TRADOC and the Development of a New Generation of Weapons: TRADOC 50th anniversary series

By TRADOC Military History and Heritage OfficeJune 6, 2023

Abrams main battle tank
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Source: CMH Pub 30-22, American Military History, Vol. 2, pg. 385. (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL
Bradley fighting vehicle
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Source: CMH Pub 30-22, American Military History, Vol. 2, pg. 386. (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s 50th anniversary is July 1, 2023. In celebration, the TRADOC Communication Directorate in collaboration with the TRADOC Military History and Heritage Office, is sharing an article series highlighting key moments in TRADOC’s history to include the evolution of training, AirLand Battle, and gender integration.

A major mission assigned to the new TRADOC on 1 July 1973 was combat developments—the systematic development of new and improved organizations, equipment, weapons, and doctrine. The merger of the combat developments mission with the training mission in one command had been a guiding idea of the 1973 Army reorganization, and, consequently, TRADOC became the Army’s principal combat developer. The goal was to reorient combat developments to the near future, and to provide new and improved materiel, organization, and doctrine to field units quickly.

Of the three combat developments concerns—materiel, organization, and doctrine—materiel was a key element. In this realm, TRADOC worked jointly with U.S. Army Materiel Development and Readiness Command (DARCOM, 1976-1984) and U.S. Army Materiel Command (AMC, 1962-1976, 1984-present). As combat developer, TRADOC determined a weapon’s need and operational specifications, monitored its progress, and determined its ultimate use by the Army in the field. All of this required an integrated and systematic approach, which spawned the idea of the Total Weapon System and a new process, the Concept-Based Requirements System, that formalized efforts to convert concepts into reality.

Most famously, the fruits of TRADOC’s labors garnered the so-called Big Five during the late 1970s and 1980s—the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, the M-1 Abrams main battle tank, the UH-60 Black Hawk utility and transport helicopter, the M-2 and M-3 Bradley fighting vehicles, and the Patriot air defense missile system. The Big Five represented the Army’s first major weapons system acquisitions since before the Vietnam War.

Nested Combat Development Graphic.
Source. TRADOC Pamphlet 525-5 (1981), pg. 4. (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

Although the Big Five were certainly the most visible achievements in terms of materiel development, they were not TRADOC’s only ones. For example, the decade after 1975 saw the development and fielding of the squad automatic weapon, improvements to the M16 rifle, the Copperhead laser-guided artillery shell, TACFIRE artillery fire-direction system, a ground-emplaced mine-scattering system, modernization of the OH-58 Kiowa scout helicopter, and a multiple launch rocket system to mention but a few.

The payoff for TRADOC’s combat development work was victory in the 1990-1991 Gulf War. Furthermore, much of the equipment guided into existence during the 1970s and 1980s is still widely used by the US Army and allied forces today, a lasting testament to the fundamental effectiveness of TRADOC’s endeavors. The secret to success was the sound decision, executed in 1973, to combine the combat developments, doctrine, and training/leader education missions under one banner, thereby assuring unity of purpose and effort.

Then as now—Victory Starts Here!