Forces: November 18, 1999


MEDIUM BRIGADES ARE COMING: The US Army plans to form four or five "medium brigades" over the next four years. These will include the two brigades at Fort Lewis Washington, two other active duty brigades, and possibly an enhanced readiness National Guard brigade. The 2nd Light Armored Cavalry Regiment seems a likely choice for one of the active brigades yet unselected. The Army itself is split as to whether it should form these five medium brigades and then stop, or convert most of the heavy brigades into the medium brigades favored by Chief of Staff Shinseki. Most seem willing to try these few brigades and see what they can do; they could later be converted back to their original form or more heavy and light brigades could become medium. The heavy armor advocates within the Army want to convert all of the light infantry brigades into medium mechanized brigades, as this would (perhaps) allow those divisions to take over most of the peacekeeping missions. US Army Major General James Dubik has been picked to oversee the creation of the first two medium brigades. He had been picked to oversee creation of the "strike force" brigade at Fort Polk before that project was canceled. As part of the program, the Army expects to select a single wheeled vehicle that would provide a troop carrier, mortar vehicle, anti-tank vehicle, tank destroyer, and recon vehicle. (It may also be configured for engineer, supply, repair, command, medical, and air defense tasks.) The Mowag Piranha (LAV 8-wheeled armored car) is considered to be all but selected as the winning vehicle, although the Pandur has not been ruled out and some other vehicles are technically still in the running. The LAV has the all but unbeatable advantage that the Marines already have 758 of them in six variants (and want to buy more), allowing the Army to borrow from the Marine Corps' experience with the vehicle. The Army had in fact picked the LAV to be its own new armored car back in 1981, but then canceled the plan and sent its handful of LAVs to the Marines. (At least two Army platoons used LAVs in the Gulf War as something of an experiment.)--Stephen V Cole 


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