Sunday, January 28, 2007


H.G. Wells, like that Heinlein guy, wrote science fiction that last. One of his shorts was The Land Ironclads, a story that laid the ground work for the modern tank.

Now, scale that sucker down, and you've basically got the WWI tank.

Military technology is all about tit for tat. Body armor started going out of vogue with the longbow. Plates were replaced by mail, but that was a stop gap. The rifled bullet pretty much ended any experiment with armor. From that point forward, "armor" was essentially flak protection. Then, along came kevlar.

A better helmet is created. Today, we have the SAPI (Small Arms Insert Plates) inside kevlar coats and called Individual Body Armor. Add some groin protection, throat protection, deltoid armor protection and that funky gunners helmet and you're back to looking like one of those knights in shiny armor. Digitized.

H.G. Well's Landships kinda went the same way. From WWI tanks to the M1 Abrams. The M1A2 is 60 tonne behemoth. Fast and lethal. But you know what? They get blown up also. Matter of physics. You can make a vehicle resistant to, say, 500kg of explosives. The vehicle gets destroyed, but the crew survives. Good outcome, right? But the enemy, well he's no idjiot, so for his next bomb, he plants 510kg of explosives.


There's an upper limit to the effectiveness of up armoring. We've reached that, and you see it in anti IED operations. Instead of defeating the bombs, the focus is on defeating the bomb makers. So why all the steel?

War is as much about competing systems, as it is individual weapons or tactics. Best system wins. But that's beyond this post.

Here's the M4 Carbine.

You may have seen them before, in the hands of Rangers and SOF types, Infantry and the like. Surprisingly, they were originally designed for logisticians; 88M, 92Y, 68W types who spent a lot of time entering and exiting vehicles on the linear battlefield. Thinking was, foreshortened, they'd be easier to handle than the M-16.

Then along came the SOF, who liked the weapon, and adopted it, along with the wider Infantry community. Now, you see them everywhere. From the base model to ones tricked out with grenade launchers, widescreen TVs, iPods and can openers.

So back to the land ironclads.

If we are in a long war, then the model for conflict will be more like Afghanistan than Irak. Shadow wars in the nooks and crannies (if Thomas P.M. Barnett is right about the CHICOMS).

Bradleys and Abrams have large footprints and long tails. The Army introduced the Stryker variants which have performed surprisingly well. But the Stryker is an interim vehicle, a stop gap along the way to the Future Combat System, a family of vehicles powered by hope and able to shoot dreams. Sexy stuff. Problem is funding priorities. It might not get built.

(looks like an elongated Dalek: EXTERMINATEEXTERMINATEEXTERMINATE!!!)

Now, there's the issue of the HUMVEE, which is about at the end of it's useful life. Sit in one, lurching along with armor, FBCB2 cramping you, limited side visibility...well, you get the point.

So the Navy's decided to put out for bid the Joint Tactical Light Vehicle ('Joint' is a way of saying, give us more money) to outfit their Marines.

Well, Generally Dynamic has stepped forward with a, there's that word again, "family of vehicles" for the JTLV.

Looks something like this:

As a REMF mobile, probably won't get the "attention" it deserves, which means it will probably come in under budget, and work. REMF work is decidedly unsexy. Only necessary.

So, somewhere along the time the FCS disappears in a poof of competing priorities, someone will take a gander at the JTLV, rip out the BCS3, stuff in a FBCB2, MCS-Lite, CPOF, ABCD, XYZ, mount a rail gun and go to town.

Like the M4 Carbine.

At least, that would be my guess.

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