What if an armored ground convoy was closing to contact with an enemy force in position to breach or penetrate a mechanized formation when two hostile armed drones suddenly appeared from behind a mountain? The approaching ground vehicles, primarily armored to engage in linear force on force ground combat, could be vulnerable to a drone air attack. This would be particularly true if the approaching force lacked air supremacy or any kind of air support.
With this in mind, the Army is now experimenting with arming a range of emerging platforms with different caliber cannons to establish an optimal blend of air-and-ground on-the-move attack capability. The success of this kind of tactical approach relies upon a host of interwoven variables to include speed and weight of a vehicle and advanced targeting, sensing, and computing intended to expedite sensor-to-shooter pairing while on the move. These factors inform ongoing Army work on its new Robotic Combat Vehicle, Mobile Protected Firepower Light Tank, and Optionally Manned Infantry Vehicle Bradley replacement while also contributing to the continued modernization of upgraded existing vehicles such as the Stryker Vehicle.
“We're keeping our options wide open and keeping everything on the table. Because there's some really interesting technologies being developed to allow a smaller caliber to perform what was once traditionally thought of as unique to a larger caliber weapon. We're really excited about the 25mm To 30mm to 50mm,” Maj. Gen. Ross Coffman, Director for Next-Generation Combat Vehicles Cross-Functional Team, told the National Interest in an interview.
Referring to these variables as offering “trade spaces” for weapons developers now engineering and prototyping new armored vehicles such as the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV) and Robotic Combat Vehicle (RCV).
“These are providing trade spaces for Army senior leaders to make decisions that will absolutely change the geometry and the lethality of future data,” Coffman said.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.