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More Ways than One to Skin a Cat.

If there are more ways than one to skin a cat, there must be well over a hundred ways to kill a tank. So many, in fact, that last year America's House Committee on Appropriations directed the Secretary of Defense to append to his forthcoming FY00 budget submission an Anti-armour Munitions Master Plan that would identify the perceived armoured threat and the projected quantity of all anti-armour weapons needed to defeat it.

In 1990, the US inventory of anti-armour weapons was based on a Soviet/Warsaw Pact threat involving thousands of armoured vehicles racing across the North German plain. The US Army was to make the largest single contribution to stopping that invasion. Today, America's worst-case scenario consists of two comparatively small but simultaneous conflicts, together involving (according to the Defense Intelligence Agency) less than 20 per cent of the earlier number of armoured vehicles.

The US Air Force would now be responsible for killing 29 per cent of armoured targets, compared to the Army's 21, the Navy's 12, the Marine Corps' 9, and America's Allies 29 per cent.

It may be noted that, in addition to Iraq and North Korea (America's most likely opponents), seven other countries are regarded as potentially hostile to the US. However, in planning for two simultaneous regional conflicts, it is estimated that the percentage of hostile high-technology tanks will remain in single figures until at least 2004, while low-technology tanks will still represent 64 per cent of the opposing armour.

Despite the threat having diminished in both magnitude and quality, America's current inventory of over fourty different types of anti-armour weapons remains virtually unchanged from the late 1980s. It has been proposed to spend a further $17.9 billion on the development and production of fifteen new programmes (this number excluding upgrades and practice rounds).

Although the Master Plan is classified Secret, some useful details of current US programmes are provided in the General Accounting Office's review of that document (GAO/NSIAD-00-67), from which the data in the table at right is taken.

The GAO has indicated that some existing weapon inventories may be unnecessarily large. However, there can be no doubt as to the need to continue anti-armour systems development, since the protection provided for fighting vehicles is continually being improved.

The following discussion relates to some of the principal weapon systems in various categories, beginning with air-launched anti-tank guided weapons.

Comparison of US Anti-armour Programmes
Weapon Quantity TotalCost Unit
 (then-yr) Expenditure

(JSOW)/BLU-108 5 955 $ 2369 m $ 387 820
(SFW) 4 237 $ 1434 m $ 338 447
(MLRS) 12 378 $ 3485 m $ 281 550
(Bat)/(ATACMS) 19 554 $ 4284 m $ 219 085
Longbow Hellfire 12 905 $ 2092 m $ 167 108
Javelin 26 956 $ 3324 m $ 123 312
(WAM) 33 991 $ 1708 m $ 50 249
(MPIM) 3 521 $ 147 m $ 41 750
(Sadarm) 50 000 $ 2057 m $ 41 140
Predator 18 190 $ 492 m $ 27 048
(M830) A1 76 000 $ 533 m $ 7 013
(M829) A3/E3 242 000 $ 1694 m $ 7 000
Volcano 184 000 $ 412 m $ 2 239
(Radam) 428 000 $ 194 m $ 453
M919 (25 mm round) 1 791 000 $ 242 m $ 135


Data from GAO/NSIAD-O0-67

Notes:
(JSOW) Joint Stand-Off Weapon
(MLRS) Multiple Launch Rocket System (M26)
(ATACMS) Army Tactical Weapon Missile System
(MPIM) Multipurpose Individual Munition
(M829) & (M830) Tank rounds
(SFW) Sensor-Fuzed Weapon
(Bat) Brilliant Anti-armor Submunition
(WAM) Wide Area Munition
(Sadarm) Sense And Destroy Armor Munition
(Radam) Remote Area Denial Artillery Munition


Unit Expenditure represents Total Cost divided by Quantity, and thus, depending on the current status of the individual programme, includes a varying proportion of non-recurring costs.
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Author:Braybrook, Roy
Publication:Armada International
Date:Dec 1, 2000
Words:600
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