More on NBC, Trophy and my blown gasket Posted by: McQ
on Thursday, September 07, 2006
Jon sent me a link to an article from DefenseTech about the Trophy system and the NBC - Lisa Meyers report on which I went off on yesterday (thanks for the link Jon).
DefenseTech takes a shot at the NBC report, which, if I read it correctly, doesn't so much dispute the content as much as it disputes the timing. As Jason Sigger of DefenseTech says:
First of all, this might have been a good news report - in APRIL, when this issue was made public (see this DefenseTech post). Or maybe Lisa might have done an internet search and found Noah's Popular Mechanics article in August. Both articles discuss the Army's concern that, yes, this seems to be a good idea, but there are some outstanding issues:
"It is not just about giving [soldiers] an APS system. How do the soldiers work with it? How does it tie into the network? How do you know when to turn it on? When not to turn it on?" said Future Combat Systems program manager Brig. Gen. Charles Cartwright. "We could put something over there . . . overnight but have I got the logistics to be able to support," the technology.
Some of you may be familiar with David Drake's Hammer's Slammers - he has written a number of scifi novels about this mercenary tank regiment, which has nuclear-powered tanks and armored cars that move around like hovercrafts. The vehicles also feature an anti-projectile defense system which, when activated, shoots out like a shotgun to defeat the incoming projectile (also good for shredding light infantry in the way). Issue is, it can be set for manual rather than automatic. These concept of operation issues need to be worked out (also see Murdoc's take on this issue).
So as MichaelW first brought out yesterday in the comments section, there are issues to be worked out here. Acknowledged and expected. All new systems have those sorts of issues. Adaptation is part of the process.
What Sigger and others take exception too is NBC's claim that their findings were the results of a 5 month investigation. As you can tell by reading the links, this was first reported when it happened ... April. And everything which Meyers reported was available about then as well.
So the blown gasket over the politics still is valid (and blown). As Sigger says:
So, bottom line, the story stands, but it isn't news (well it was to me, although not particularly surprising news as Sigger notes). Again, we're committed to developing from scratch a system which exists (and has issues) and most likely could be adapted to our requirements much more quickly than the system which will first be available in 2011.
That's a broken system. Perhaps Sigger is right when he says the system is set up to do precisely what is being done and should be no surprise to anyone, but that doesn't mean it is acceptable nor does it mean it should continue because "that's the way we've always done it".
The RPG-29 is not common in Iraq (production started post sanctions) and the insurgency is equipped with older single charge RPG-7 which cannot penetrate M1A1 armour. USA has not yet faced dual charge RPGs enmass so there is no burning need to have an intercept system. The USAs main problem is IEDs.
Only thing is there were a significant number of Israelli casualties to RPG-29 fire (including MBTs) in the Lebanon conflict, which have left Israel rushing to implement Trophy. Hezbollah is basically Iran-lite, with Iran being the owner of thousands of RPG-29s. If American system is due in 2011 buying the Trophy makes some sense only if America is planning on attacking Iran (or similar armed country) before 2011. Iran is probably going to have nukes by 2010.
US Army Defends Decision Not To Buy General Dynamics System
By Rebecca Christie Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)—The U.S. Army on Wednesday defended its decision not to buy a General Dynamics Corp. (GD) system that defends tanks against rocket-propelled grenades by shooting back.
The Army has faced periodic criticism this year for its decision not to buy the Trophy defense system and rush it to Iraq. General Dynamics makes Trophy in partnership with Rafael Armament Development Authority Ltd., which is backed by Israel’s defense ministry.
Army officials say tests haven’t proven a need for the system. But the service continues to face criticism that it is overlooking a potentially life-saving technology.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, wrote Army Secretary Francis Harvey on Wednesday to ask why the system isn’t in use, after Trophy made the NBC News. Maine is home to two General Dynamics sites: a shipyard in Bath and a .50 caliber machine gun factory in Saco.
But the Army insists the system isn’t a good fit. When asked about the system Wednesday, Army spokesman Lt. Col. William Wiggins said the service already has measures in place to protect combat vehicles from RPG attacks. He said Defense Department tests of the Trophy system didn’t warrant a rush to send it to Iraq.
"The Army will take all prudent measures possible to protect its soldiers," Wiggins said. The tests "did not provide the kind of results that would say we’ve got to revamp our whole testing apparatus or infrastructure."
Right now, the Army is using slat armor to defend its combat vehicles from RPG hits. This armor is essentially a cage that absorbs a blast several feet away from troops inside.
In contrast, Trophy is an "active protection" system that shoots back at incoming grenades so they will explode at a distance. Raytheon Co. (RTN) is building a similar system, which beat out Trophy for a role in the Army’s $165 billion Future Combat Systems modernization program.
These types of systems have been shown to work in tests. But the Army has not yet figured out how it will use them.
For instance, the new systems raise big questions about collateral damage if the system misfired, or created a deadlier explosion than the RPG would have caused on its own. Also, the Army will need to design a supply chain and maintenance plan by the time Future Combat Systems reaches soldiers in the 2010s.
In April, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker told reporters that the system needs to show "stability" before it is ready for the field. He said the Army isn’t against it, but also isn’t in a rush.
"How do we know this is the solution? Because the manufacturer says it is?" Schoomaker said, when asked about Trophy at a Defense Writers Group breakfast. "What we do want to do is make sure that what we put our precious dollars against work."
General Dynamics referred questions on the system to the Army.
Actually it is both IEDs and RPGs. It is the commanders in Iraq are asking for an anti-RPG system, and unless I miss my guess they see it as a very real and potent threat they face constantly. Thus the request.
The main problem with active armor systems (and for that matter the same system used in the Hammer’s Slammers series) is that once you’ve activated a portion of the active defense array, that portion is, well, shot and cannot be re-used without re-loading or replacement.
Actually Mark, that is not necessarily so. Combine TRAP with a Metal Storm array nad you have a system that will not run out after only two ro so shots. Further, it’s not likely that an armoured vehicle is going to undergo much more than 4 or so "shots" in a short period of time. Tactically it’s not all that often infantry get that close to armour so quickly.
Here’s an update to this story. I appears that the Army wasn’t as impressed with the NBC article. I looks like what most thought, the Trophy system isn’t what the Army has in mind for an anti-rpg system.