WASHINGTON: Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli said today’s non-contiguous battlefield demands the development of platforms capable of operating in multiple environments.
A blue-ribbon panel, which first met in June, has authored white papers discussing various visions of the next ground combat vehicle (GCV), Chiarelli told Army and business leaders at the Association of the U.S. Army Institute of Land Warfare breakfast, Sept. 10.
The GCV is meant to fill the capability gap left after the manned ground vehicle program was canceled from Future Combat Systems earlier this year, Chiarelli said, adding that he expects the vehicles to be fielded within seven years.
“We’ve made a point to seek input from advocates and critics alike, from DoD, the Hill, academia, retired officers, noncommissioned officers, general officers and combat veterans, key allies and our sister services,” Chiarelli said. “We talked about the operating environment, platform characteristics, platform threats, COTS (commercial off the shelf) versus R&D (research and development) starts, realistic requirements and network consideration.”
The vice chief said the GCV represents one of the most important combat development and acquisition decisions the Army is going to make in the long term.
Many of the systems the Army fights in today were created for the cold war during a time when the world was “linear-based and un-networked,” Chiarelli said.
Those old systems aren’t suitable today because many aren’t upgradeable to house the network which he referred to as the “critical piece of the entire modernization program.”
“The GCV will focus on sustainability more than we ever have done in procuring an Army major weapons system,” he said. “The network architecture will be open with plug-and-play capability to accommodate not only the network of today, but the network of the future as well.”
He added that the first vehicle the Army needed to field would be an infantry fighting vehicle and based on the Army’s experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, mobility was raised to the top as one of the key operational design criteria. He said the current fleet of 6,300 armored personnel carriers, the M-113, will gradually be divested because they can’t be upgraded to accommodate the future network technologies.
“The Soldier is in fact the heart of the network… a robust net,” he said. “As the chief says, ‘Soldiers get four things from the network: I know where I am; I know where my friends are; I know where the enemy is; and, I can bring precision fires on that enemy.'”
Chiarelli said network capability must be interoperable, affordable and capable of incremental upgrades which will continue to give Soldiers an edge to battlefield situational awareness since they are now the source of most intelligence and most game-changing decisions.
“The information they receive over the network isn’t simply nice to have,” he said. “Today, the small unit has as much access to information now as what used to be restricted to division headquarters.”
Every single Soldier must have the ability to at least call off fire to avoid fratricide or civilian casualties, he added.
“We will combine a network and radio strategy in affordable increments, all part of those capability packages and each one of the capabilities packages will include the network,” Chiarelli said. “The key is to build a single network across a joint environment with a common set of operating procedures capable of connecting the separate systems and receiving additional systems or programs in the future.”
He added that the capacity of the network has grown from 50 megabits to more than six gigabits per second over the course of the war, which is an exponential increase of 121 times.
There are three basic components to the modernization package — brigade combat team capability, network capability sets and vehicle strategy, Chiarelli said. Along with ground vehicles, he said the Army is also working to modernize other elements of the force such as aviation, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, weapons systems and the tactical wheeled vehicle fleet.
Chiarelli said full-spectrum operations is something the Army sees as Soldiers moving up and down the spectrum of conflict from lethal to non-lethal. He said the situation on the battlefield has become increasingly dynamic as Soldiers conduct a combination of offensive and defensive operations along with stability operations.
The challenge for the Army in a fiscally constrained environment is to balance modernization and personnel costs, he said, adding that personnel costs have a great impact on the ability to modernize.