"The U.S. Army’s War Over Russia"

by Mark Perry, POLITICO

That article has weaknesses (particularly the lines about tanks), but it nicely summarises an example of Niskanen's bureaucrat and the principal-agent problem in effect, two models that I've described and applied on D&F repeatedly:


The U.S. Army has a couple rock stars; two of them are mentioned in the article (MacGregor and McMaster). Honestly, I was never terribly impressed by their output. They're often referred to as intellectuals, smart and great thinkers and so on, but their published writings never seemed to be particularly impressive to me. 
MacGregor's signature book "Breaking the Phalanx" featured some nonsense (mostly about organic army aviation) and otherwise only unimpressive ordinary stuff. I was told that it was still a ground-breaking book in its context (U.S.Army) and that it broke with certain anachronisms specific to that armed service, but to me it looked not terribly different from what Europeans did in the 60's already.
So in addition to that principal-agent / bureaucratic behaviour thing, I'd also like to point out that we better not buy into descriptions of people as particularly bright ones. Form your own opinion based on their actual output!

It is noteworthy that the U.S.Army's complaints about being outgunned and outranged have at least some merit regarding tube artillery.
Yet this is of their own making. They failed spectacularly with their Crusader project, developing an SPG with little more performance than the PzH 2000, but multiple times its price per copy - and got it cancelled because of the excessive costs. Another attempt was to shoehorn a M109 replacement into the FCS boondoggle - but that, too, would have had no greater range than the M109. FCS was cancelled as well, and with it the SPG ("NLOS") version that offered almsot no improvement over the M109.
So instead, the U.S.Army is using a M109 that's no M109 any more because every single part (hull, turret and gun) was replaced in some upgrade sometime during the M109's long time in service (with only fire control making much progress after the first very early gun upgrade). It's essentially a 3rd class SPG with an ordinary 39 cal. barrel, mediocre mobility (at least able to pass over weaker bridges than PzH 2000, though) and no particularly impressive rate of fire.
The U.S. Army's "outgunned and outranged" problem is even worse in its light and medium brigade types (Infantry BCT and Stryker BCT), for they use towed 155 mm howitzers (instead of M109 SPGs) which lack 360° traverse, are slow loading and feature a 39 cal. barrel as well. The U.S. airborne forces have essentially no artillery for use in conventional warfare and would thus be near-useless as reinforcements to the Baltic region, South Korea or Taiwan, for example. The USMC has the same inadequacy.
Yet again; these are shortcomings of their own making - the bureaucracies failed to replace equipment of the 1970's that was outperformed in the 1980's already. Often times they failed with successor projects or introduced overhyped yet obsolete-by-design systems (M777).



  1. About III:

    The amount spent on the Paladin Upgrade (PIM) is quite astonishing, especially so compared to what was built almost two decades ago as an reaction to the artillery arms of the Pact.

    Very roughly over 2.2 Billion $ (un-adjusted) for (heavily?) upgrading 131 units so far. while retaining a gun with inferior range and rate of fire. Yes I know that costs per unit should come down somewhat in years to come, but by any standard that is a amazing amount of money.





  2. They could instead have had PzH 2000 (with Abrams track segments and other Abrams components) for all HBCTs AND Caesar-style SPGs (on U.S. trucks) for all Stryker BCTs.

    The only upsides of their last M109 PIP round ere Bradley commonalities, corporate welfare and avoidance of "NIH". They ended up with a product that was obsolete in all but fire control.

  3. It is indeed quite stunning how much money was spent on so little tangible in form of units when you include the artillery development history from the Crusader onwards.

    All in all I still think a single modular platform makes sense for MBT, HAPC and heavy SPG as there is little advantage in tailoring many aspects (drivetrain, engine, etc) and much in having a single standard in those 'must-just-work' areas.

    Toyota, BMW, VW all have their own variation to approach the need to built an every increasing amount of models with an ever more standardized amount of parts.


    1. That's easier said than done. Almost all MBTs have their powerpack in the rear, which makes ammo resupply much harder for a SPG version. Only the Israelis had the option of a sound MBT-based SPG ("Slammer"/"Sholef"), a vehicle that save for fire control, fuel consumption and bridge limits was superior to any M109 back in the 1980's already.

      The PzH2000 uses some dynamic components from the Leopard series.

    2. There are so many errors and outright nonsense in the responses to this post that they demand correction.

      1. The Paladin Integrated Management (PIM) program is a *two* vehicle system: The M109A7 Self Propelled Howitzer (SPH) and the M992A3 Carrier Ammunition Tracked (CAT.)

      2. The PIM buy is for 1,136 vehicles or 568 systems (568 M109A7s *and* 568 M992A3s).

      3. The total program cost is $6.9 billion.

      4. The detailed program request can be found on page 82 (line 7) of the P-40 budget exhibit here: http://asafm.army.mil/Documents/OfficeDocuments/Budget/budgetmaterials/fy17/pforms//wtcv.pdf

      5. The "not invented here" nonsense is just that, the U.S. military buys plenty of equipment from overseas.

      6. The U.S. Army was quite clear that it evaluated the PzH 2000 as the best artillery system available (They used the term foreign, but the M109 was obviously inferior); also that it was about $2 million cheaper than Crusader. I note that the AS-90 is arguable the best *value* in a tracked SPH, having most of the benefits of the larger tube, for a great deal less money.


      7. Arguably, the most cost effective solution for the U.S. Army was to buy a modified AS-90; and then purchased one tracked ammunition carrier for each SPH. Existing M992s would augment the firing battalions, or placed in reserve.


    3. The two million figure probably is from globalsecurity - I have seen much more extreme estimates (there were no definitive prices), with Crusader going to 20+ million and PzH 2000 in qty production below 3 million.

      The ballistic dispersion of the new L/52 weapons is furthermore superior to what the L/39 weapons achieve. The requirements for L/52 are <0.4% dispersion in range while for M109 it's about 1%.

  4. @GaB: Good to see a forceful answer and the link. The costs I described are factually correct to date but lack your context giving a wrong impression. If indeed all the units are upgraded within that budget then the costs are less amazingly high but still quite stunning compared to what is quoted for the PzH as mentioned by Sven. Costs of course after all that money spent on the cancelled Crusader and NLOS cannon projects...

    To the benefit for the readers I will post the description of the PIM program from the link given by GAB:

    "Paladin Integrated Management (PIM) is an ACAT 1D Acquisition Program. The program is intended to replace the current fleet of M109 Family of Vehicles (FoV) consisting of the M109A6 Self Propelled Howitzer and the M992A2 Field Artillery Ammunition Supply Vehicle (FAASV). PIM is an Army Modernization Program that addresses a critical capability gap created by the Non Line of Sight Cannon termination in June of 2009 as well as obsolescence and size/weight and power (SWaP) issues in the M109 FoV current Fleet.

    The PIM system integrates current Bradley Fighting Vehicle suspension and drivetrain items, Future Combat Systems (FCS) developed Electric Gun Drive systems and current fleet (M109A6) fire control systems into a new chassis that provides better force protection, survivability and mobility over the current fleet. PIM is a two vehicle system: The M109A7 Self Propelled Howitzer (SPH) and the M992A3 Carrier Ammunition Tracked (CAT.) The SPH has all characteristics listed above. The CAT utilizes all these same components and traits less those that relate directly to the cannon system. The PIM system replaces the current M109 FoV on a one for one basis, in the cannon fires battalions in the Armored Brigade Combat Team Formations and in the Echelons above Brigade (EAB). The overall intent is to increase Soldier force protection, vehicle survivability, provide an appropriate amount of SWaP capacity to add future capabilities, reduce life cycle costs and extend the life of the M109 FoV through FY 2050."