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Army debating options for Bradley vehicle upgrades.

In the face of mounting requests for heavy armor to support troops in Iraq, the Army is expected momentarily to make a decision on whether to fund an upgrade program for the Bradley armored infantry fighting vehicle.

Although the Army claims it has enough Bradleys in the inventory to meet current needs, most have outdated technology and require upgrades, officials said. Lawmakers, meanwhile, are pushing the Army to send more tanks and Bradleys to Iraq, to help protect troops from roadside bombs and rocket attacks. Also complicating the equation is the expectation that, as the Army reorganizes into smaller brigade-size units, it will need more Bradleys to equip maneuver forces.

With the Army under enormous budgetary pressure to pay for rising personnel costs and war-torn equipment repairs, officials are not sure there will be enough to pay for Bradley upgrades. "We are struggling with that program," said a senior Army official who briefed an industry conference. He said the service would need to start refurbishing 300-400 Bradleys every 12 months to satisfy the chief of staff's plan to field 43-48 "brigade combat teams" in the coming years.

Part of the problem is rooted in a decision to scale back the Bradley "recapitalization" program two years ago, when the Army cut the fundinq from 1,037 to 595 vehicles for the 2004-2009 budget cycle. The 595 Bradleys are to be upgraded to the A3 configuration, which is the most advanced and features the latest digital technology.

According to the Army official, any future upgrades will not be to the A3 model, given its $3.2 million price tag. However, the service has not yet set any specifications for future upgrades. Options under consideration include an enhanced version of the "Operation Desert Storm" Bradley-a less-sophisticated variant of the A3. Factions within the Army are likely to disagree about what improvements really are needed, but the expectation is that future Bradley upgrades could include a mix of ODS versions and "ODS-plus," equipped with second-generation forward-looking infrared sensors.

If an upgrade program gets under way, the work could be split between the manufacturer of the Bradley, United Defense LP, and the Anniston Army Depot in Alabama.
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Author:Erwin, Sandra I.
Publication:National Defense
Date:Jun 1, 2004
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