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