Monday, April 17, 2006

Crusader SPH

Doing a quick look through some articles on the aborted Crusader Self-Propelled Howitzer. The idea started in 1994 to replace the M-109 155mm Paladin SPH. What came out was a tracked gun with attached support trailer that weighed as much as one M-1A2 Abrams tank. By May 8, 2002 when the program was cancelled, it had consumed $2billion and not even a prototype vehicle had been produced.

Because of its massive weight, it would take 64 C-17 Globemaster IIIs to airlift 18 Crusaders. I must point out that the USAF is only buying 180 C-17s, so to move one artillery battalion by air would take up 1/3rd of the entire C-17 fleet. That was given as one reason why Crusader was cancelled, it could only travel by ship to be deployed efficiently.

Another reason is the rise in the use of precision weapons on the battlefield. In Afghanistan roughly 65% of the ordinance dropped was of the 'smart' category. When USAF Combat Controllers or Green Berets operating with Northern Alliance forces can call up a B-52 launched from the US and armed with JDAMs, is there a need for self-propelled artillery? Obviously not. What if the US and its allies don't have air superiority? Crusader would be easy pickings for enemy air so this is not a valid argument for the purchase of Crusader.

But Crusader was looking to be an $11billion project for the Army as they planned to buy 840+ Crusaders and 840+ trailers. Factor in the eight year gestation period before cancellation with a 2006 planned introduction, Crusader had built up a cadre of people with vested interests in it being deployed.

So when Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld starts looking to make the military more mobile to meet President Bush's goals and the 19-ton Stryker wheeled armored vehicle entering Army service leading the way, the massiveness of the Crusader becomes obvious. And on May 8th, 2002, Secretary Rumsfeld cancelled the Crusader program and redirected the FY2003 unspent Crusader funds to other transformation objectives like the Excalibur precision artillery shell. And there was a backlash when an unauthorized talking point memo critical of canceling Crusader and long on being scary made into Congressional hands, bypassing Secretary of the Army White and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. The leaker came out of the Army's Office of Congressional Legislative Liaison[OCLL], Kenneth Steadmen, principle deputy of the OCLL, accepted responsibility for the memo and resigned.

This kind of political in-fighting over military funding is not new. Though usually it is intra-service in nature as the aborted Revolt of the Admirals was. The Revolt of the Admirals happened when the USAF was trying to get funding for B-36 nuclear armed bombers from Congress at the same time the US Navy was trying to get more funding for its first super aircraft carrier. So the Navy leaked to Congress information showing how vulnerable the B-36 was. Well it backfired on the Navy. The USAF got its B-36s and the US Navy had to scrap the keel of its first super carrier.

The Pentagon needs reform. Whether Rumsfeld can toss out the Princes and their little fiefdoms I don't know. But if he fails, then expect another Crusader project to show up or the A-12 Avenger program that sucked massive amounts of money out of Naval Aviation before crashing. All the while we would still be fighting the War on Terror.


Mike's America said...

Crusader does seem to be outmoded in an age where precision and mobility are key.

I wonder how much impact the cancelation of Crusader had in motivating some of the anti-Rumsfeld fervor we've so recently seen on display?

Tom said...

I'm going to guess that the Crusader was conceived in a different time where heavy support was needed for armor. What was not expected that precision or "smart" munitions would have become so plentiful or accurate. What is extremely silly is that the damn thing can't be transported and deployed!!

Whenever money is to be spent in congressional districts there will be political infighting and "dirty pool." And especially if military careers were on the line!

Anna said...

As Tom said, there were probably a lot of careers riding on Crusader getting into production. Not to mention a piece of $9billion on top of the $2billion already spent.

What can negate being fast and agile in deployment is if the US can forward deploy equipment like Reforger depots in Europe. But lets look at Kyrgykstan[spelling?] right now asking for more money so the US can keep the bases there or civil unrest, either situation can negate the usefullness of such depots. There is also the problem of trouble erupting where a depot is not located. So agile deployment from the US really becomes vital. Which raises a tangential question, why is USAF curtailing C-17 production at 180 airframes and not the anticipated 220? More C-17s means more can be deployed in less time.

What is bad about Crusader is the designed kicked off in 1994, after the Berlin Wall fell and the 'end of history' had been reached along with the video smart bomb war of Desert Storm. But like a mastadon, the Dept. of Army moved forward to fight the last war[conflict in Europe] and tried to give birth to Crusader.

The Germans are fighting the last war, but then they don't have international obligations. So they fielded the PzH 2000 self-propelled howitzer that weights in at 55 metric tons and uses a 155mm 52 calibre gun with an auto-loader. The powder charge still needs to be loaded manually and the breech can close in a few seconds, so chances of being left handed would be high I think if you are a PzH 2000 loader. Sounds like the Germans have copied an idea from the Soviet T-72, the auto-loader that can eat hands. Wonderful. Turkey and Holland have also ordered the beast.

ryan said...

Your post on Crusdaer is wrong on so many levels it almost doesn't warrant a response, but a simple google search for Crusader images will show you that in fact a prototype was developed. A little more research and you would find that it sent more than 7000 rounds down range.