusable blunder. It reminds me of the DIVAD program when I entered the army in 1980. The soviets had their ZSU series of VERY EFFECTIVE automatic cannon mounted on a tracked chassis and you would think we would be able to match that; the program was a disaster and was canceled. After the IED experience it is glaringly obvious we need a heavy infantry transport- the Israeli’s have been using older converted main battle tank chassis since the 80’s.

    No excuse.

  • Van Zan

    Wouldn’t it be prudent to separate the infantry transport role from the
    fighting vehicle to improve both pieces of equipment? It would seem
    like building a transport that could get it’s riders from A to B safely, that doesn’t have to mount the kind of weaponry an IFV currently does (putting more weight into safety and survivability), while also developing a separate vehicle
    whose sole purpose was to protect the soldiers en-route and to support
    them once on the scene would be far more beneficial and cheaper than developing a
    vehicle that tries to do it all, at least from the perspective of compromised designs. Perhaps a BMPT type vehicle on an M1 chassis, if not an entirely new design to fill that space where Abrams from one side and Bradley/Stryker from the other are less than desirable and/or effective.

    • Gary Church

      “-separate the infantry transport role from the
      fighting vehicle to improve both pieces of equipment?”

      The key word in your comment is “role.” There really is no such thing as roles played in a game called war. The only thing that matters is the reality of what works because war is not really a game. We may call it a game but that is just a way to understand it. The ultimate piece of “equipment” is the H-bomb. But if all that is left is radioactive rubble that is self-defeating. At the other end of the spectrum is political power flowing from the barrel of a gun; someone with a gun taking possession of your property. What soldiers call owning a piece of ground.
      In between the mushroom cloud and the foreigner pointing a pistol at you is everything else. What makes Bradleys and Strykers and all these “players” less than adequate is not only what can kill them but what they cannot kill quite as well in return. Tanks have always suffered defeat against determined defenses from their beginning in World War One when special artillery units with armor piercing ammunition were fielded against them. The Germans made them famous in World War Two but also were ultimately bled white against massive Soviet anti-tank defense networks. But a bunch of infantry with tanks is still the most effective way to take and own ground on most of the populated surface of this planet. You just have to have more infantry and armor than the other side and/or use them better. Everything else on and above the battlefield drives the tip of that infantry/armor spear.

      • Gary Church

        While most of the armchair admirals would rather debate aircraft carriers and fighter planes on this forum I expect some comments about ATGW (anti-tank guided weapons is the acronym I guess but originally I think it stood for anti-tank guided-wire). MANPADS and ATGW are both very valuable infantry weapons but they probably are not going make warplanes and main battle tanks obsolete anytime soon. They do however make it probable that drones will replace close support aircraft and tanks will suffer much higher losses just as they did in the two world wars. What does that mean exactly? That tanks will suffer much higher losses. And that is why it is a red flag to stop tank production. There will be high losses in a high intensity conflict but there is no substitute for heavy armor- and the lighter armored vehicles will just be lambs to the slaughter. Likewise the U.S. lost an average of 50 planes a day in the second world war. Nobody is going to say we can lose 50 F-35’s a day in the next war (if the whole program is not canceled). But we could probably mass produce enough drones. Ground combat robots are not going to be as easy to make work and that is why IMO tanks are going to be around for awhile longer. I think one weapon we may really need to get into production in a big way is the XM-25 CDTE for the infantry.

  • Gary Church


    Van Zan was proposing a modification of the M-1 chassis and in 1988 the IDF did just that with a different tank.

    A quarter century ago using an obsolete soviet tank chassis; we have not done anything as good. Pathetic.

    Wiki says: “The US continues to have significant stockpiles of M60s waiting to be
    scrapped, sold-off, converted, or used as targets in weapons testing.”

    Why don’t we convert these stockpiles into interim heavy infantry transports?

    • Gary Church

      What are the soldiers going to ride in? Are we going to have to “go to war with what we have”, AGAIN?
      I will never forget what those IED’s did to our soldiers riding in unarmored vehicles. Never forget and never forgive.

      • Gary Church

        Hundreds of millions of dollars….for nothing.

  • Gary Church

    So I gather from the tweet sidebar there may be unhappiness about the 35,000 dollar price tag of the XM-25 CDTE?
    I suspect most of it is the thermal/laser/computer module and not the gun itself. Consider the cost of a javelin missile Command Launch Unit; 126,000. And each missile costs 78,000.
    The Korean version costs 11,000. Maybe we should buy that. Considering the Chinese are making their own version and will probably be selling it to potential adversaries…..