Short-range air defense tops review of Army programs, G-8 says

By C. Todd LopezApril 5, 2017

Short-range air defense tops SPAR, G-8
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WASHINGTON (Army News Service) -- Last year the Army kicked off an effort called the Strategic Portfolio Analysis and Review, or SPAR, to review 780 programs and evaluate their impact on warfighting.

Now, said Lt. Gen. John M. Murray, deputy chief of staff, Army G-8, that effort has been completed. Topping the list of most important programs to emphasize for the Army is "maneuverable, protected, short-range air defense" capability.

Primarily, Murray said, SHORAD's ranking at the top has been in response to what's being seen in the Ukraine, and also comes as a result of the Army's de-emphasis on that capability.

"We have not worried about air defense in years because we had the best air defense system in the world: the U.S. Air Force."

Murray told a room full of defense industry representatives in Tyson's Corner, Virginia, March 28, that the Air Force may not be as effective in the anti-access area-denial environment as once assumed. That, coupled with a proliferation of unmanned aerial systems and the fact the Army has not invested anything in SHORAD in years, Murray said, makes SHORAD a top priority for the Army.

As part of the SPAR, a total of 780 existing programs were evaluated by the Army and were categorized according to their contribution to the Army's warfighting capability. Those categories included:

-- Accelerate or find a way to bring into the portfolio.

-- Sustain at current level of resources.

-- Reallocate resources to invest elsewhere.

-- Divest most or all resources.

Ultimately, the future of Army programs will not be decided by the SPAR, but will be decided by the decisions of senior Army leadership, who are informed by findings of the SPAR, Murray said. It's expected the SPAR will be a yearly process.

Other programs that top the list of importance to the Army, Murray said, include long-range precision fires; buying out munition requirements, meaning ensuring there are enough mentions to fire for the weapons systems the Army has; lethality, mobility and protection of combat systems, such as for the Bradley and Abrams, as well as acceleration of the armored multi-purpose vehicle; active-protection systems for air and ground systems; ensured position navigation and timing; electronic warfare; both offensive and defensive cyber capabilities; assured communications; and vertical lift.

Murray said the Army is now considering several active-protection systems, known as APS, including the "Trophy" system from Israel, which he said "has a great reputation in terms of being effective."

He said the Army bought a number of Trophy systems, and a number of another kind of system as well, to evaluate them, including one called "Iron Fist," also from Israel, and another from a U.S.-based manufacturer called "Iron Curtain."

He said the Army aims to put Iron Curtain on a Stryker, Iron Fist on a Bradley, and Trophy on an Abrams tank, to evaluate their effectiveness.

"The one that is farthest along in terms of installing it is ... Trophy on Abrams," he said. "We're getting some pretty ... good results. It adds to the protection level of the tank. Trophy has an interesting capability, slew to cue. We're finding that we can incorporate that into the installation on the Abrams."

Iron Fist on the Bradley is also "moving along," he said. Though he cited a problem with installing the system on the Bradley, due to the size, weight, and power requirements of the system, plus the amount of space available on top of the turret of the Bradley

APS systems, he said come with additional considerations. In particular, he said, are considerations for the safety of Soldiers alongside the vehicles who are dismounted.

"As we do this, the interesting thing is going to be safety concerns," he said. "Anything that shoots off an armored vehicle, 'x' amount of meters, and makes something blow up, is not good for the integrated dismounted/mounted operations. So we have some concerns about tactics, techniques, and procedures and how we adjust those."

Murray also cited resistance to the primary purpose of having an APS, which is to reduce passive armor. He said there's a trust issue there with such systems.

"There has to be a level of trust in whatever it is that you're trying [to use] to displace that passive armor," Murray said, adding that he's not sure Soldiers right now trust the protection offered by an APS enough to lose the passive armor that is currently on systems.

"I struggle with when we start significant money in the next-generation tank, based upon a breakthrough in armor technology," he said. "I want a material that is three-quarters the weight or half the weight but offers the same level of protection. If we start building a new tank tomorrow, seven years from now, we'd have a new tank and it'd weigh 75 tons. We'd put the same level of protection on it. Even with enhanced situational awareness, even with the APS."

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