Technology Breakthroughs Keep Transformation on Track, Leaders Say
Future combat systems demonstration possible by end of 2005 or early 2006

by Jim Caldwell

WASHINGTON, D.C. (TRADOC New Service, July 11, 2000) -- The Army will have the technological breakthroughs needed to create an objective force very nearly within the target 2008-2012 time frame, according to the Army's chief scientist.

"By the end of '05, early '06, we will have a future combat systems (FCS) demonstration," said Dr. Mike Andrews. "We're not having to create new technologies out of thin air."

The FCS is envisioned as a replacement for the 70-ton Abrams with all the lethality and crew survivability, but be 50 tons lighter.

Andrews was among the speakers at a news conference held at the Pentagon Monday, July 10, focusing on the status of the Army's Transformation Campaign. The news conference featured experts who gave updates on aspects of the campaign from building the first Initial Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) at Fort Lewis, Wash., to funding the process.

Transformation began last October when Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, Army chief of staff, announced a new Army vision. He stated a requirement to quickly build forces that were lethal enough but also light enough to deploy within 96 hours to anywhere in the world for contingencies ranging from peacekeeping to combat.

IBCTs are those new forces. They will become the interim force, a bridge to the objective force still expected to be stood up within the 2008-2012 period. The objective force will be able to respond worldwide nearly as quickly as an IBCT.

Two IBCTs are being created at Fort Lewis by reorganizing the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division first and then the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division. Eventually, there will be at least six IBCTs, with at least one in the reserve component.

"We think we can resource up to six brigades in the current solution, but we're still working with the Department of Defense to see if that's the right solution," said Maj. Gen. Bob St. Onge, who just completed a tour as the Army director of Strategy, Plans and Policy.

The FCS is critical to creating the objective force. Army leaders are relying on scientists and technologists to find solutions by 2003.

"I think the Chief's goals are fairly realistic," Andrews said. "They are very aggressive and they're a tough mark on the wall."

He said there has been a demonstration "in some levels" of a gun smaller than the 105mm that has the lethality of the Abrams main gun, but that "we have to take it to the next level."

Active protection systems are seen as the best measures to help ensure crew survivability. There have been advances in that area, as well.

"We've done a lot in the world of active protection systems," Andrews said. "We should have full active protection systems by the '06 time period that could give us protection against both chemical and kinetic energy."

Scientific and technological breakthroughs are just one part of the campaign, according to Maj. Gen. Jim Dubik, Training and Doctrine Command deputy commanding general for Transformation. "But the human side -- the doctrine, the organization, the leader development, the training, the soldier aspect -- that part we need to get as well."

He said that TRADOC schools are producing new doctrine and training techniques for IBCT soldiers. Some training will consist of virtual and constructive simulation delivered through the Army's distance learning system.

Tactical leader training is underway for brigade-level leaders and below. There is also a new NCO training program.

The brigade's intelligence and signal companies are being trained at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., and Fort Gordon, Ga., respectively. That training will be completed by September, when company training begins at Fort Lewis.

Brigade and battalion staff-level training will also begin at Fort Lewis in September.

"Everything so far is on time and on schedule," Dubik said. "We are prepared to continue this until the initial operational capability at the end of next year."

The IBCT is training with armored vehicles borrowed from Canada and other countries until it is outfitted with interim armored vehicles (IAVs). Source selection for the IAV is underway at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., where an unspecified number of companies have entered candidate vehicles for performance evaluation.

Since Shinseki talked last October about wheeled armored vehicles possibly serving as IAVs, there has been speculation in the news media that the Army is biased against tracked IAV candidates.

"A lot of the questions we've received about 'is it wheels or is it tracks' are, in my view, more emotion-based than fact-based," said Col. Don Schenk, IAV program manager at the Tank Automotive and Armament Command, Dearborn, Mich.

"In our solicitation, we made no mention of tracks or wheels. We described a desired performance, and the performance dealt with cross country mobility, speed, maneuverability."

Schenk said 99 percent of the performance evaluation has been completed at Aberdeen. The Army will announce its choice by the end of summer, he said.

"We have not seen huge differences between a wheeled vehicle or a tracked land vehicle. Each has its own merits," Schenk said.

IAV selection will help the Army define the cost for building an IBCT, which now is estimated at more than $800 million, according to Dr. Craig College, of the Army's Program, Evaluation and Analysis Division.

"We're still waiting to see what's going to happen this summer so we know what the final cost is for those IAVs," College said.

He also said the final bill will also include other equipment and soldier training.

Several times throughout the conference, St. Onge and Dubik answered questions about whether IBCTs and the objective force will operate by themselves on deployments.

"The Army, as part of the nation's national security and military security apparatus, will posture itself to always fight jointly," St. Onge said. "We are not trying to build this force into an independently operating force that doesn't operate as part of the joint team."

"(An IBCT) works for a division or corps headquarters," Dubik said. "Now what that division or corps headquarters is is still up for … very interesting discussion."

The interim force, made up of the brigades, will not be an early entry force, according to St. Onge. Rather, brigades will fill the gap between early entry forces and stronger forces following behind. They will be sufficiently lethal, agile and mobile so they can dominate the fight during that period.

With augmentation, they will be able to fight some types of heavy forces. The brigades, however, are expected to wage combat mostly in urban centers and complex terrain such as forests and hills.

As the transition to the objective force begins, interim forces will also be used to refine training requirements, doctrine and tactics, techniques and procedures for the objective force.

Beginning with the first IBCT, brigades will be fully internetted, giving a commander full access to his own reconnaissance and sensor capabilities, but also to national sources.

The resulting situational awareness will enable him to maneuver his highly mobile troops and to concentrate fire where it's most effective.

The least modernized units in the Army will probably be the first to transition to the objective force. "The digitized corps (III Corps, Fort Hood, Texas) certainly won't be the first that we would … transition to the objective force," St. Onge said.

III Corps and other Army organizations will make the transition much later, the general added.

"We have to maintain a trained and ready force today while we transform."

Posted 12 July 2000