Defense Discusses Crusader Alternatives
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 15, 2002 With the cancellation of the Army's Crusader artillery system, the Defense Department is looking at promising technologies that could give the service even more accurate artillery capabilities -- and faster.
Michael Wynne, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said the idea behind canceling the Crusader is to accelerate Army transformation by investing in other technologies. He spoke to reporters in a Pentagon briefing today.
Wynne said the Army recognizes that being able to precisely aim and to hit targets gives the service battlefield dominance. The service would like to do for artillery and indirect fire systems what precision-guided bombs has done for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.
"The use of precision munitions for the Air Force has converted old B-52 bombers into very accurate strikers, and old bomb bodies into very precise munitions," Wynne said. "That's the gist of what we are trying to do. It's a matter of prioritization and we are prioritizing precision, strategic deployablity and, ultimately, the Army's transformation."
If approved, the Army would accelerate the Future Combat Systems/Non-line-of-sight Component, the Excalibur family of precision munitions, the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, the Defense Advanced Research Agency's Net Fires System, the High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System and the M-777 Joint Lightweight 155mm howitzer.
The Army would redistribute the $9 billion that it would have spent on Crusader on these systems. The more than $2 billion already spent on Crusader would not be wasted as technologies developed so far could be adapted and used in these new technologies.
"What we would like to do through the imposition of advanced technologies is capture those technologies to accelerate the transition of Future Combat System/Non-line- of-sight Component into the force structure as fast as possible instead of waiting for Crusader to be fielded," Wynne said.
He said the Excalibur family can be used with existing systems such as the M-109A6 Paladin 155 mm self-propelled howitzer. The new munitions would extend Paladin's range by 30 percent and improve accuracy tremendously, Wynne said. Current artillery projectiles have up to a 370-meter dispersion. The Excalibur would drop that to 10 meters. He said he hopes to have the system fully developed by 2005, with fielding in 2006.
The DARPA Net Fires is "the deepest reach into the technology," Wynne said. It is a containerized, vertically launched indirect fire rocket system. The rockets have a range of 60 kilometers and can be transported by a Humvee utility vehicle. He said that if development remains on track, Net Fires could be fielded by 2008.
"It's extremely portable, extremely deployable," he said. The system was originally set for deployment in 2012 or 2013. A prototype has been built and tested.
"We want Crusader funding to be fully redistributed to Army programs," Wynne said. "We do believe that there is room to accelerate the Future Combat System. We believe this will transform the Army sooner, and, frankly, moving the Army toward light and mobile forces is where we're at and where the Army is at."