(Interview with Gary Nolan, Radio America)
Nolan: We've been hearing an awful lot about the Crusader missile and what is it, what does it do, who's pushing for it, what's going on? I'm pleased to tell you that Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz joins us.
Mr. Secretary welcome, how are you?
Wolfowitz: Fine, thank you. How are you? Good morning.
Nolan: Good morning.
The Crusader missile. What exactly is this thing?
Wolfowitz: We call it a self-propelled artillery piece. It's a great big Howitzer that would fire at a very high rate of fire with a lot of modern new technology, but basically it's a canon.
Nolan: And what is the controversy? Secretary Rumsfeld says what? We're not going to get this?
Wolfowitz: Secretary Rumsfeld has decided to recommend to Congress that instead of buying the Crusader we put our money into the next generation of technology to bring it forward faster. I think a way of thinking about it perhaps that somewhat relates to ordinary life, if you have a pretty good computer, a pretty good car, do you put your money into next year's model, or if you can't do this as a consumer, do you try to get the three years from now model a year earlier? We're trying to leap forward to get the more advanced technology sooner, and we've decided given all the great capabilities we have already, that we can do without Crusader in that interim period.
Nolan: Who's pushing for Crusader?
Wolfowitz: Well, to be honest, the Army as a corporate body likes it very much. It is a terrific canon. But the question is, in our view, that money would be much better spent on building what we think can be done reasonably soon, and that is very accurate artillery shells.
We've seen in bombing how much difference it makes to be accurate. The same thing would be true in artillery. If you can hit a target, destroy it with three shells instead of 150, you can imagine what that begins to do not just for the savings and all the logistics that it takes to get those shells to the battlefield, but I think most importantly being able to take out the target quickly before an enemy can kill you.
Nolan: So instead of just getting the coordinates and shooting it as best you can, aiming and hit and miss, what you're talking about in the next generation will the sort of missile like we've been using from aircraft where you would give it some computer coordinates, fire it, and it would go right where it needs to go?
Wolfowitz: That's exactly right. It's taking that revolution that we've already witnessed in air power and transferring it to artillery.
Nolan: So a smart bomb, essentially.
Wolfowitz: Smart artillery shell. It's a shell and not a bomb. That's in a way why it's a little bit harder. When you fire it out the end of gun barrel it's going a heck of a lot faster than when you drop it from the sky so all those terrific guidance systems have to be able to withstand the shock of it. But it's an engineering challenge and one we're quite sure we can meet.
Nolan: Are we on the way to it right now? I know you can't divulge everything, I'm sure there are some things that need to be kept quiet, but are people saying yes this is doable and we're on the way to it, or --
Wolfowitz: Absolutely. We've already been able to do it at muzzle velocities, if you understand that word. In other words, how fast it comes out of the canon. We've been able to reach muzzle velocities that are pretty close to the real world and I think it's just a matter of time and money because development takes money to get one that will withstand that shock.
Nolan: What are they saying in Congress?
Wolfowitz: Different things. I think we're getting some people for, some people against us. A lot of people who always think we should have consulted more. There's just no way you can consult with the whole world and still make a decision. But I think the more we get around and explain that this is one of those hard decisions that you have to make if you want to spend the taxpayers' money the most wisely you can so that our soldiers five years from now, ten years from now will have absolutely the best equipment. When you put the issue that way, which I think is what the issue's about, we get a lot of support up there.
Nolan: In our most recent conflicts have we fired a lot of shells?
Wolfowitz: Well we have, but actually something that we've fired a lot of are rockets. Artillery these days is not just canons. It's also rockets. One of the reasons why we're comfortable living without Crusader for awhile is because we not only have some pretty good canons, pretty good Howitzers, but we also have terrific rockets. One of the things we want to do with this money is to accelerate the guided rocket system that will give us the same precise accuracy in a rocket system, and a rocket system that can fire out 60 to 150 kilometers, that's I guess 40 to 100 miles.
Nolan: Is it safe to say the Army's going to lose this war the war on the shell?
Wolfowitz: I don't like to put it as winners and losers. In fact the Army, bless them, when the Commander-in-Chief, and the President is behind this decision. When the Commander-in-Chief decides something the Army, like the other services, does their level best to implement it. We've had great cooperation with the Army now that the President's made his decision to develop the best possible alternative.
I think it's going to be win/win. By the way, I think it's important for people like me who really do believe in the importance of the Army, we're not taking this money from the Army and moving it to airplanes. We're keeping it in the Army. We're keeping it in Army artillery. We think this decision is going to make Army artillery relevant on the battlefields of the next decades instead of just something of the last century.
Nolan: Does anybody else out there have anything that even comes close to this next generation that we're going to use? I mean does China have anything like that?
Wolfowitz: I think we will be way ahead of everyone else with the new technology we're developing. When it comes to straight canons there are some people today who have canons that can shoot farther than ours do, although our rocket systems outrange them. Some people have canons that can shoot faster than ours do but we've decided the place to compete is not with canon to canon but with the accuracy that we're going to get with our shells, with the computer networking that's now going to make it possible to direct fire from many different directions. We're already first in the class and I think we'll be even further ahead after this transformation is completed.
Nolan: When is the final say-so going to happen?
Wolfowitz: Well we hope sooner rather than later. This is up to the Congress. As the saying goes, the executive proposes and the Congress disposes, but it's costing us $30 million a month or so on the track we're on. We'd like to get that money shifted as quickly as possible in what we believe is the direction of the future.
Nolan: All right. Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense. Thank you very much for being with us this evening.
Wolfowitz: Thank you.