When most people think of the United States Army of today, they think of soldiers armed with carbines down in the dirt and the dust, mounting up on armored vehicles when not patrolling villages and urban battlefields.
But thanks to the massive outlays in previous budgets for things like Strykers, MRAPs and M-ATVs, the fiscal 2012 budget request released today is pretty slim on ground vehicle, and heavy on helicopters, and communications. In fact, of the top ten Army Research, Development & Acquisition programs by dollar amount, only one ground vehicle makes the cut. Well, two vehicles if you count one that only exists in blueprint form.
The top three programs are all rotary-wing assets, with a collective $3.8 billion requested for upgrades to the Black Hawk, Chinook, and Apache fleets. It’s not until the sixth spot on the list that you get to Stryker Vehicle Survivability Enhancements line, which is slated to receive $786 million in funding. The Ground Combat Vehicle, which is the follow-on program for the cancelled Manned Ground Vehicle that was part of the failed Future Combat Systems modernization effort, is pegged for $884 million. The service is also looking for $659 million to fund 36 more MQ-1 Gray Eagle Unmanned Aerial Systems—as part of $4.8 billion the Pentagon wants to spend on developing and procuring UAS' in fiscal 2012—and $974 million for work on the WIN-T communications network. Keeping with the communications theme, the service is also requesting $775 million for the Joint Tactical radio Program. Further proof that the past decade of irregular conflict has given the Army a new outlook on its future, there is even a fixed-wing element to the request, with the service asking for $540 million for the Enhanced Medium-Altitude Reconnaissance Surveillance System (EMARSS) to be based on the Hawker Beechcraft Kingair 350ER airplane.