While the Army continues to fund a variety of precision-guided weapon technologies for rockets, missiles and artillery projectiles, it also is trying to gauge future requirements for these systems and set realistic procurement goals, officials said.
Framing the discussion is a comprehensive study called “Precision Munitions Mix Analysis,” expected to direct future buys and possibly set the stage for an internal competition for resources within the Army.
A study group led by the Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Futures Center is scheduled to complete the report by September 2005.
A key question that this study must answer is “How much precision can we afford?” said Lt. Gen. Joseph Yakovac, the Army’s top procurement officer.
Whether the Army can shift its doctrine and tactics away from “volume fires” to “precision fires” is a key topic the study will address, Yakovac said at a recent industry conference. He noted that the employment of precision-guided missiles in a similar tactical role as current artillery rounds is “becoming a big issue.”
The Army, like the other services, is under growing pressure from the Defense Department to field weapons that can pinpoint and hit enemy targets precisely, without causing indiscriminate civilian casualties.
Many in the Army, however, are experiencing sticker shock when they compare the cost of a $1,500 artillery round with $30,000 to $80,000 for a precision-guided weapon, Yakovac noted. “There is a lot of capability we are looking at, but when we look at the cost, it’s difficult.”
The Precision Munitions Mix Analysis, or PMMA, will focus on Army requirements in 2014, when the service expects to introduce the Future Combat Systems, a family of 17 vehicles connected by a single command-and-control network.
According to a draft version of the study obtained by National Defense, the issues to be probed include:
Each weapon will be gauged based on its “operational return.” The higher the return, the more likely the Army will buy it in large quantities.
Among the more contentious aspects of the study are the scenarios selected to frame the discussion. The study draft indicates that the main focus will be high- and medium-intensity conflicts, with limited emphasis on urban combat. One industry expert speaking off-the-record said this was a major flaw in the study, hinting a bias toward area artillery weapons, potentially at the expense of precision-guided missiles.
Recent comments by Maj. Gen. David P. Valcourt, chief of field artillery, suggest that future decisions on munitions buys will be shaped by the changing role of cannon artillery in the Army.
“Today, direct support cannons must do it all—often resulting in less responsive and effective fires,” Valcourt said in a presentation to the Precision Strike Association. In the future, the non-line of sight cannon will serve in close-combat roles, while the counterstrike functions will be left to more accurate high-tech weapons, such as the guided multiple launch rocket system and the precision-attack missile now in development under the FCS program.
Another caveat cited in the study is the Army’s evolving strategy to modernize its aviation units, and how it will affect
precision-guided munitions programs. According to the PMMA draft, “representation of Army aviation and unmanned air vehicle capabilities is limited due to pending Army aviation and UAV force structure decisions.”
The munitions to be evaluated in the study include the 120 mm precision-guided mortar, a mid-range munition now in development for the FCS, a 155 mm high-energy round with a course-corrected fuze, the Excalibur 155 mm satellite-guided
projectile, the precision-attack and loitering-attack missiles also in development for the FCS, the guided multiple launch rocket system, the unitary-warhead version of the Army tactical missile, the advanced precision kill weapon system for 2.75-inch rockets, the Viper munition for UAVs, and the joint common missile, now in development to eventually replace the Hellfire.
Other systems could be inserted to the list, based on recent feedback from Army labs and industry experts. Possible additions include: the common smart submunition, a kinetic energy armor-piercing explastic round, 155 mm and 105 mm advanced cannon artillery ammunition, a 155 mm dual-purpose improved conventional munition equipped with a course-correcting fuze, an upgraded version of Excalibur that so far has not been funded and an assortment of non-lethal munitions.