On the U.S. Army’s wish list is an arsenal of novel armaments
and precision-guided munitions—an eclectic mix of sophisticated
guns, smart projectiles and compact missiles.
Fueling the desire for new weapons is the introduction—during
the next decade or two—of new armored combat vehicles: a mobile
gun platform that will fire 105 mm rounds and a still-undefined
ultramodern Future Combat System.
Bringing this technology to fruition will take decades and cost
billions of dollars. It is all part of the Army’s plan to
“transform” from a heavy Cold War juggernaut to a nimbler
force that can deploy quickly but still has enough killing power
The 105 mm mobile gun system—a smaller weapon than the popular
120 mm cannon—will be provided to units called “brigade
combat teams,” which currently are being set up and trained
at Fort Lewis, Wash. The Army plans to field up to eight BCTs during
the next decade. The Future Combat System (FCS), meanwhile, is being
designed for the so-called “objective force,” a term
used to describe the Army of 2020 and beyond.
The Army has not defined the armaments that it wants for FCS, but
in-house scientists and contractors have been told to work on “multi-role”
systems that can perform both direct and indirect fire missions.
That would mark a drastic departure from the Army’s traditional
make-up, where heavy gunnery and artillery units each have distinct
vehicles and weapons. The weight of the FCS cannot exceed 20 tons,
in order to be transportable by C-130 tactical cargo aircraft. Current
tanks weigh 70 tons.
Since the service’s chief, Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, launched
the “transformation” initiative 18 months ago, the Army
has been racing to meet ambitious deadlines for deploying lighter,
more easily transportable equipment. The mobile gun system was expected
to enter the force by 2002, but the contract awarded to GM Canada/General
Dynamics Land Systems is on hold, as a result of a protest by competitor
United Defense LP (UDLP).
The FCS is a long-term effort, but nevertheless, Shinseki said
he would like to see it in the field by 2012.
Even before any of these new combat vehicles enters the force,
the Army wants to have advanced precision-guided munitions that
also would be used with existing heavy platforms, such as the battle-proven
Abrams tank and the Crusader self-propelled howitzer, which is still
in development and will not be available until 2008.
Based on today’s requirements for new smart munitions, the
Army needs about $20 billion to procure and maintain the stockpile,
said Col. James Naughton, acting deputy chief of staff for ammunition
at the Army Materiel Command.
The service’s precision-guided munitions program has suffered
delays both as a result of budget cutbacks and technological slips,
Naughton said at a conference sponsored by the National Defense
Given the slow pace of the program, said Naughton, the desired
quantities of precision munitions for fiscal year 2007 will not
be achieved until 2017.
Only a small percentage of the Army’s ammunition budget is
spent on guided “smart” munitions. In fiscal 2001, the
Army spent $1 billion on conventional ammunition, also known as
The decision to purchase a 105 mm gun system sparked some controversy
within the Army and with industrialists, who wondered whether these
rounds could be produced cost-effectively, given that the Army has
not bought any 105 mm tank ammunition since the Vietnam War. These
rounds were used in the Abrams’ predecessors, the M60 and
Col. David Ogg, project manager for armor systems, said the Army
plans to buy a new 105 mm bunker-buster round, able to defeat a
standard infantry bunker and create an opening in double-reinforced
concrete walls large enough for a soldier and equipment to pass
through. It also must be able to defeat earth and chamber bunkers.
Up to 15,000 rounds a year could be purchased, said Rob Morris,
project manager for medium-caliber tank ammunition at the Army’s
Operations Support Command.
If the mobile gun program moves forward, after the protest is resolved,
each BCT will receive 27 vehicles, for a total buy of 204 systems.
Because domestic production facilities for 105 mm ammunition are
obsolete, Morris said, “We will entertain foreign solutions
produced in the United States. ... We will provide the old technical
data. Although it’s not of much use. Most of the processes
no longer exist.” The fuzes, for example, must be modernized.
The Army’s Lone Star ammunition plant, in Texas, used to make
105 mm rounds, but shut down the line several years ago. The Iowa
Army plant is the only organic facility where 105 mm ammo could
A contract for the bunker buster may be awarded by late 2002.
“Industry will compete vigorously” for this award,
said Richard G. Palaschak, director of the munitions industrial
base task force, an advocacy group composed of 13 ammunition manufacturers.
The 105 mm has not been produced in 20-25 years, he said in an interview.
“Technical data packages have to be scrubbed and validated
to accommodate new technology.”
Palaschak believes that the Army is not investing enough money
to develop modern manufacturing capabilities. “The technology
needed for propellants is not funded. They need to invest in manufacturing
technology to get the 105 mm ready for testing.”
Robert Harris, president of Armtec Defense, said the 105 mm ammo
requirement for the mobile gun “dilutes and complicates the
industrial base.” The problem, he said, is that “few
research and development dollars are available to increase the lethality
of the 105 mm round.”
As far as funding is concerned, the Army is about $120 million
short—over five years—of what it needs to buy the ammunition
for the BCTs, said Maj. Gen. William Bond, Army assistant deputy
chief of staff for operations and plans for force development. “We
have a significant shortfall in smart, precision munitions, especially
in the fight at 40 kilometers,” said Bond. “How will
the Army get industry to produce affordable 105 mm rounds?”
he asked at the NDIA conference. The answer to that question, he
offered, is “You are going to have to change the way you do
The Army, to be sure, has been inconsistent in its approach to
smart-munitions development. Artillery platforms have used smart
munitions for many years. But the technology has not been employed
in tank munitions. There is an ongoing competition to develop a
120 mm kinetic energy round called TERM (tank extended range munition).
The Army plans to buy as many as 22,000 TERM rounds over six years.
The price tag is estimated at $30,000 a piece. The Army has yet
to select a contractor.
On the artillery side, a program called Sadarm (sense-and-destroy
munitions) began in the mid-1980s and has been plagued by delays
and cost-overruns. The Army had touted the 155 mm artillery-fired
anti-tank Sadarm as a cornerstone technology in its smart-munitions
program. But it withdrew financial support for the system in fiscal
2001 in order to free up dollars for the transformation effort.
The Army Science Board last year criticized the service for killing
Sadarm. The panel said “we made a mistake,” noted Bond.
“We are currently relooking at Sadarm very hard.”
If the program survives, the Sadarm rounds would cost about $30,000
a piece. They would be fired by the Crusader howitzer. UDLP, however,
recently acquired the Swedish ammo manufacturer Bofors, makers of
a so-called Bonus round, which could be used in place of Sadarm.
The 155 mm Bonus sensor-fuzed artillery shells are similar to Sadarm
and currently are in production, said a UDLP source. Bonus rounds
are designed to destroy tanks as far away as 35 km.
Another smart satellite-guided round, in development by the Raytheon
Co., is the 155 mm XM982 Excalibur extended-range artillery projectile,
which can be adapted for special-purpose warheads—antipersonnel,
Sadarm and unitary—within a common airframe and guidance system.
If Excalibur does not come to fruition, the Crusader program again
may employ a Bofors product, the micro-wave/satellite-guided “trajectory
correctable munition.” TCM is in development and could serve
as an alternative to the Excalibur round, said the UDLP source.
In the big picture of Army weapon programs, however, a bigger nuisance
looming for Crusader is the futuristic FCS. If FCS works as promised,
it will obliterate the lines between tank gunnery and artillery,
thus diminishing the relevancy of Crusader for indirect-fire missions.
“FCS is Crusader at half the weight,” said retired
Army Gen. David Maddox, former commander of the V Corps in Europe
and now a consultant for UDLP. Maddox does not believe that FCS
will be able to deliver the long-range fire capability that Crusader
offers until at least 2030, he told reporters during a briefing
at UDLP’s plant in Minneapolis.
A retired general who ran the Army’s combat vehicle center
at Fort Knox noted that the traditional distinction between targets
that would be engaged by tanks or by artillery “started to
blur big time” in the 1980s, when the Army considered the
option of having tanks fire precision long-range munitions. “You
no longer were required to look directly at a target,” said
the officer, who did not want to be quoted by name. Improvements
in command and control, as well as in guidance technologies enable
a tanker “to shoot at targets he can’t see, just like
Tanks accomplished artillery-fire missions in the past, he said.
Most notably in the Korean War, where U.S. troops didn’t have
enough artillery so they brought tank units and put them up on higher
elevations, where they would shoot indirect fires, supporting or
supplementing the artillery. “If you put a tank up on a ramp,
you can shoot out to 30-40 km.” Crusader’s range is
about 40-50 km.
In an Army where conservatism tends to prevail, the FCS program
is challenging many established notions about the organization of
The Army’s chief scientist, Michael Andrews, said that the
FCS multi-role cannon will perform both direct and indirect fire.
It will perform “artillery-like action on the move ... [with]
The current tank weighs 70 tons and has 650 cubic feet of internal
volume. The FCS will be 20 tons or less and have 300-400 cubic feet
of internal volume.
A single type of round—expected to be 105 mm—will shoot
short, medium and long-range fires, relying on a suite of multi-mode
warheads to defeat tanks, infantry, helicopters and armored personnel
For beyond-line-of-sight fires, between 4 km and 12 km, the challenge
is to develop munitions that can survive a gun launch of at least
10,000 Gs (gravity forces), Andrews said during a briefing to the
Association of the U.S. Army, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
A key technological shortfall is this arena is the guidance electronics,
called inertial measurement units, he said. “We don’t
have low-cost IMUs that can [survive the gun launch], with accuracy
for reaching out far.” Andrews’ office started a $100
million five-year program to develop affordable IMUs that can survive
the high Gs.
Achieving the lethality of 120 mm projectiles in a smaller 105
mm is a significant technical challenge, industry sources said.
The U.S. Army has a large inventory of obsolete dumb 105 mm bombs,
but has no smart munitions of that caliber. The more costly items
are the subcomponents such as sensors, command and control and inertial
For the FCS multi-role ammunition, the Army has not yet decided
whether it will be a 105 mm, said Mark A. Ford, project manager
at Picatinny Arsenal. There is a “caliber study” under
way, he told National Defense during the conference in Fort Lauderdale.
The study is considering everything from 90 mm to 155 mm. “FCS
is not locked into 105 mm,” he said. The 105 mm program for
the mobile gun system is not tied to FCS.
Some of the toughest technological hurdles, he explained, are the
cannon’s electro-thermal chemical propulsion—electric
energy converted to high temperature plasma—and recoil mitigation,
given the higher recoil forces associated with lighter vehicles.
Experts said that electro-thermal chemical propulsion makes it
possible to control the ignition of the propellant very precisely
and helps to manage recoil forces.
The FCS platform, said Ford, will need to be capable of -120 to
+55 degree elevations for direct, indirect and anti-air fire.
A smart ammo suite will be needed for FCS. Various companies already
are jockeying for position in the contest, even though the Army
has not selected the size of the round and, therefore, has not set
up an acquisition strategy.
Among those competing for future contract awards are ammunition
powerhouses Alliant Defense Electronic Systems Inc., teamed with
Germany’s Rheinmetall; and General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical
Systems, which is proposing a round made by Israel Military Industries
Ltd. (IMI). Alliant also is considering a teaming arrangement with
a Canadian manufacturer of 105 mm, SNC Defence. The Raytheon Co.
plans to compete in the FCS ammo suite program, by taking advantage
of its expertise in missiles.
Rich H. Rosch, Alliant’s manager of business development,
said the company is adapting its 120 mm TERM technology to a 105
mm round. “It is a direct application of what we’ve
been working on since the 1980s,” he said in an interview.
“We have demonstrated maturity of all the systems and the
integration. We can move into the 105 very rapidly and at very little
If the Army chose not to use a kinetic-energy round, the same technology
could be adapted to carry a chemical-energy warhead, Rosch said.
Another version of the warhead, for example, could have submunitions
or bomblets. Alliant’s TERM round has a multi-mode seeker
that includes a semi-active laser, a GPS satellite guidance system
and a millimeter wave. “This seeker has been sized for the
current range requirements,” he said.
The GD/IMI team is proposing a 105 mm anti-personnel, anti-materiel
(APAM) cartridge and an M426 kinetic-energy anti-tank round. APAM
can function both as an air-burst munition, top-attack mode against
dismounted troops, as well as a unitary high-energy round against
bunkers. IMI officials said that APAM currently is in production
for the Israeli Defense Forces. The company is marketing APAM and
M425 primarily for the mobile gun system.
The Raytheon Co. is competing for the 120 mm extended-range TERM
round, which would be adapted to the 105 mm size for the FCS ammo
suite, said Steve Ignat, the company’s business development
manager for land combat systems.
The strategy for Raytheon is to apply its tri-mode seeker technology
to various programs, in order to make it more affordable, Ignat
said in an interview. The seeker, for example, is applicable to
the TERM projectile, the FCS ammo suite and the “common missile”
program, which will replace the Army’s TOW and Hellfire tactical
anti-tank missiles. The Army is conducting an industry competition
for the common missile.
Within the FCS program, Raytheon is responsible for the development
of a missile-box called “netfires.” Often referred to
as “missiles in a box,” netfires is a containerized,
platform-independent system that would help soldiers fire missiles
by remote control. The box would contain, for example, loiter-attack
and precision-guided munitions.
Raytheon’s strategy of “spreading technology over everything”
presents some problems, however, said Alliant’s Rosch.
“A seeker that works in a missile and a seeker that works
in a gun are two drastically different animals. G-forces require
a different approach,” he said. He also is skeptical that
this technology can be made affordable for the Army, where ammunition
is not viewed as a high-ticket item. “High-performance seekers,
radar, infrared imagery comes at a high cost.”
Alliant’s approach, he said, is to “keep it as simple
as possible, because the thing that kills every smart-munition program
that comes down the pipe is that the Army develops it and then says
it’s too expensive.”
Rosch speculated that for the FCS ammo suite to be affordable,
the Army will have to stick with the 105 mm caliber so that it can
take advantage of the BCT program. “I am hoping that the requirements
for the mobile gun system will be linked to the requirements for
FCS so we can take one thing and exploit across the whole family.
It’s the only way the Army will be able to afford it.”
For a 20-ton vehicle, such as the FCS, the sheer weight of a gun
is a problem, said William C. McCorkle Jr., director of the Army
Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center
The M1A1 Abrams gun weighs 6,600 pounds. “Guns are heavy,”
In his opinion, the FCS could be slimmed to 10 tons if it did not
have a gun and relied entirely on kinetic-energy missiles. The survivability
odds of a 10-ton vehicle are not much worse than those of a 20-ton
platform, McCorkle said. “The difference is minimal in close
combat. Neither one is very survivable.”
The hitch in McCorkle’s proposition is that it assumes the
Army can develop a lightweight kinetic-energy missile that it can
Seeking to bring about such a weapon is the CKEM (compact kinetic
energy missile) program. George W. Snyder, project manager at AMRDEC,
said the goal is to design a missile that is half the size of the
Losat (line-of-sight antitank missile), scheduled to begin production
in 2004. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control is building 11
Losats to be tested by the Army’s 82nd airborne division.
Losat is 9.75 feet long and weighs 174 pounds. Launched from a Humvee
truck, it can reach targets out to 4 km. “It will help users
understand how kinetic energy missiles perform in the battlefield,”
If CKEM progresses as the Army hopes, it will be 4.5 feet long
and weigh 85 pounds. Ideally, officials said, the Army would like
it to be 50 pounds. “It won’t be the ultra-lethal variety,”
said McCorkle. “But it may be sufficient.”
Three competitors are vying for a CKEM award: Raytheon Co., Lockheed
Martin’s missile division in Dallas and a small firm in Huntsville,
Ala., Miltech Corp., teamed with the Boeing Co.
A fourth competitor, Alliant Defense, was eliminated, because its
proposed missile was powered by a ramjet, a technology the Army
considered too risky.
“Kinetic energy is wonderful,” said Rosch. “If
you can put a Losat on a Humvee and send it with the 18th airborne
corps, that gives them a capability they didn’t have,”
he said in an interview. “But there are some problems. Losat
has a huge signature. Reloading a 174-pound, 7-foot missile is a
hard thing for light infantry to do.”
Lockheed Martin’s CKEM version has a solid rocket motor,
said Randy D. Tatum, manager of business development. He did not
want to discuss his proposed guidance technology for CKEM, for competitive
It would be impossible to shrink the Losat missile by half and
make it work, Tatum said in an interview. CKEM requires an entirely
new design, to make it fly faster and to improve the penetration.
“The long pole in the CKEM program is the propellant technology.
To make it as lethal as a full-size missile, you have to make it
fly a lot faster than Losat. That means you have to put a more energetic
propellant on it.”
Raytheon’s Ignat is optimistic about the CKEM program. The
company will conduct a firing demonstration this summer with the
Norwegian firm Nammo Raufoss. The goal is to prove that a missile
smaller then Losat will exceed its performance, said Ignat. “We
think it’s doable,” he added.
Part of the company’s strategy is to build a CKEM-type missile
that can be fired from the Army’s 7,500 TOW platforms currently
in the inventory. The common missile and CKEM have to be able to
fire from the same launcher, Ignat said. “Our goal is to show
that we can get the kinetic energy out of a smaller airframe, and
we can make that missile fit into currently fielded launchers.”
Asked about McCorkle’s idea of replacing the FCS gun with
kinetic-energy missiles, Ignat said that both weapons are needed.
“There is a role for both. It’s not an if-and-or situation.”
Lockheed Martin’s Tatum agreed. A 105 mm gun can’t
slug it out with modern armor, he said. Small projectiles can’t
defeat tanks like kinetic-energy missiles can. “You need both
the gun and the missiles,” he asserted.
Bullets, however, are a lot cheaper than missiles. Nevertheless,
said Tatum, “to say you are going to make the vehicle lighter
by slapping a bunch of missiles on it [is a spurious argument] ...
You just can’t get there because you can’t address the
Missiles are too expensive, said Rosch. The Army can barely afford
$30,000 bullets, he said, let alone $50,000 CKEM missiles that would
perform a similar role.