Thursday, March 17, 2005

Assumptions Have Changed

A few years ago, Military Review published an article of mine about the next generation armored fighting vehicles (the future combat system: FCS) to replace main battle tanks.

I accepted that a lighter vehicle was needed to bridge the gap between leg infantry and heavy armor for specific missions, but I did not think it was safe to abandon heavy armor for light weapons on the assumption that nobody will get a shot off at us anyway so why waste resources on armor when it just makes it tough to get to the theater. The FCS could be useful but the MBT like the Abrams seemed likely to have a role far past the assumptions about their imminent dinosaur status.

I believed that heavy armor could continue to be vital if it too evolved with technology. I concluded:

Barring successfully fielding exotic technologies to make the FCS work, the Army must consider how it will defeat future heavy systems if fighting actual enemies and not merely suppressing disorder becomes its mission once again. The tentative assumptions of 2001 will change by 2025. When they do, the Army will rue its failure today to accept that the wonder tank will not be built.

The Iraq War and the Phase IV pacification was yet to come but I was not ready to assume victory was our birthright and so getting to a theater fast was the only concern we had. We have discovered the value of heavy armor in these campaigns. A lesson forgotten since the Persian Gulf War--or perhaps not learned even then.

It seems that the Army may be realizing that armor is not obsolete (from Instapundit):

The Cav lost 28 main battle tanks. He said one of the big lessons learned is that, contrary to doctrine going in, M1-A2s and Bradleys are needed, preferred and devastating in urban combat and he is going to make that point to the JCS next week while they are considering downsizing armor.

I was too optmistic about how long it would take for our assumptions to be turned upside down.