The Army’s choice for its Interim Armored Vehicle (IAV)–intended
to replace the current generation of heavier tanks and other armored
vehicles as part of the service’s transformation into a lighter,
more deployable force–may have run into a roadblock on Capitol
The Army was scheduled, in November, to select one of four existing
medium-weight vehicles to become the IAV, the main combat vehicle
for the new Initial Brigade Combat Teams, or IBCTs, now taking shape
in Fort Lewis, Wash. At press time, no decision had been announced.
The Army is making the changes in order to be able to respond more
quickly to rapidly unfolding international crises, such as Kosovo.
The air campaign against Yugoslavia lasted little more than two
months, leaving the Army little time to get its heavy weaponry into
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki has said that he wants
to be able to deploy a brigade within 96 hours of notification,
a division within 120 hours and five divisions within 30 days.
The big hold-up to rapid deployment, Army officials agreed, is
the 70-ton Abrams M1A2 main battle tank, made by General Dynamics
Land Systems, of Sterling Heights, Mich. Designed in the 1980s to
fight Soviet forces on the plains of Central Europe, the Abrams
is too big to fit on the C-130 aircraft–the backbone of the
U.S. military air transport system. Even the huge C-17 can carry
only one Abrams at a time.
All of the candidates for the IAV weigh about one third as much
as an Abrams and will fit easily on a C-130. The Army plans to begin
deploying the IAV next March, Lt. Gen. Paul J. Kern, director of
the Army Acquisition Corps, told the 2000 Combat Vehicles Conference
at Fort Knox, Ky. But those plans may have to be changed as a result
of the 2001 Defense Authorization Bill just signed into law.
That bill provides $1.3 billion–$750 million more than the
Clinton administration sought–to buy IAVs for the new brigades
currently in the works and to bolster research and development of
the next generation of armored vehicles, known as the Future Combat
System, or FCS.
Conferees from the Senate and House of Representatives, in a report
working out the differences between the versions passed by the two
bodies, said they were "encouraged by the Army’s vision
of the future, particularly the capabilities of future combat vehicles
and automotive advanced technologies." They added $46 million
to the president’s $458 million request for FCS research and
The additional funding should help the Army meet what Shinseki–speaking
at a recent meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA)–called
"two key milestones" in developing the FCS:
In 2003, the Army plans to select the best technologies and concepts
to go into the next phase of the FCS project, detailed design and
In 2006, the service intends to begin the engineering manufacturing
To ensure that those milestones are met, the Army has established
a Future Combat System Task Force, to be headed by a general officer.
"We will be in production in ‘08 and moving to first
unit equipped by the end of the decade," Shinseki said. "Is
this too ambitious? Well, that’s what everybody said last
"It is ambitious," he said, "and it will take bold
and decisive action to sustain and build on the momentum that we
have already generated this past year with solid, bipartisan congressional
When it came to the IAV, however, Congress added strings to the
increased funding. The bill requires the Pentagon to:
Until Congress gets the test results, however, 20 percent of the
money appropriated for IAVs in 2001 will be withheld, the legislators
The Army complained that the tests were unnecessary and would delay
development of its new, lighter brigades.
"In my judgment," Shinseki wrote to the leaders of the
Senate Armed Services Committee, "such a comparison will provide
marginal insights, while placing a significant drain on very limited
resources, including money, time, readiness and soldiers."
The requirements were placed in the legislation largely at the
insistence of Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., chairman of the Senate
AirLand Forces Subcommittee. Santorum was up for reelection this
year, and his state includes two factories of United Defense L.P.
(UDLP), which makes the Army’s 40-year-old line of medium-weight
combat vehicles, the M-113 Armored Personnel Carrier.
A Senate staff member denied that the testing is intended simply
to benefit UDLP. Work on the M-113, he pointed out, currently is
being done at UDLP’s plant in Anniston, Ala.–in partnership
with the Anniston Army Depot–not in Santorum’s home
state. The Senate simply wants to make sure that the IAVs truly
are needed, the Senate staffer insisted.
"The IAVs are going to be around for 20 or 30 years,"
he said in a telephone interview. "Yeah, they’re interim,
but in name only. Doesn’t the Army already have something
it can use?"
The answer is "yes," UDLP spokesman Doug Coffey told
National Defense. "The Army has between 14,000 and 17,000 M-113s
in use right now. It’s a vehicle that the Army knows a lot
The M-113, introduced in 1960, comprises 46 percent of the U.S.
combat vehicle fleet, Coffey said. The latest version–the
M-113A3, with an improved transmission and engine–was fielded
between 1987 and 1992, he noted. It is a 27,200-pound vehicle that
can carry 11 infantry personnel, plus a crew of two.
In fact, a variant of the M-113–known as the Mobile Tactical
Vehicle Light, or MTVL–is one of the four finalists under
consideration for the IAV. The MTVL is more powerful than even the
latest version of the M-113, with 400 hp engine, compared to 275
hp for the M113A3, Coffey explained. The higher horsepower enables
the MTVL to handle heavier payloads and more armor protection, he
Both the M-113 and the MTVL are tracked vehicles, capable of sustained
speeds of 41 mph on level roads. Another of the finalists, the Bionix
Infantry Carrier–developed by VT Kinetics Inc., a Huntsville,
Ala.-based subsidiary of Singapore Technologies Engineering–is
also tracked. It has a maximum speed of 46 mph.
The other two vehicles under consideration are wheeled, with maximum
speeds of 62 mph. They are:
The higher speed of the wheeled vehicles is attractive to Army
planners, because of the emphasis that the new brigades are placing
on increased mobility. In fact, the new units at Fort Lewis are
training with LAV IIIs borrowed from the Canadian army.
"The main focus is on dismounted infantry operations, supported
by direct fire from medium-weight vehicles," Lt. Col. Peter
W. Rose II, chief of the Mounted Force Transformation Division at
the Army’s Armor Center at Fort Knox.
Changing the Paradigm
"Tactical mobility and situational awareness are changing the
paradigm," he told the Combat Vehicles Conference. "Now,
the emphasis is on finding out what’s going on, before engaging
the enemy." This, he said, allows the U.S. force "to chose
the time and place of combat."
So important is the issue of mobility that Shinseki has said that
he is willing to consider having the Army switch from an all-tracked
fleet of combat vehicles to one that is all-wheeled. In a 1999 speech,
"Can we, in time, go to an all-wheeled vehicle fleet, where
even the follow-on to today’s armored vehicles come in at
50- to 70 percent less tonnage? I think the answer is yes, and we’re
going to ask the questions and then go where the answers are."
UDLP officials cited studies comparing LAV and MTVL operations
in wet soil conditions, similar to those found in Central Europe
and Korea, where the Army someday may find itself fighting.
In the European terrain, the LAV was denied access to more than
22 percent of steep areas, the UDLP study said, while the MTVL was
denied access to less than 5 percent. In the Korean scenario, the
LAV was denied access to more than 32 percent of the steep terrain,
while the MTVL is denied access to 8 percent, according to the study.
Army officials insisted that both tracks and wheels were still
under consideration for the IAV. "The jury’s still out,"
said Rose. "It could be a wheeled or a tracked system."
Earlier this year at Fort Knox, the Army tested 35 potential IAVs
currently in use by the United States and its allies, including
Canada, France Germany, Singapore, Switzerland and Turkey. Then,
at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., four finalists were evaluated.
Whichever model is selected for the IAV, it will have to be tested
against the Army’s M-113, in order to comply with the 2001
Defense Authorization Bill. According to an agreement by both houses
of Congress, the new tests will be conducted by the Army, but the
testing process will be monitored by the Defense Department’s
director of test and evaluation, Philip E. Coyle III.
Details of the testing are still being ironed out, Coyle told National
Defense. The tests, he said, will be careful to weigh the merits
of wheels versus tracks. "We’re going to run them up
hills and down hills," he said. "We’re going to
run them in mud, in sand, on roads. Don’t you worry, they’ll
get a thorough workout."
The Army is free to begin buying IAVs–perhaps as many as
2,000 of them–before the tests are complete, in order to equip
the two brigades currently being organized, according to the legislation.
The Army plans to stand up the first brigade in December 2001,
Shinseki told the AUSA. The second one, he said, will be fielded
"as soon as possible, thereafter." But until Congress
receives the test results:
These units may need up to 5,000 more vehicles, costing as much
as $5 billion, according to one industry source, who declined to
The Senate originally proposed that the Army report the results
of the tests to Congress by March 1, 2002. But the Army said it
could not meet that deadline, and the final legislation did not
set a specific date.
"They asked us not to do anything to impede their ability
to kick start this thing," said a Senate staffer. "And
we tried not to."
Shinseki was relieved that the testing requirements were not as
drastic as the Senate originally proposed, according to a spokesman.
Still, the tests "will take years" to complete, Coyle
cautioned. Many Army officials remained concerned that the tests
would delay the transformation process. Outfitting the second brigade,
for example, could be set back, they warned.
Even without the latest testing requirements, Kern told the Combat
Vehicles Conference, transformation has been tough enough.
"Transformation has got a lot of people moving in a lot of
different directions," he said. "Change is hard stuff."
Nevertheless, Shinseki told the AUSA: "We are going to deliver
on transformation. Our soldiers are counting on it. ...
"If you choose not to get on board, that’s OK, but then
get out of the way. The Army’s on the march."