WASHINGTON: In a telling sign of the uncertain economic and spending climate in the defense world – faced with sequestration and the possibility of a year-long Continuing Resolution — at least three defense conferences have been cancelled in the last two months and defense companies continue to pare their participation in even the biggest shows, the air show in Paris and Farnborough.

Cancelation of the Military Health System Conference, set for Feb. 11-14, was announced in a memo signed by Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, and the three service surgeon generals. In past years, the conference has attracted 3,000 attendees and exhibitors. Keep reading →

What may weigh more than an M1 Abrams tank and carry 12 soldiers? The Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle. New weight estimates for GCV, released this week by the Congressional Budget Office, will likely go over like a lead ballon with the program’s critics in Congress and in the Army itself.

Depending on the model and add-on armor package, an M1 weighs 60 to 75.5 tons. According to the CBO report, the General Dynamics design for the GCV weighs 64 to 70 tons. BAE s proposal is still heavier, at 70 to 84. Keep reading →

AUSA: BAE has had plenty on its plate lately, what with the failed merger with EADS and all. But at least BAE’s American division was the odds-on favorite for the Army’s Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV). That is, at least until last week. That’s when rival General Dynamics debuted a tracked version of its 8×8 wheeled Stryker at the Association of the US Army conference in Washington, DC.

The backstory: For decades, BAE and General Dynamics had pretty much split the US combat vehicle market. General Dynamics built the massive M1 Abrams main battle tank at its plant in Lima, Ohio, while BAE built the smaller but tank-like M2 Bradley troop carrier (technically, an “infantry fighting vehicle”) and its various variants in York, Penn. Production of new vehicles ceased years ago, but there’s a thriving business in upgrades, especially improved armor and electronics. Both firms worked on developing new vehicles for the Army’s Future Combat Systems program; when FCS failed, they both got contracts to build dueling prototypes for the Ground Combat Vehicle, a better-protected replacement for the Bradley, although the Army is now under some pressure to cut the competition short and pick a winner soon. Keep reading →

AUSA: As US forces draw down in Afghanistan, there will be ever fewer troops to stand guard on base perimeters — and ever less public tolerance for any of them getting hurt. That’s the opportunity Norwegian arms-maker Kongsberg wants to seize with its Containerized Weapon Station, a sort of jack-in-the-box machinegun to protect forward bases.

Kongsberg is already the leading manufacturer of remotely-controlled gun mounts for Humvees and other US military vehicles, the Army having ordered more than 10,000 of its CROWS system (Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station). Instead of having to stick their heads and shoulders out of a hatch to fire, gunners can use a CROWS system to scan for targets, aim, and shoot while safely inside and under armor. Keep reading →

AUSA: The Association of the US Army’s annual meeting was smaller this year, but when it comes to AUSA — like most things Army-related– small is a relative term.

The conference, held this week, engulfed the entire Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Defense industry displays ranging from rifles to huge armored vehicles sprawled over 198,000 square feet of exhibit halls. Counted country-style, that’s four-and-a-half acres, enough for a modest farm, only packed with weaponry instead of wheat. Keep reading →

AUSA: It may sound ambitious, even hubristic, that the Army wants to fold all its modernization programs into a single 30-year plan. But the long-range look is all about living within limits.

The service wants to keep researching and developing 21st century weapons like the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) truck and the tank-like Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV), but it is also knows it must keep 1980s designs like the Humvee and the M1 Abrams tank for years to come. This sets up a nasty cycle. The more the new stuff gets cut, the longer the old stuff has to last, which requires careful investment in maintenance and upgrades. Keep reading →

AUSA: To guide the Army through the coming budget crunch, the service’s acquisition agencies are putting together an unprecedentedly comprehensive 30-year modernization plan. By coming up with a single road map that integrates research, development, procurement, as well as equipment sustainment, they hope to protect the investments they believe are critical to the Army’s long-term future.

[More on this story: Humvees, M1 tanks, and the Army’s 30-Year Problem] Keep reading →

AUSA: Visitors to Sikorsky Aircraft Corp.’s display at this year’s Association of the United States Army meetings in Washington can hardly miss an eye-popping marketing video the company is showing. Running on a huge flat screen hung at the entrance to the company’s spot on the show floor, the video uses simulation imagery of XBox quality to show how Sikorsky’s conceptual S-97 Raider – a compound helicopter based on the X2 Technology Demonstrator the company flew in 2010-2011 – would perform Armed Aerial Scout missions for the Army.

It’s a great show. Zooming through canyons at what looks like the S-97’s projected cruising speed of 220 knots – an impossibility for ordinary helicopters – a Raider in a formation of five uses a video downlink from a Predator drone to take out a group of heavily armed insurgents with laser-guided rockets, firing before the enemy can hear the helicopters coming. Then, at the request of ground troops, another Raider uses its mini-gun to kill six insurgents hiding in a tree line. Keep reading →

[corrected Dennis Moran’s title at 3:45 pm] AUSA: General Dynamics issued what the Army’s top tester called a “mea culpa” over its troubled Manpack radio, while archrival Harris sharpened its knives to compete with GD for both the backpack-sized Manpack and the smaller Rifleman Radio.

At a briefing for reporters at the Association of the US Army’s annual conference in Washington, DC, Army Test and Evaluation Command chief Maj. Gen. Genaro Dellarocco brandished a letter he and other officials had received from General Dynamics C4 Systems president Christopher Marzilli. Dellarocco said Marzilli had written “to apologize” for remarks the GDC4S executive had made that seemed to criticize how the Army had tested the company’s Manpack radio, remarks which Marzilli said were “taken out of context.” (For clarity’s sake, we should note we’re quoting Dellarocco’s description of Marzilli’s letter here, not directly from the letter itself). A General Dynamics spokesperson told Breaking Defense that our article on the subject quoted Marzilli accurately. Keep reading →

AUSA: What will the Army do after it gets out of Afghanistan? A little of everything, said senior leaders — with equal emphasis on both “little” and “everything.”

The Marines talk of returning to their expeditionary, seaborne roots; the Air Force and Navy tout AirSea Battle against dense Iranian or Chinese “anti-access/area denial” defenses; but the Army, for good or ill, resolutely refuses to distill its future vision into a single concept. Keep reading →

Page 1 of 212