Thursday, September 20, 2018

Armament Purchase: the eternal costs vs. efficiency dilemma

Credit: Creative Content Licence
Armament exhibition

Making the choice is hard; making the right choice is even harder.

With any major armament purchase or military equipment upgrades comes a struggle for policy and military decision makers: having to fulfill the need to provide troops with the best available, combat-proven and efficient equipment, while compromising with defense budgets and considering the general public’s acceptance of military spending. Making the choice is hard; making the right choice is even harder.

In 2014, the U.S. Congress cut $492 million in budget at the request of the White House for the U.S. Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle, the GCV. The program, which was supposed to represent a major acquisition for the ground forces, was downgraded to a simple “study program,” mostly due to its price and technical specifications.

During this time, two competing GCV contractors, BAE Systems and General Dynamics, were going to run out of funds to finance the program. Both companies were awarded less than $200 million to keep the program alive, but with no hope of foreign sales in the near future. “The army can’t afford anything new,” said Loren Thompson from the Lexington institute of Arlington Virginia, “It can afford mods, it can afford upgrades, but clean sheets designs have fallen out of the modernization plan. There’s no GCV, no Armed Aerial Scout, it’s all a continuation of the Army’s ‘Big 5’ during the Reagan years” he added.

When it comes to military power, even the number one country in the world experiences great disenchantment around future armament investments and military industry decision-making.

The number one problem often comes from the fact that new equipment, by definition, hasn’t been tested in combat and therefore isn’t trusted to begin with. The second issue comes with actually defining the “costs” – purchasing the technology is one thing, but possessing it is another. In most cases, being able to simply maintain equipment could present great struggles for some countries. Some major fleet upgrades that seemed to be good deals at the moment of purchase have proven to be disasters in terms of maintenance and lack of good customer service. Some nations are now looking carefully at all of these aspects before they make such critical decisions.

Today several countries are on their way to making major ground force equipment purchase and upgrading their fleets. Just last year, Denmark announced its wish to renew its old fleet of M113 troop carrier vehicles. Today it is one of Europe’s most important armored vehicle exports contest and Denmark is weighting its options. The economical aspect will most likely be preeminent in the Danes’ decision. Therefore vehicles that have already been tested in combat are more likely to win the deal, considering the fact that we already know how expensive they are to run in the long-term.

With BAE Systems Hagglunds and its CV90 Armadillo, Flensburger Fahrzeugbau Gesellschaft and its PMMC G5, General Dynamics European Land Systems ASCOD are the tracked contenders and the French Nexter’s VBCI and General Dynamics and its Piranha V are the 8X8 wheeled competitors. No doubt that the Danes would choose the “Best value for money” option.

Both the Danish Ministry of Defense and Denmark’s Defense Acquisition and Logistics Organization (DALO) will be making that call. “When a government has a plan that reaches up to 2020, it must also be fair enough that as a party leader we give thoughts to what will replace it when the time comes. So government policies are completely clear as glass. What I do as a radical party leader and as Minister of Finance and Interior is to relate to what is going to happen, now it turns out that we are able to realize the ambitions. We are on the right track,” declared Morten Østergaard, Danish Minister of Finance.

In Germany, we see another example of what can happen when costs become prohibitive. The German army had a long history with armored vehicles. Berlin decided, in the 1990s to buy a newer version of its APCs troop carriers. Working with France and England, the project was very successful, however as time went on, expenses grew and the two countries progressively withdrew in order to work on their own vehicles. Years later, the Boxer, which was seen as a success with a profitable future, is now only seen as second class and will most likely be shared only among its creators, even if smaller militaries have expressed some interests, such as Lithuania’s. “The Bower was a success… for a while. Recent equipment problems and upcoming reforms to Germany’s military strategy have made the vehicle’s future uncertain,” said author Till Rimmele (3).

There remains a constant dilemma for every country in the world that is thinking about renewing its military equipment. Not only must they consider how much the equipment will cost them at the time of the purchase, but they must also anticipate these costs for years and years to come.

(1) US Army’s GCV Program downgraded to study project, Defense News, January 18th 2014

(2) Morten Østergaard: »Jeg frygter, at vi luller os selv i søvn«, Politiken, March 27th 2015, translated from Danish.

(3) War is boring, Medium. Till Rimmele, March 14th 2015.

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A. Powell is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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1 comments on Armament Purchase: the eternal costs vs. efficiency dilemma

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By riginal on May 10, 2015 at 02:39 pm

Very very interesting post. It is a fact that weapons are needed for protection, modern up-to-date weaponry. That we need to have armaments sophisticated. RTI Australia Recoiless Technology was touted as the next best thing to weapon Nirvana. Many 'recoiless' technologies exist. RTI is,or at least was, recognized as the ultimate of that type needed by the modern army today. The American army came over to the lead lined factory demo and were blown away by it. They wanted to take photos etc. They weren't allowed to by the inventor. For obvious reasons. See, although patents were taken out, as you would know...VERY similar products can appear out of nowhere as if in fact they were carbon copies. I'm not trying to flog you anything. I hate flog with a vengeance. Poland was in the line up to have their biggest gun fitted with this Australian 'proven' invention. Tanks bereft of the need for weight to counter the recoil, could thus be considerably lightened. I have no need to explain to you what that then allows a tank and multiple weaponry to do minus the weight factor Plus the inherent accuracy gained. The system can also be used for such things as peace time vibration tools such as jack hammers etc once fitted with same becoming vibrationless. The Australian army thought it fantastic. The downside? Red tape. Lack of funding...the usual "we love it we'll be in touch." Rather like a car for sale. Tyre kickers. Munition kickers. Is there a difference when in fact everyone is in a "we'll get back to you" mode specially in these times of hard won military contracts with the requirement of production line set ups installed before they'll open the 'go ahead' purse. The company was set up with mum and dad investors. The company is joint owned by two men plus the investors of course. The inventor, Richard Geezer. Australian number mobile (don't know the Australian or at least American prefix?) The mobile number is 0431087530 or if you're interesed email me and i could get him to ring you direct. Small arms etc, shotguns, can be fitted with this modified breach mechanism and as seen by the demo, virtually nil recoil. Richard is currently trying to contact 'COLT' re some sort of deal. Colt you would probably know was apparently bought out by someone for many millions? In Australia there is a propensity as in other countries, to hum and ahh over anything. As a result, a guy named Sarich with his motors now worldwide was neglected by our government for a loan of two mill by a senator Button.. Much to their disappointment when Sarich was forced to go overseas with his production. I'm basically just a writer, not an engineer that i would imagine you being of a technical type judging by your post. You can contact me for further info. Like i said, no scam or spam. No monies being asked for. Just thought that you being interested in the munition field would be interested technically. If i have misconstrued what you are about re investigating and giving your opinion on latest recoilless technology please excuse my intrude. Shame military has to be at all but defence i guess is always going to be a neccessary evil to protect from. Bye. My apologies if i have intruded in any way shape or form. It's a very competitive industry being constantly updated that's for sure to keep up with future weaponry defence. That's a given.

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