The U.S. Army is betting $92 billion that the wars of the future should be fought with smaller, lighter, more manueverable vehicles. But some military officials and defense contractor executives are saying that that these technology-laden Future Combat Systems (FCS) are too weak to withstand urban conflicts, like the one currently playing out in Iraq.Like the Humvees of today, which are being shredded by rocket-propelled grenades and roadside bombs, the FCS vehicles won't have enough armor to withstand heavy assaults, critics tell Jane's Defence Weekly. And that could expose troops to greater danger.Tanks, for instance, will be outfitted with a suite of new sensors, and will be plugged into a wireless network for combat. But they'll shrink to less than half their current size and loose some of their armor.
"The network is not going to keep you alive [and] is probably irrelevant once you make close contact with the enemy. Iraqis have turned out to be sufficiently smart . . . and change in order to inflict damage on us," an army official told Jane's...Army officials and analysts told Jane's Defence Weekly that within the army, Congress and the two prime contractors for FCS (Boeing and Science Applications International Corp) optimism is waning. "I think large numbers of Democrats and Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee are acutely sensitive to all of this, understand it very clearly and are trying to figure out what to do," an army official said, adding "if the people from Boeing who work on this talk to you honestly, they tried to tell people in the army from the very beginning that this will not work."Unlike the US plans, many non-US forces intend to continue to employ heavy armoured vehicles. The Israel Defence Force has experienced years of Iraq-like urban combat and highly values its range of heavily armoured personnel carriers developed from main battle tank chassis. The German Army also emphasises armour and its new Puma infantry fighting vehicle, scheduled to enter service in 2006, will have three different levels of armour protection, increasing the Puma's weight from 31.45 to 43 tonnes.