Newer Is Not Always Better -
USAF B-52 & The Army's M113A3 'Gavin'

By Cinncinatus

The Air Force has a 50 year old weapon system that is still a showpiece workhorse. Why? It fills a needed slot in their mission statement. With new age electronics, more powerful engines and stealth upgrades, the B-52 delivers payloads efficiently and dependably. Knowing that effective use of available resources is a good thing, instead of replacing an old, but efficient system with a modern expensive one, they upgrade existing platforms continuing to meet 21st Century needs.
So why is it that with shrinking budgets, and increased competition for resources and missions, Army leaders can't take a chapter, not just a page, from the Air Force? With a changing mission, the Army should scour its inventory for existing equipment capable of meeting the requirement. Instead they are creating a new weapons system that is outsized, unproven and even fragile. In addition, this new system forces the Army to create and train a completely new maintenance train with thousands of items not currently available.
Contemporary military leadership sees the Army Mission for the next 20 years as peacekeeping or stabilization/support. With no credible Major Theater War (MTW) threat, the Army is 'slimming-down' heavy forces and equipment to meet this mission. Army Chief of Staff mandated parameters for both the unit and equipment state that first response units must be transportable, maneuverable and effective.
Transportable means the light 'Strike Force' must arrive, as close to the potential point of danger as possible, within 96 hours. The ubiquitous C-130 (another upgraded 50+ years old airframe) is the mandated transport. With more than 510 of the relatively inexpensive C-130s the AF must deliver the strike force and its support elements within the required time.
Maneuverable requires the 'Strike Force' to operate in any condition around the world. This includes on/off roads in mountains, rice paddies, cities and small towns. Recently the Army has deployed to all of these. Yugoslavia had modern cities and paved roads, equivalent to the US, side by side with some of the most difficult and hazardous mountains anywhere in the world. Cities in Timor and the Philippines include paved and dirt roads and primitive villages surrounded by rice paddies. Somalia had a devastated urban infrastructure but hostile desert also. Narrow streets, high buildings, wide swampy plains and triple canopy jungle, all are the potential purview of the light strike force.
Effective means controlled lethality coupled with soldier protection. The strike force needs a combat platform, a fighting vehicle, from which to operate in any environment. This vehicle must maneuver tight corners, shoot at rooftops, and not crush poorly engineered streets and sewerage systems. It must overcome roadblocks of street debris including burned out cars and demolished buildings. It will face RPGs; heavy machine guns and the most common street weapon of urban warfare the 'Molotov Cocktail.' Shrugging off flaming gasoline, bullets and rocket projectiles, the IFV troops must perform their assigned mission.
If the US sends forces in harm's way, we have the moral obligation to provide them with the most effective equipment and configuration possible. Anything less would be a travesty to the unit deployed, and slap in the face of mission planners. A mission designed and employed around poor equipment is doomed to failure.
Currently the Strike Force centerpiece is the LAVIII/IV 'Stryker' Infantry Fighting Vehicle. Unlike the B-52, it is a completely new vehicle. Also unlike the B-52, it does not meet the standards set by the Army Chief of Staff. The 21-24 ton armored car rides on eight air-filled rubber tires elevated high above the road, driven through a complicated and sensitive kluge of transmission drive shafts, steering and suspension.
At $3 Million per LAV copy, The LAV does not even meet the requirements of effectiveness, maneuverability and transportability. It cannot fit into a C-130 without extensive temporary modifications that must be reversed upon delivery for combat. The rubber wheels are vulnerable to the simplest urban weapon: the Molotov Cocktail. Trapped in a narrow street it cannot turn in its own length to escape. Crossing swampy plains, its weight bogs it down, and it cannot swim so it is limited to bridge crossings. Restricted to highways and roads, the LAV cannot support operations away from a well- established infrastructure.
Tracked vehicles were developed to take the place of wheeled ones operating in difficult and hazardous conditions, yet the Army is insisting on returning to wheels. The published reasons: speed, weight and flexibility are all spurious. No wheeled combat vehicle today can keep up with an M1A2 Tank operating with its governors off. No wheeled combat vehicle can turn 180 degrees within its own length as any tracked vehicle can. Tracked vehicles reduce ground pressure over the length of the vehicle unlike wheeled vehicles that have a very narrow tire print on which to place their weight. And the M113 is designed to swim, freeing it from being road and bridge bound.
The Army has 17,000 M113A3s that already meet the requirements for the Strike Force vehicle. Known today as the 'Gavin,' the M113 weighs in at 10.5-13 tons, well below the 24-ton weight of the Stryker. The Gavin is the Army's equivalent of the rugged, dependable 'B-52.' Now in the A3 version, it has been re-tracked, up-engined, and modernized so it can go in any terrain: jungle, mountain, desert and urban. Most importantly, it can be loaded into a C-130 without any modifications, and offloaded at the danger point ready-to-fight.
Ask why the Army insisting on buying a vehicle that doesn't meet its own standards. There has to be a reason other than operational necessity.
We are fighting for the survival of world freedom;
We are fighting for each other;
Give us the tools to do the job.


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