Monday, April 26, 2010

Saturation Point?

The Army is abandoning Netfires, the missile-in-a-box concept to place precision rockets anywhere, for being too expensive:

The U.S. Army is cancelling its is NetFires (or NLOS-LS) missile system. With the successful introduction of GPS guided rockets, artillery and mortar shells, NetFires was too expensive, and still in development. The army has already spent $1.21 billion on NetFires development, and was due to spend another $431 million next year. When development began in 2004, the project was only supposed to cost $1.1 billion, and be completed by now.

With precision air power, precision air and ground-launched rockets, precision artillery shells, and precision mortar shells, we seem to have flooded the market with precision firepower and Netfires became redundant for the Army.

All this precision will speed up battle tempo, as I wrote earlier about all the new precision weapons enabled by persistent surveillance assets.

The precision artillery shells are of most interest to me. (UPDATE: I forgot to note this article:

The first-generation Excalibur XM982 guided artillery round was praised by the Army and many analysts for its accuracy.

With a combination of GPS satellite and inertial guidance - hardened to withstand the shock of firing - the 155mm Excalibur can strike from ranges up to about 23 miles to within about 20 feet of its target. That compares with a "miss distance," or margin of error, of up to about 800 feet for unguided artillery shells.)

Netfires was to disperse precision firepower throughout the Army by allowing the Army to carry them around on trucks and plug them into our network to provide fire support. Could we build fire support versions of the Bradley or Abrams, putting short-barreled 155mm cannons on them that could fire HEAT rounds for local defense and provide long-range fire support with rocket-assisted GPS shells? Think of an updated Sheridan light tank for the concept.

Or perhaps 120mm mortars with precision rounds could be mounted on a Bradley instead of the TOW box.

Or maybe we can cram all the electronics into a 120mm shell for use on existing Abrams tanks, turning every tank into both a direct fire and indirect fire weapon.

It is interesting that a promising concept as Netfires has been made redundant by the rest of the evolving arsenal. What was once revolutionary is now standard equipment.

UPDATE: It may not be dead--or at least not the concept, which apparently fills a brigade-level fires mission that the Army still wants. So the bits and pieces of the project may live on in another form.