Marines look longingly to Army tank procurement, back off Jarheads.

Not to poke fun at my amphibious brethren, but the entire USMC is a microcosm of the train wreck that the F-35 has done to the DOD as a whole. The USMC tank force is dwindling, and with it the USMCs ability to take ground in the face of a mechanized enemy resistance. I don’t care what the air power advocates say, a tank in your formation NOW beats an aircraft on call.

There is another lesson to be learned here, and I’ll get to it. All quotes from :

The solution to the issues of contemporary enemy armor, modern ATGMs proliferation, and the continued requirement for high-speed survivable lift is to develop FOVs from the ACV and to influence the Army when they develop a new main battle tank. An ACV FOV gives the Marine Corps options to accomplish the mission. As the Nation’s scalable middle-weight force, the Marine Corps needs armor options that can accomplish the mission at hand.

The sad part here is that the “Light Tank” that the US Army needs is going to not be the same light tank that the USMC needs.

The heavy armor option will remain the M1A1 MBT for the Marine Corps. The M1A1 life cycle has been extended to the year 2050. In the meantime, the Marine Corps needs to continue upgrading its tank ammo; fire control system; lighten its logistical footprint; and its sights, survivability, and communications suite to remain relevant on the modern battlefield. The U.S. Army leadership is discussing the possibly of developing a light tank to exponentially increase the effectiveness of infantry formations.

BG Scott McKean, USA, Chief of Armor/Commandant, stated, The Army should also innovate with direct energy, a new infantry fighting vehicle, and a future tank with autonomous capabilities … I saw firsthand the impact a light tank brings to an infantry force and how it exponentially increases the formation’s effectiveness …

It is essential that the Marine Corps begin to influence and show interest in investing in the development of such a tank.

Well…the writing is on the wall for the USMC. The Corps desperately needs a tank that is truly expeditionary, which is something that the M1A1 is not. It needs a 500 gallon tanker truck to keep one M1A1 going per day, and anyone who has ever looked at the load out of what a Marine Expeditionary Force looks like understands that there isn’t any “extra” to go around servicing something that sucks jet fuel, well like a jet.

So the USMC wants to get their hands in the “Light Tank” business.

Not just “no” but “fuck no, hell no, don’t ruin this for us the way you ruined the Joint Strike Fighter program.”

The only thing I can think of worse than a “Joint Strike Fighter” for three services is a “Joint Expeditionary Tank” program. You want another “Joint Light Tactical Vehicle” that meets EVERY SINGLE REQUIREMENT set forth just so you can bitch about how it’s “too big (wah) and takes up too much valuable space on our boats (wah wah)!”

Seriously Marines, I’m all for jointness. But I’ve also seen the USMC develop its own programs and then not buy them because “it costs too much and might set back the F-35 program! (waaah!)” I’ve seen the Army cancel both the XM8 Buford (the Armored Gun System) and RAH-66 Comanche because the programs weren’t delivering and the threat environment didn’t emerge.

The USMC only needs a few hundred tanks at most for training and to put on the boats. The Army has a need for thousands of tanks, but the “light tank” numbers are also only a few hundred, possibly up to a thousand. This is a “small potatoes” purchase in the grand scheme of things.

But…here is where the “joint” part would kill it.

The Army needs the “Light Tank” to be air drop capable, but will settle for C-130 transportable to a forward landing strip.
The USMC needs the “Light Tank” to swim over the horizon to the shore, but will settle for taking a ride on a ship to shore connector.
The Army and USMC need the “Light Tank” to be IED protected (which kills air drop and amphibious capabilities).

The USMC would be better off taking another look at the M60A3 upgrade path Because even though it doesn’t give them swim capabilities, it cuts the weight on the ship and fuel consumption on the shore. The additional 25mm cannon on the tank would really add to the infantry support options. And they would be cheaper to operate and maintain, the only thing the USMC wouldn’t get is a swim capability, but that’s what upgrading the LAV-25s to a LAV-III Amphib with 30mm or larger would give them. So more boom, less fuel.

The Army is playing “just the tip” with industry on the “light tank” or “mobile protected firepower” specifications. LTG McMasters (ARCIC) and MG Piatt of the Army Rapid Capabilities Office (ARCO) are not really looking at fielding a light tank or “mobile protected firepower” anytime soon, other than the 30mm “Dragoon Variant” Stryker.

And the 30mm Stryker may in fact end up being the “Light Infantry” support package of the future, if the next generation beyond the Dragoon variant can meet the other requirements. A 30mm cannon with airburst munitions is a damn fine support weapon, and the “CROWS-J” variant (common remote operated weapons station, javelin) gives any vehicle with a CROWS system an anti-tank capability.

I think that the Army and USMC should really look at not doing the “joint” thing this time around.

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