Back in the 1920s when most aircraft were biplanes, wing-walking became a favorite stunt of daredevils at air shows. People would actually get out on the wings of planes as they were flying, holding onto spars and wires to avoid falling to their deaths. The first rule of wing-walking was to not let go of what you already have in hand until you have a firm grasp of something else.
The U.S. Army would do well to keep that rule in mind as it plans how to modernize combat equipment over the next few years. Having just received their first sizable increase in funding since the beginning of the decade, the Army and its sister services are looking forward to replacing Cold War weapons with a new generation of more mobile, lethal and survivable systems.
The Army is eager to embrace cutting-edge technologies such as autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence in building its force of the future, and now it will finally have sufficient funding to experiment with such ideas. But it would be a big mistake to spend most of its modernization funds on futuristic concepts while neglecting upgrades to existing weapons. In fact, leaping too fast into an unknowable future could actually make soldiers less safe.
Consider, for example, the Army's Armored Brigade Combat Teams, the heaviest version of its basic maneuver unit. All of the major combat systems in the "ABCT" such as the Bradley fighting vehicle and the Paladin self-propelled howitzer are overdue for a technology refresh, and that process has been slowly unfolding despite stretched budgets. The temptation now with budgets rising will be to push for something more exciting.
Here are five reasons why that might backfire badly. (end of excerpt)
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