Strength through cooperation

By Maj. Seth R. FortOctober 22, 2020

Team training
Indian Army Soldiers together with members from Program Manager Towed Artillery Systems New Equipment Training team conduct maintenance training in India on M777A2 Lightweight Towed 155mm Howitzers following the delivery of the howitzers in May 2019. (Photo Credit: Indian Army photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

“Fuze armed” was the last transmission heard over the radio, seconds before the M982A1 Excalibur projectile hit its intended target 22 kilometers away during the Lot Acceptance Test at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, on April 10, 2019. Delegates from three different countries watched as dust and debris from the explosion cleared, revealing how lethality is augmented by precision. Eight months later, on Dec. 9, 2019, at the Pokhran Field firing range in India, the same lethality was demonstrated as India became the latest partner to add precision cannon artillery projectiles to its military arsenal.

In the 2018 National Defense Strategy, then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis declared “strengthening alliances and attracting new partners” as one of the strategy’s lines of effort, while highlighting “deepen[ing] interoperability” as one of the elements necessary “for achieving a capable alliance.”

The U.S. defense industry, together with U.S. military standards for testing and evaluation, provide materiel solutions that are sought after by militaries throughout the world. The demand for U.S. military materiel was enumerated in October 2019, when the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), which is responsible for the financial oversight and program management of foreign military sales (FMS), announced $55.4 billion in FMS during fiscal year 2019.

From senior political leaders to operators in the field, each foreign military sale provides an opportunity to strengthen alliances, attract new partners and increase multinational interoperability, while underscoring the U.S. government’s commitment to meeting a foreign military’s materiel objectives.


FMS is a carefully regulated process that requires comprehensive exchanges between multiple agencies within the U.S. and the foreign government. The process formally begins when a foreign government submits a letter of request (LOR) to obtain product pricing and availability information in support of a specific materiel objective.

Upon receipt of the letter, the corresponding U.S. Embassy’s Office of Defense Cooperation, the State Department’s Office of Regional Security and Arms Transfers, DSCA, the applicable implementing agency and the program office for the queried systems work together to gather the requested information.

The gathered information may be provided to the requesting government only after the appropriate agencies assess the letter of request as supportable and when “the President [of the United States] finds that furnishing the defense articles … will strengthen the security of the United States and promote world peace,” according to the Arms Export and Control Act.

If requested by the foreign government, a letter of offer and acceptance (LOA) may be issued from the U.S. government approving the continuation of the FMS case. All foreign military sales cases have underlying economic and political factors. An LOR can be denied for a number of reasons. However, if an LOA is issued, it begins a series of exchanges between the U.S. and the foreign customer. Quantities, prices and additional required items are negotiated and included in the final contract between the two governments.

Depending on the complexity of the requested systems and the parties involved, there may be variations in the FMS process. However, once a letter of offer and acceptance is issued, all U.S. government parties diligently work to provide the requested capability to the foreign government.


Alliances and partnerships are an integral part of the United States’ success. Even before declaring independence in 1776, the U.S. sought to establish both with governments that shared its objectives. When operating abroad, alliances and partnerships can provide U.S. forces a unique perspective of an area of operations; they can enhance capabilities while reducing burdens; and they can signal a higher level of commitment against an adversary.

The United States Conventional Arms Transfer Policy, updated in the National Security Presidential Memorandum (NSPM-10) in April 2018, highlights the crossroads between FMS, allies, partners and U.S. objectives. “The security of the United States and the defense of our interests require a strong military, capable allies and partners, and a dynamic defense industrial base. … Strategic conventional arms transfers lie at the intersection of these interests and play a critical role in achieving our national, economic security, and foreign policy objectives.”

Throughout the FMS process, there are numerous interactions at various levels between the U.S. and the foreign government that assist in strengthening alliances and partnerships. Upon initiating an FMS case, and during contract negotiations, senior representatives from both governments interact daily. As contracts are formed and amended, exchanges help develop an understanding of each government’s requirements and limitations.

Many FMS cases require supplemental or corresponding system acquisitions and support packages for a “total package,” or more holistic approach. With each of these additional requirements, more representatives from each government enter the alliance- and partner-building effort. In most cases, these representatives work directly with their foreign government counterparts as they collaborate to accomplish fulfillment of specific contractual requirements.

At the unit or user level, unit planners and sustainers for the foreign military become involved as new equipment training is scheduled and executed. From the highest levels of government to the users in the field, the FMS process provides an opportunity for the U.S. to strengthen its ties with the foreign government.

President Trump, during his visit to India, gives recognition to members of the Office of Defense Cooperation at the U.S. Embassy in India on Feb. 25 for their pivotal role in the foreign military sale of Excalibur M982A1 projectiles. (Photo Credit: U.S. Embassy in India photo) VIEW ORIGINAL


In addition to strengthening alliances and attracting new partners, FMS also increases interoperability between the U.S. and foreign militaries.

The Defense Standardization Program, together with test and evaluation plans and standards, “provide the warfighter with equipment that is interoperable, reliable, technologically superior and affordable,” according to DOD Manual 4120.24, issued Sept. 24, 2014. To accomplish this, the systems and ammunition used by the U.S. military undergo extensive testing and evaluation before being fielded and further proven on the front lines. Because of these standards and the subsequent quality that is achieved, militaries throughout the world seek to acquire U.S. military products through FMS.

During the foreign military sales process, information is often shared between the U.S. and the foreign customer on the architecture of the acquired systems to assess compatibility between the newly purchased systems and preexisting systems. To establish compatibility, FMS cases often require additional tests, evaluations and system modifications. Munitions are tested on new foreign weapon systems, software modifications are developed and tested, and all potential system and user touch points are assessed to ensure complete compatibility.

FMS results in U.S. and allied militaries operating with compatible systems, which in turn enhances multinational interoperability. The importance of interoperability is stated repeatedly in TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1, The U.S. Army in Multi-Domain Operations 2028. “Interoperability across Service, interagency, and multinational partners is a key element to executing MDO [multidomain operations].” FMS promotes interoperability, which then “builds capacity and expands the range of options for the Joint Force Commander.”

Interoperability considerations can range from technology and equipment to training and cultural factors, all of which can be directly impacted by FMS. The processes involved during an FMS case, from contract negotiation to fielding, help support interoperability at the strategic, operational and tactical levels.

An M982A1 Excalibur projectile detonates directly over the target vehicle during a Lot Acceptance Test on April 10, 2019, at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona. (Photo Credit: Photo by Yuma Proving Ground Target Camera) VIEW ORIGINAL


As one of the largest armies in the world, over the past decade the Indian Army has focused on modernizing its artillery forces. One of the most notable steps to modernize the artillery came in September 2018, when India received its first delivery of the U.S. M777A2 Lightweight Towed 155 mm Howitzers.

Throughout the FMS case for M777A2 howitzers, Program Manager Towed Artillery Systems (PM TAS), together with multiple U.S. government agencies and organizations, worked diligently with the Indian government to ensure the acquisition and fielding of the howitzers, while strengthening the partnership and shaping future operations. The relationship and trust built between PM TAS and the Indian Army proved key to the follow-on effort to equip the howitzer with the Excalibur projectile.

The second step occurred in May 2019, eight months after delivery of the first M777A2s, when the Indian government submitted a request for M982A1 Excalibur projectiles. Over the next five months, during one of the fastest FMS cases in U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s history, Program Manager Combat Ammunition Systems (PM CAS), along with representatives from other U.S. agencies, commands and offices, collaborated their efforts and worked directly with their Indian counterparts to overcome obstacles and meet India’s requested delivery date. During early discussions, PM CAS identified critical associated items such as propellant, training package and fuze setting system to enable the fastest path to qualification that were also added to the effort.

On Oct. 13, 2019, M982A1 Excalibur projectiles, along with several supplementary systems, were delivered to Mumbai, India. Less than two months later, on Dec. 9, following a three-week new equipment training, Indian artillery instructors and Soldiers at the Pokhran Field firing range in India successfully employed M982A1 Excalibur projectiles with M777A2 howitzers at targets ranging from 17 to 36 kilometers, each time achieving the desired effects while impacting the intended targets with precision.

Building upon the success of these and other FMS, on Feb. 24, during his visit to India, President Donald Trump announced the U.S. was working with India to sign agreements for more than $3 billion in planned military sales. As with other allies and partners, through past and future FMS, the U.S. will strengthen its partnership with India, while building interoperability between the two militaries.

An M982A1 Excalibur projectile, set to delay, penetrates the target’s roof before detonating during a Lot Acceptance Test on April 10, 2019, at Yuma Proving Ground. (Photo Credit: Photo by Yuma Proving Ground Target Camera) VIEW ORIGINAL


The 2018 National Defense Strategy states, “The willingness of rivals to abandon aggression will depend on their perception of U.S. strength and the vitality of our alliances and partnerships.” Each FMS provides the acquisition community, along with other U.S. government agencies and organizations, an opportunity to support the National Defense Strategy by strengthening alliances, attracting new partners and increasing multinational interoperability.

The Defense Standardization Program, together with the requirements for test and evaluation, result in U.S. military systems and ammunition that are effective, reliable and affordable. Consequently, these tested and proven products are sought after by militaries throughout the world.

During the FMS process, the U.S. government works closely with the foreign government to accomplish a common goal and provide a materiel capability. The FMS process results in regular engagements between both governments, as well as product modification and integration. Each of these actions help support multinational interoperability and further strengthen U.S. alliances and partnerships.

For more information on foreign military sales to go For more information on Excalibur or M777 to go

MAJ. SETH R. FORT is an assistant product manager with Product Manager Precision Attack Cannon Munitions, Project Manager Combat Ammunition Systems, Joint Program Executive Office for Armaments and Ammunition. He holds an MBA from The College of William and Mary, and a B.A. in government and international politics, with a minor in Islamic studies, from George Mason University. He is Level II certified in Program Management.

Read the full article in the Fall 2020 issue of Army AL&T magazine.

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