Armor: July 26, 2003


The army is spending $15 billion to design a new family of twenty armored combat vehicles, and will put them into service sometime in the next decade. The vehicles must be light enough (as in under twenty tons each) to be moved by air. The systems will use new passive (new types of composite armor) and active (anti-missile lasers, electronics and missiles) devices to protect the vehicles. But most interesting is that a major thrust of the design effort is the development of software and communications systems that will enable the vehicles to rapidly communicate with each other and other aircraft, warships, satellites, troops and headquarters. It is believed, based on past experience, that the soundness of the basic software architecture will be critical to the success of everything else that goes into the vehicles. This is all going to be a tricky business, because past experience has shown that such ambitious projects tend to bring forth the promise of new technologies that will make the systems work. Developing the new technologies is a risky business, with some new ideas suffering long delays, or never really working at all. This is also very expensive. However, if successful, the result is weapons systems that are markedly superior to anything potential foes might have. For a few years, anyway.


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