US Military: Advanced Weapons & Equipment
According to the Secretary of the US Army, Mark T. Esper, leap-ahead technologies like lasers, hypersonic weapons, mobile and secure networks and unmanned/autonomous air and ground vehicles will likely reside in combat formations within a decade as peer threats from nations also developing these technologies make fielding these systems absolutely necessary.
Here is a glimpse of the US Army’s six modernization priorities, as it develops new capabilities in partnership with industry.
Long-range precision fire
The Army is looking at hypersonics as a game changer in its first modernization priority. These involve long-range precision fires, as they can fire rounds or a projectile hundreds of miles that gives soldiers an incredible ability to reach out and hurt an adversary or at least to hold him at bay.
Projectiles of hypersonic weapons travel at speeds of Mach 5 or more, a speed well above high-performance jets that cruise at Mach 3 or 4 at their fastest.
Next generation combat vehicle
The second priority is a next generation combat vehicle. It will replace the aging Bradley Fighting Vehicles. For development of the NGCV, the Army is keen to opening the competition up to foreign partners as well as American companies.
Not NGCV specific, but on another vehicle-related matter, a production decision on the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle will be made later this year. JLTV is a replacement for the Humvee.
Future vertical lift
The Army expects to get a future vertical lift prototype as its third modernization priority, in the 2020 timeframe. Although the Army's current aviation fleet is in good shape, it will continue to get upgrades.
The dream of FVL is to get much more range, lift and speed over what the current rotor fleet can provide. That will enable aviation to provide Soldiers with the lift, surveillance and firepower they will need on battlefields of the future.
The fourth priority is building a network that can move with the maneuver force and enable secure communications.
Soldiers at the combat training centers are now training to operate without GPS or communications because they will still need to be able to operate against a peer threat who could disrupt communications at best or deny communications at worst.
Air and missile defense
The fifth priority is air and missile defense, since the opposition forces are now employing unmanned aerial systems as part of their training.
The goal is to fit Strykers and NGCVs with directed energy weapons like lasers, as they have an unlimited magazine-capacity, as long as they are being powered. Hypersonic weapons could also be employed in air and missile defense.
The final priority, soldier lethality, includes research with things like improved night vision goggles and synthetic training. The Army is keeping its recruiting and retention criteria high as the battlefield of the future will require an intelligent type of Soldier who can carry on with minimal guidance.
Lastly, to improve the fitness of Soldiers, and reduce injuries and non-deployability, the US Army is planning and budgeting to put in a nutritionist, a sports trainer and a physical therapist, treating Soldiers like professional athletes.
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