Army mulls cutting tanks in favor of lighter, high-tech force

Gen. Eric Shinseki, chief of staff of the Army, today called for a "major transformation" of the Army within the next decade that could include an abandonment of all tracked vehicles in favor of a lean fighting force that relies heavily on command, control and communications technology.

Shinseki, speaking in Washington, D.C., at the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference, said the Army this year will set up a new experimental light brigade at Fort Lewis, Wash., that will test these new concepts using new mobile platforms available in the commercial marketplace. According to Shinseki, the Army must transform itself from a heavy force designed to fight the Cold War with megaton tanks and tracked fighting vehicles into a service with "agility and versatility [and] a vibrant capability for reach-back communications and intelligence."

Although the Army has relied on tracked vehicles to fight every major battle since World War II, Shinseki said "we can go to an all-wheeled [vehicle] fleet," to replace the tracked vehicles.

Shinseki also said that command, control communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems are key to the development of the new lightweight force because they will enable the Army to reach back to bases in the United States for supplies and intelligence rather than moving tons of unneeded gear around the world.

Ninety percent of the equipment that Army units deploy with is "the logistics tail," Shinseki said. C4ISR systems smartly integrated into the new force will help the Army cut that tail, he said.

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