The U.S. Army is due to release a study this month on how to improve the capability
of its precision munitions, according to a top service official.
The service has reached out to industry to gather the “best ideas on
how the Army delivered capabilities can achieve great precision, because we
know very well that it is different for the joint force,” said Gen. Kevin
Byrnes, the commander of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command.
“We are looking at all types of munitions that we deliver to enhance
the precision,” said Byrnes. “I am not looking just for GPS-guided
[global positioning system], I am looking for anything that can improve the
accuracy of what we deliver.”
Ultimately, his goal is to develop a program of enhancements “that we
can bring into the force and fight to get them approved by headquarters,”
he said. “I do not know what they are yet, but I do know that we still
have massive quantities of dumb ammunition.”
The Army wants to upgrade its 155mm and 105mm artillery shells equipped with
smart sub-munitions, he said. The Army has done “great” with the
Army Tactical Missile System, but while ATACMS is a useful model of a program,
it is “just a tool,” said Byrnes.
“Our service will benefit more than any other service from a precision
strike capability,” he said. “If we are denied access ... we want
to get in between critical nodes, in between [enemy] forces, get into their
white space and attack from there.”
Precision is “far more than kinetic. It is more than the lethal effects
that you want to achieve,” he said. Information is critical for achieving
precision. “If we are going to get into a white space we have to have
a very precise picture of what it is we are getting into,” he said. “We
have to have well-targeted information operations. You see that playing out
now in Iraq. The value of information is absolutely precious.”
Enemies know how to leverage information and “how to use it against us,”
It also is critical to know the location of forces, their composition, disposition
and strength, he said. “If we do that, we can trade mass for knowledge.
We no longer have to be shoulder to shoulder and we no longer have to link up
visually with one another to know where we are based.”
In the context of joint fires, Byrnes said, the Army has been asked by the
Pentagon to justify its need of mortars and artillery, and why it cannot use
just Air Force or Navy delivered fires.
“We have never invested in precision guidance for mortars or artillery,”
said Byrnes. “It either was too hard or too expensive, and we did not
want to invest the S&T [science and technology] dollars. We carry around
all this stuff for the large force structure. We’ve got to deploy it,”
even though it is a heavy logistics burden.
“I can do more with less if I can be precise,” he said. “If
I can reduce the mass that I have to move around, I can have a significant impact
on the size of the Army’s force structure.”
Byrnes favors upgrading legacy munitions with precision capability, he said.
“If I can do precise, I no longer have to apply mass and weight.”
Precision is measured by “effects, range and availability,” Byrnes
said. The effect on a target does not necessarily have to be a kill, he said.
It could be suppression of fire, delay or illumination, he explained.
However, the Army’s ground-based systems have a limited range and are
not always readily available to the soldiers. “When I have a platoon pinned
down by a machine fire, I can’t wait for fire,” he said.
Lethality can be achieved with joint fires, but the Army would need to have
its own “immediately responsive piece,” he said. “I need some
area-fired capability, but I need a lot of precise capability.”
The Army is going to trade off its own firepower and rely more on joint fires,
said Byrnes. He explained that 10 Army field artillery brigades are going to
be converted into military police, civil affairs and military intelligence units.
The Army also is eliminating five short-range air defense battalions and will
be relying more on the Air Force for air defense support, he said.