Army Adjusts to New Battlefield, General Says
By Navy Seaman William Selby
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 30, 2008 The Army has continued to refine the way it fights in today’s modern battlefield, a senior military official said yesterday.
“We have an important new concept that is working, that we need to essentially give capability to, and that’s the modular force,” Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Speakes, the service’s deputy chief of staff for programs, said during a conference call with online journalists and bloggers.
“The way that we’re going to empower the modular force is through Future Combat Systems,” Speakes said.
For almost 10 years, the Army has researched and developed technology that eventually will replace Cold War–era systems with the modular capability that will be used to fight in today’s modern battlefield. Fund shortages in the late 1990s put some programs on hold, and the military has had to restart critical research and development for technologies that the military has known for some time that it needs, Speakes explained.
“It took us time to develop the capabilities that we’ll now see the results from,” he said. “So, the first point was we had to start a brand-new concept of research, development, and technology investment. The second point is that we had to have the … new vision of how we’re going to fight.”
The Army wants to keep soldiers safer on the battlefield, the general said. “What we want is a concept that through both manned and unmanned systems, aerial and ground systems, all primarily through robotics, that we’re able to extend the battlefield and also reduce the risk of soldiers,” he explained. But he cautioned that reduced risk won’t make soldiers invulnerable on the battlefield.
“What we’re going to try to do is extend the battlefield through the network,” Speakes said. “Ultimately, our vision is to bring the network to the soldier.” It’s critical for soldiers to have the capability to communicate through text, voice, and visual images from anywhere to anyone, he said.
“So the concept then, [is one] of robotics, empowered by the network, all designed to reduce soldiers’ vulnerability and increase soldiers’ situational awareness,” the general said.
Military officials recently introduced the first of eight new vehicles that are part of the modernization plan that harmonizes capabilities using common platforms, Speakes said. The new vehicles use a system that is 70 percent common in order to harmonize their capability or a common platform, Speakes said. And because the new techniques and technology are evolving, he added, there will be no need to keep creating new armor.
“The lessons of the IED battlefield what we’ve seen over the last three or four years have now been reflected in the important changes,” he said.
The Army has never created a whole new concept for its technology and weapons development, the general said.
“If we did something for a good reason five years ago that is not right today, we’ll go ahead and move forward and change that design plan in order to make it relevant for today and tomorrow,” he said.
(Navy Seaman William Selby works for the New Media directorate of the Defense Media Activity.)