Time and again, obituaries on the world’s tank forces have been composed by analysts, who cite shifting priorities in acquisitions, shrinking defense budgets, and the obsoleteness of heavy armor in the age of cyberwar, drone strikes, and “light footprint” operations. The United States Army, while still fielding one of the largest tank forces in the world – the number of main battle tanks alone is around 6000 – cancelled its most prominent replacement for armored fighting vehicles, the Ground Combat Vehicle, at the beginning of 2014.
Yet, as Breaking Defense reports, this trend could now partially be reversed. The 2016 budget request contains a substantial increase in funding for various tracked vehicle programs, which according to Breaking Defense have a good chance to exit the contentious budget debates unscathed due to overall strong congressional backings of the programs and the relative small amount of money asked for. Breaking Defense lists the following programs:
You’ll have to click through to read the list. I can only excerpt so much.
But for just a couple billion dollars, the Army will be recapitalizing a goodly portion of its existing armored vehicle fleet.
Armor (or rather, in this case, the panoply of vehicles in an armored fleet) have both a utility on the maneuver and wide area battlefields, and a certain deterrent effect on potential battlefields.
Armor, while difficult to transport at the strategic level, has mobility, firepower, and protection at the operational and tactical level that light forces simply cannot match, no matter the level of supporting fires and air support they may have.
While the Abrams and, especially, the Bradley, are nearing the limits of growth available, for the short term, the inventory is, or will be, recapitalized into a fairly good posture.