United States Army search a new light tank for its airborne troops to increase firepower 0910134

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Defence & Security News - United States

 
 
Wednesday, October 9, 2013 10:56 AM
 
United States Army search a new light tank for its airborne troops to increase firepower.
Even in these times of deep budget cuts and a projected steep decline in purchases of military hardware, senior Army officials believe that a light tank is a high priority that should be funded. In a future war, they contend, Army airborne forces would parachute into a warzone equipped with only light weapons and might have to confront more heavily armed enemies. United States Army paratroopers gave up their tanks in 1997. Now they want them back. (From National Defense By Sandra I. Erwin)
     
Even in these times of deep budget cuts and a projected steep decline in purchases of military hardware, senior Army officials believe that a light tank is a high priority that should be funded. In a future war, they contend, Army airborne forces would parachute into a warzone equipped with only light weapons and might have to confront more heavily armed enemies. United States Army paratroopers gave up their tanks in 1997. Now they want them back. (From National Defense By Sandra I. Erwin)
A soldier from Co. A, 3rd Bn., 73rd Airborne Armor Regt., 82nd Airborne Div., lays out equipment for an M-551 Sheridan light tank prior to the 82nd Airborne Division live-fire exercise during Operation Desert Shield.
     

The current plan is to provide the XVIII Airborne Corps — a fast-to-the-scene 911 force — a flotilla of light tanks that can be flown by C-130 cargo planes and parachuted into the warzone.

Light tanks existed in the Army’s inventory from World War I until the end of the Cold War. Production of the 16-ton Sheridan ended in 1970 after approximately 1,700 vehicles were delivered to the Army. The last unit to operate the Sheridan was the 3d Battalion, 73d Armor Regiment of the 82d Airborne Division, which was inactivated in July 1997 following a wave of cost cutting. The Army considered buying a replacement for the Sheridan, the Armored Gun System, but that program was terminated after the Army had bought just six vehicles.

House says the goal is to replicate the functions of 3-73 although he admits it will be hard to locate a modern version of the Sheridan. “The tough part of this is to find a vehicle that fits in the back of a C-130 and can descend by parachute,” he says. “The Sheridan did that pretty well back in the 1990s.”

Training and Doctrine Command officials are scoping the market for existing vehicles that could perform a similar role as the Sheridan.

Up to 140 candidates are being considered, says Col. Rocky Kmiecik, director of mounted requirements at the capabilities development and integration directorate.

     
One of the vehicles that might be considered a light-tank candidate is the eight-wheeled Mobile Gun System M1128, a 105 mm tank gun mounted on a light-armored Stryker vehicle made by General Dynamics Land Systems.
U.S. Soldiers fire an M1128 Stryker Mobile Gun System vehicle during live-fire exercises as part of the Vienna Document 1999 Weapons Demonstration at Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany.
     

Even though tanks are tracked vehicles, the Army is open to wheeled alternatives. The vehicle has to be air droppable, must have enough ballistic protection against 14.5 mm and .50 caliber rounds, and be able to drive off road.

The current effort to acquire a light tank brings flashbacks to October 1999 when then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki announced the Army would put its heavy armor past behind and transition to a lighter force. He wanted light vehicles that could be more easily transported to combat zones, which would allow the Army to respond to crises.

One of the vehicles that might be considered a light-tank candidate is the eight-wheeled Mobile Gun System M1128, a 105 mm tank gun mounted on a light-armored Stryker vehicle made by General Dynamics Land Systems.

The current MGS, however, would have to be hardened with additional blast protection and upgraded with a new suspension to make it more mobile, Army officials say.

 

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