is also the U.S. Army
's name for its planned next generation of self-propelled artillery
. Originally known as the AFAS (Advanced Future Artillery
System) the Crusader (also known by the designation XM2001/2002 SPH) was a highly ambitious project designed to completely replace self-propelled arty
in the army today. Some of the more 'sci-fi' of its planned characteristics included:
- Liquid Propellant
- Laser Ignition
- Fully automated operation (except maintenance) - crew of 3 plays with computers inside
- Robotic ammunition handling (resupply and loading)
- Matching ammunition resupply vehicles with automatic 'docking' and robotic stores transfer through armored linkages; fuel transfer included
- Increased range 155mm howitzer (40km max)
- Fully climate controlled NBC protection system with overpressure
- 15-second reaction time from fire mission receipt to 'on the way'
- Independent operation by scattered units, coordinated by computer to fire joint missions from separated positions
- 'Shoot and scoot' - 10-12 rounds per minute for the first 3 minutes, and the ability to move within 15 seconds of the last round fired
- ...and many more.
Amazingly, all of these save the liquid propellant idea have survived the fiscal purges of the past few years, although the number of vehicles planned has dropped from around 1,140 to somewhere south of 500 (that's vehicle pairs, really, each 'vehicle' being a gun vehicle and a loader vehicle). In the Army's new planning, some units will retain their existing guns (refurbished) and the lighter, more capable Crusaders will go to early-response, highly mobile units III Corps Divisions).
The name 'Crusader' is a nod to the existing model, named the Paladin. It will ride on an entirely new vehicle chassis, one which it was originally intended to share with a new ('Block III') tank, a new IFV, etc., all of which have been cut. While I am not normally one to push for acquisition, I do feel that this is a capability that would benefit us greatly. The U.S. Armed Forces have traditionally been expert and innovative in the use of artillery as a coordinated tactic, inventing such methods as the Time-On-Target attack where hundreds of dispersed guns coordinate firing times to land their shells nearly simultaneously. Furthermore, with U.S. forces moving to 'lighter' configurations involving fewer armored vehicles and more dismounted units spread further apart, the need for quick and capable fire support is growing rapidly.
On the other hand, of course, guns are only good if you can get them to where you need them...and I fully acknowledge that the size of the Crusader makes it horribly inconvenient to move around the globe. Furthermore, unlike tanks, it's not very 'compact.'
Update: May 8, 2002 - The Crusader program was cancelled today by SecDef Donald Rumsfeld, who has recently been engaged in a high-profile pissing contest with the Army Chief of Staff, Gen. White, over a number of issues which include this system. Stay tuned, just because Rumsfeld thinks its dead don't mean it won't zombie. Military programs have more inertia than a bucket of neutronium...