Army shuns system to combat RPGs

Discussion in 'Military' started by Redhots, Sep 5, 2006.

  1. Redhots
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    Redhots Member

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    No surprises here.
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    WASHINGTON - Rocket-propelled grenades, or RPGs, are a favorite weapon of insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are cheap, easy to use and deadly.

    RPGs have killed nearly 40 Americans in Afghanistan and more than 130 in Iraq, including 21-year-old Pvt. Dennis Miller.

    “They were in Ramadi, and his tank was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade,” says Miller’s mother, Kathy. “Little Denny never knew what hit him.”

    Sixteen months ago, commanders in Iraq began asking the Pentagon for a new system to counter RPGs and other anti-tank weapons.

    Last year, a special Pentagon unit thought it found a solution in Israel — a high-tech system that shoots RPGs out of the sky. But in a five-month exclusive investigation, NBC News has learned from Pentagon sources that that help for U.S. troops is now in serious jeopardy.

    The system is called “Trophy,” and it is designed to fit on top of tanks and other armored vehicles like the Stryker now in use in Iraq.

    The Israeli military, which recently lost a number of tanks and troops to RPGs, is rushing to deploy the system.

    Trophy is the brainchild of Rafael, Israel’s Armament Development Authority, which has conducted more than 400 tests and found that the system has “well above [a] 90 percent” probability of killing RPGs and even more sophisticated anti-tank weapons, according to reserve Col. Didi Ben Yoash, who helped develop the system. Ben Yoash says he is “fully confident” that Trophy can save American lives.

    And officials with the Pentagon’s Office of Force Transformation (OFT) agree. Created in 2001 by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, OFT acts as an internal “think tank” for the Pentagon and is supposed to take a more entrepreneurial — and thereby less bureaucratic — approach to weapons procurement and other defense issues, and to get help to troops in the field more quickly. OFT officials subjected Trophy to 30 tests and found that it is “more than 98 percent” effective at killing RPGs.

    An official involved with those tests told NBC that Trophy “worked in every case. The only anomaly was that in one test, the Trophy round hit the RPG’s tail instead of its head. But according to our test criteria, the system was 30 for 30.”

    As a result, OFT decided to buy several Trophies — which cost $300,000-$400,000 each — for battlefield trials on Strykers in Iraq next year.

    That plan immediately ran into a roadblock: Strong opposition from the U.S. Army. Why? Pentagon sources tell NBC News that the Army brass considers the Israeli system a threat to an Army program to develop an RPG defense system from scratch.

    The $70 million contract for that program had been awarded to an Army favorite, Raytheon. Raytheon’s contract constitutes a small but important part of the Army’s massive modernization program called the Future Combat System (FCS), which has been under fire in Congress on account of ballooning costs and what critics say are unorthodox procurement practices.

    Col. Donald Kotchman, who heads the Army’s program to develop an RPG defense, acknowledges that Raytheon’s system won’t be ready for fielding until 2011 at the earliest.

    That timeline has Trophy’s supporters in the Pentagon up in arms. As one senior official put it, “We don’t really have a problem if the Army thinks it has a long-term solution with Raytheon. But what are our troops in the field supposed to do for the next five or six years?”

    Kotchman, however, says the Army is doing everything prudent to provide for the protection and safety of U.S. forces and insists the Israeli system is not ready to be deployed by the U.S. “Trophy has not demonstrated its capability to be successfully integrated into a system and continue to perform its wartime mission,” he says.

    That claim, however, is disputed by other Pentagon officials as well as internal documents obtained by NBC News. In an e-mail, a senior official writes: “Trophy is a system that is ready — today... We need to get this capability into the hands of our warfighters ASAP because: (1) It will save lives!”

    Officials also tell NBC News that according to the Pentagon’s own method of measuring a weapons system’s readiness, Trophy is “between a 7 and an 8” out of a possible score of 9. Raytheon’s system is said to be a “3.”

    So why would the Army block a solution that might help troops?

    “There are some in the Army who would be extremely concerned that if the Trophy system worked, then the Army would have no need to go forward with the Raytheon system and the program might be terminated,” says Steven Schooner, who teaches procurement law at both George Washington University and the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s School.

    Trophy’s supporters inside the Pentagon are more blunt. As one senior official told NBC News, “This debate has nothing, zero, to do with capability or timeliness. It’s about money and politics. You’ve got a gigantic program [FCS] and contractors with intertwined interests. Trophy was one of the most successful systems we’ve tested, and yet the Army has ensured that it won’t be part of FCS and is now trying to prevent it from being included on the Strykers” that OFT planned to send to Iraq.

    For families of soldiers like Denny Miller, any delay in getting help to the troops is unthinkable.

    As Miller’s mother, Kathy, put it, “Do they have children over there? Do they have husbands or wives over there? They need to sit back and look at it maybe from a different angle. I just think it's ridiculous!”

    The Pentagon is now trying to interest the Marine Corps in testing Trophy. But because of Army opposition, there are currently no plans to send the system to Iraq.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14686871/
     
  2. CSM
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    Not exactly the whole story. Trophy is one system of at least three that are being evaluated for fielding. The other two are Full Spectrum Active Protection Close In Shield (FCLAS) and CIAP. They each have their benefits and drawbacks. Each can indeed stop RPGs effectively. All have the potential for great collateral damage in urban environments (in other words, while the systems do indeed take out RPGS, they also take out surrounding houses, old men, stray dogs, women, and children...libs are however, immune). The politics of the situation are this:

    1) Rapid fielding of such a system is indeed desireable, however, there is some question as to whether existing Stryker, HMWWVs and other vehicles can be retrofitted effectively.

    2) Problematic propaganda use when collateral damage occurs every time an RPG is fired at US vehicles.

    3) Procurement practices which require extensive evaluation, maintenance and support after fielding, etc. over and above merely "stopping an RPG".

    4) Technical problems for all systems involved. None of the current systems has been able to distinguish an RPG from other flying objects (debris from nearby hits for example). Other technical problems are also under investigation (some of the systems are "jammed" when the crew tries to use a radio for example).

    The fact that a system exists does not necessarily mean that it can be integrated into existing systems. The fact that the Israellis did not use Trophy during their little excursion into Lebanoin should be an indicator that it is not all that MSNBC is trying to make it to be.
     
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  3. Bullypulpit
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    Bullypulpit Senior Member

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    And don't forget the the padding of the final bill by the contractors to cover bribes and kickbacks to governement officials. But yeah...I wouldn't want some half-baked, buggy system in the field until it was ready. That would likely get, and has gotten, more troops killed than were it left on the shelf.
     
  4. CSM
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    CSM Senior Member

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    So I take it you do not receive nor do you want any benefits, compensation or other services from the US government due to your high moral standards and proof of corruption within the US government....right??

    You are right about junk equipment going to the field however.
     
  5. Bullypulpit
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    Bullypulpit Senior Member

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    We both know that the highest levels of the military procurement system are more than a little incestuous and Byzantine. I saw what we paid for some equipment that was identical to off-the-shelf items available in the civilian sector. We paid 2-3X or more what a civilian would for it. As for other services, they're innocent until proven guilty.
     
  6. Gunny
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    Gunny Gold Member

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    I smell "Body Armor Part II" here with all the lies, misinformation and/or just general propaganda to go along with it.
     
  7. CSM
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    You can thank Congress for the cost (and not just the current Congress, either). Those identical items cost more because Congress has MANDATED certain procurement and testing procedures for even the most mundane items. The specs for a pair of GI combat boots is 378 pages long and every one of those specs has to be tested for. The coffe pot on military aircraft (those that have them) is required to work after a crash!!!??? You and the American public have NO idea how much it costs to make a virtually indestructible coffe pot. It is absolutely crazy.

    Every time the DoD tries to change the process and procedures for procurement, they get shot down by the Congress (probably at the behest of Unions and corporate lobbyists). Some of the tests are the most bizarre and make absolutley no sense. I had to test a particular part for a submarine (very common, commercially available piece too) that was required to work at 40,000 feet altitude! I don't know about anyone else but I have not seen too many subs floating around the sky at ANY altitude, never mind 40,000 feet!

    So in essence, I agree with you on this point. Hey, it happens once in a while!
     
  8. CSM
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    I think it is likely that some reporter heard about Trophy and then went to the parents of some poor casualty and prodded the beleaugered parents into making a statement or questioning why such a system is not available and fielded en mass. Said reporter will not take the time nor expend any effort to provide THAT answer because it doesn't fit the 'agenda'.
     
  9. Bullypulpit
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    Bullypulpit Senior Member

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    It would be alot easier if Congress would keep their noses out of it, beyond their oversight capacity, and let the soldiers soldier. When politicians get involved...Well, they'll screw up a one car funeral.
     

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