US bud­get cuts im­pact de­fence pro­grammes


[ By R. Chandrakanth ]

The US mil­i­tary has a dom­i­nat­ing pres­ence in the world. Hav­ing such a mighty army equipped with ul­tra-mod­ern equip­ment and fight­ing bat­tles be­yond its shores, ob­vi­ously costs heck lot of money. And with the US econ­omy in dol­drums, slash in de­fence spend­ing have been an­nounced and there has been a telling ef­fect on many pro­grammes. This was no­tice­able at the an­nual con­ven­tion and ex­po­si­tion of the As­so­ci­a­tion of United States Army (AUSA) 2013 which was held from Oc­to­ber 21 to 23 in Wash­ing­ton DC. While the orig­i­nal equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­ers (OEMs) and so­lu­tions providers were ag­gres­sive in their mar­ket­ing, how­ever, at the con­ven­tion an­i­mated con­ver­sa­tions re­volved around bud­get cuts. The US Depart­ment of De­fense has put in place se­ques­tra­tion and the Pen­tagon has to walk a tightrope fi­nan­cially con­sid­er­ing that it has to down­size its pro­jected bud­gets by nearly $500 bil­lion over the next decade. This will cer­tainly im­pact de­fence equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­ers who now will have to in­creas­ingly look at other lu­cra­tive mar­kets.

While the OEMs look else­where, the US Army will have to down­size its man­power from the 4,90,000 sol­dier thresh­old to about 4,25,000 as per the US Army Chief of Staff, Gen­eral Ray­mond Odierno. Along­side, the US Army Sec­re­tary John McHugh de­scribed in harsh de­tail the im­pact deep fund­ing cuts from se­ques­tra­tion had on the Army in this first year alone and warned that the painful re­duc­tions will con­tinue. Se­ques­tra­tion has cost the Army $1.7 bil­lion in just the first year, he said, re­sult­ing in hun­dreds of ve­hi­cles and thou­sands of com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tems out of ser­vice for lack of main­te­nance and sol­diers un­able to train. McHugh said an early es­ti­mate of the fi­nan­cial cost of the shut­down was $150 mil­lion and 485 ac­qui­si­tion pro­grammes im­pacted neg­a­tively.

Gen­eral (Retd) Gor­don R. Sul­li­van, AUSA Pres­i­dent, com­mented, “AUSA and se­nior Army lead­ers, with bud­get chal­lenges at top-of-mind, have crafted another world-class pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment ex­pe­ri­ence that ben­e­fits our Army, our in­dus­try part­ners and the Amer­i­can peo­ple by keep­ing key au­di­ences in­formed about how our Army is truly “glob­ally re­spon­sive and re­gion­ally en­gaged’.” The theme for this year’s pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment fo­rum was: “Amer­ica’s Army: Glob­ally Re­spon­sive, Re­gion­ally En­gaged.”

Ground com­bat ve­hi­cle pro­gramme at risk

One of the pro­grammes that is likely to be hit, ac­cord­ing to US me­dia, is the ground com­bat ve­hi­cle (GCV), a re­place­ment to the Bradley, which is be­ing de­vel­oped by BAE Sys­tems and Gen­eral Dy­nam­ics.

The Puma mil­i­tary fight­ing ve­hi­cle, built by Krauss-Maf­fei Weg­mann (KMW) of Mu­nich, Ger­many, would be the ideal re­place­ment for the M2 Bradley Fight­ing Ve­hi­cle, KMW spokesman Kurt Braatz who cited cred­i­ble and of­fi­cial data to back up KMW’s claim – pro­vided by the Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice.

The com­pany’s dis­play in­cluded a cross-sec­tion of a Puma hull that had sus­tained a di­rect hit by an anti-tank mine dur­ing a field test. While the floor of the ve­hi­cle was slightly bowed and showed a scar from the ex­plo­sion, Braatz said, the Puma re­mained in­tact and op­er­a­ble.

KMW also dis­played the Puma’s un­manned tur­ret – equipped nearly com­pletely with US-man­u­fac­tured gear. The two weapons – a 35mm can­non and .50-cal­i­bre ma­chine gun – are made by ATK Inc. A US di­vi­sion of Meg­gitt De­fense Sys­tems built the am­mu­ni­tion­han­dling sys­tem. Moog Inc. built the tur­ret sys­tem.

Ro­tor­craft fleet re­place­ment

Two of the four ma­jor play­ers for the pos­si­ble re­place­ment plat­form for the Army’s fleet of age­ing ro­tor air­craft strove to make their re­spec­tive cases dur­ing AUSA. The im­pe­tus for the two com­pa­nies – Bell He­li­copter Tex­tron and Siko­rsky Air­craft – came from an Oc­to­ber 3 an­nounce­ment by the Army Avi­a­tion and Mis­sile Re­search, De­vel­op­ment and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) which named

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