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Helos, Drones Up, FCS Down for Army

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The Armys 2010 budget request reflects the services shift of focus from the battlefields of Iraq to those of Afghanistan, with a heavy emphasis on delivering more rotary wing aviation, aerial drones and from fielding FCS equipped armored brigades to beefing up the combat power of its light infantry.

The Army requested $142 billion in the base budget for 2010 and an additional $83 billion to fund ongoing combat operations in the 2010 Overseas Contingency Operations request, previously known as emergency supplementals. The budget request fully funded the Armys expansion to 547,400 active duty soldiers.

The massive FCS program is, of course, the hot budget issue when it comes to the Army and with Gates declaration that he would cancel the bulk of the program last month, the Armys modernization strategy will shift from fielding 15 FCS equipped BCTs to building a versatile mix of networked BCTs that leverage mobility, protection, precision, information and fires in order to be effective across the full spectrum of combat operations, said Lt, Gen. Edgar Stanton, the services budget chief, in a briefing to Pentagon reporters.

The 2010 budget accelerates spin-outs, new technologies such as small ground robots and sensors, to all of the Armys 72 BCTs, active and reserve, an effort that will probably take until 2025. Gates directed the Army to stop its expansion of BCTs at 45 instead of the originally planned 48. Stanton said the QDR will determine exactly what type of BCT mix the Army needs, as far as heavy, light infantry or Stryker, and he hinted it might include a requirement for more Stryker equipped brigades. I would expect the QDR to call for more Stryker brigades as they proved their versatility in irregular warfare during fighting in Iraq.

He said the service has already begun to relook the requirements for new armored vehicles to eventually replace the Abrams, Bradley, M-113 legacy fleet, and as per Gates guidance, will incorporate lessons from the ongoing wars in the vehicles design, specifically in providing greater protection against IEDs. Stanton made it clear that he didnt much like Gates characterization of FCS as a Cold War relic. The Army expects to deliver a concept proposal for new vehicles by late summer. Given such an abbreviated timeline for rolling out a new plan, its difficult to imagine that the service will do much more than tweak the existing FCS vehicle design.

I pressed Stanton on that issue and he claimed the Army will start with a blank sheet of paper, but he also said it would be prudent to take into account the vehicle development work thats already been done. The Army could even revisit the whole wheels versus tracks debate, he said, although that doesnt seem very likely. Whatever the final design it would incorporate some form of the V-shaped blast deflecting hull design characteristic of the MRAP series of IED protected vehicles. He said the Army expects to come up with more details of where it goes in terms of new armored vehicles during the QDR strategic review.

The Army had originally planned to replace its Kiowa Warrior scout helicopter with the new Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter, but the ARH program was recently cancelled so $235 million was included in the budget request to upgrade the Kiowa fleet. The Army is also spending around $500 million to train 150 new helicopter crews, and buy new Apaches and Chinooks for flight training, in an effort to bolster Army aviation in Afghanistan. Stanton said the mountainous terrain and lack of roads in Afghanistan puts a premium on helicopter transport.

The Army said its 2010 development and procurement budget is driven primarily by armor and sensor upgrades to the legacy armored fleet, newer helicopters and buying more aerial drones that will advance the Armys adaptation to combat environments where remote weapons platforms and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities play an increasingly prominent role.

Additional 2010 development and procurement highlights include:

$2.9 billion for further development of the FCS small unmanned ground vehicles, robots, small aerial drones, the information network and the non-line of sight missile system, the FCS spin-outs.

$738 million for development of the WIN-T information network.

$1.2 billion for 79 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters.

$1.06 billion for 36 CH-47F Chinook helicopters, of which 25 will be new builds and 14 remanufactured aircraft.

$736 million for 36 Sky Warrior drones, the Army variant of the Predator family armed drone.

$370 million for remanufacture of 8 AH-64 Apaches to the Longbow Block 3 configuration.

$326 million for Lakota Light Utility Helicopters.

$105 million to buy the C-12 Liberty dual prop plane, a modified King Air 350, for tactical surveillance and ground force overwatch.

$79 million to buy 704 of the small Raven aerial drone.

$917 million for 59 Patriot missiles.

$526 million for Bradley fighting vehicle modifications.

$478.9 million for Stryker vehicle survivability enhancements. No new vehicles will be bought in 2010 but the production line will be kept warm.

$1.5 billion to buy 10,214 new Humvees.

$471 million to buy 22 M1A2 SEP tanks and for other Abrams modifications.

$1.6 billion to buy 5,232 FMTV medium trucks, and $1.4 billion to buy an unspecified quantity of FHTV heavy trucks and trailers.

The withdrawal of Army brigades from Iraq has reduced the demand for reset, the initiative to refit war worn vehicles, down to $11 billion in 2010 from around almost $17 billion three years ago, Stanton said. Included in the OCO funding for battle losses were 4 new Apaches and 4 new Chinook helicopters.

Stanton said the Army is in the process of looking at unfunded requirements to respond to a request for the same from Congress. The service has not yet sent its unfunded request to OSD.

-- Greg Grant

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