WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army outlined its top 10 modernization priorities in its fiscal 2018 budget request with air-and-missile defense and long-range fires at the top due to the possibility the force will confront substantial near-peer threats in areas where access by both air and land won't come easily.
The majority of the priorities in the FY18 budget request are related to regaining capability to conduct large-scale operations against near-peer adversaries, a place where the Army hasn't had to go for more than 15 years as it focused on counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
While a large portion of the $26.8 billion requested for modernization typically covers aviation and mission command, and still does, the Army is diverting more of its attention toward bolstering ground-maneuver capability and air defense — both capabilities that would be needed if U.S. and NATO forces had to go up against a country like Russia in the European theater.
The Army is requesting a "sizable uptick" of $600 million from what was enacted in FY17 for modernization, Maj. Gen. Thomas Horlander, the Army's budget director, said Tuesday during a Pentagon briefing on the budget.
But Army leadership and some members of Congress warned this week that if there isn't a continued upward trend to fund modernization or if the Budget Control Act is not repealed, trouble is ahead.
Horlander said the majority of the modernization funding in FY18 would go toward research and development rather than toward procuring more modern equipment now.
"The Army is accepting risk in developing new capabilities in order to prioritize incremental upgrades in air and ground systems so we can put in the hands of our soldiers in the near term a greater and more lethal capability," he said during the briefing.
Here's a look at the budget request highlights within the top modernization priorities for the Army:
To advance the service's air-and-missile defense, particularly short-range air defense, the FY18 request would procure 131 Patriot air-and-missile defense system modification kits and would invest in the Avenger surface-to-air missile system.
The Army also wants to invest in a Stinger Man-Portable Air-Defense System product improvement program, a Patriot product improvement program related to software upgrades and ongoing risk-reduction tests, limited-user tests, and upgrades to White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.
The Army’s second priority is to develop long-range fires capability, and the budget request asks to fund three of the service’s most critical fires systems: a service life extension program for 121 expired Army Tactical Missile Systems, which will add another 10 years of life to the missiles; procurement of 6,000 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System; and continued low-rate initial production of 93 Patriot Missile Segment Enhancement missiles.
In the research and development account, the Army wants to fund the development of increased range and precision guidance for cannons and missile systems and enable precision fires in a GPS-denied environment.
Funding also includes a next-generation common, low-drag, guided, hyper-velocity, cannon-launched artillery projectile "capable of multiple mission across different artillery system," Horlander said.
The Army will stockpile its inventory of munitions in 2018, requesting to fund the production of 88,000 unguided Hydra 70 rockets and 480 rounds of war reserve inventory replenishing Excalibur munitions and modernizing ammunition industrial facilities "to improve munition production"; "replace depleted stocks"; and "create capacity for increased future demand," Horlander said.
Some of that funding would go toward the improvement of the Holston Army Ammunition Plant in Tennessee, he said.
Mobility, lethality and protection of brigade combat teams
The service is modernizing Abrams tanks, Stryker combat vehicles, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle, or AMPV, and Paladin Integrated Management howitzer fleets. The FY18 budget includes upgrades to Bradley and Abrams platforms and the procurement of 42 low-rate initial production AMPVs as well as 59 sets of Paladin systems.
The Army also wants development funding for continued system-level testing for AMPV prototypes and a third-generation forward-looking infrared ammunition data link for advanced multi-purpose rounds for both Abrams and Bradley.
Active protection systems
The request also funds the procurement of commercially available active protection systems for Abrams tanks for installation on vehicles within the Army’s armored brigade combat team in Europe.
Assured position, navigation and timing
"Commercial and military global positioning are susceptible to jamming and spoofing," Horlander said.
The Army is asking for both stand-alone and embedded capabilities for ground and air platforms communications, weapons systems and munitions to combat the threat.
Assured position, navigation and timing, or PNT, can provide these capabilities, Horlander said.
Electronic warfare/signals intelligence
Driven mostly by needs in the European theater, the Army is requesting funds to "provide planning capabilities to coordinate, manage and deconflict the use of electromagnetic spectrum and synchronized spectrum operations," he said.
The Army’s Rapid Capabilities Office is also working to deliver an integrated EW capability to the tactical force and accelerate the development of assured PNT in a GPS-denied environment.
The budget also asks for funding to support the integration of the electronic warfare system, Prophet, on Stryker and mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles.
Offensive and defensive cyber
The Army is focused on defensive cyber operations, and the request funds mission planning and protection measures in the cyber training environment, including such things as cyber ranges.
In order to eliminate network infrastructure capability gaps within the next 24 months, Horlander said, the Army would procure news system to support the network including the Joint Battle Command Platform and the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical.
The service continues to work on its two major vertical lift programs, replacing the engines in UH-60 Black Hawks and AH-64 Apaches with the Improved Turbine Engine Program and continuing on a path to a future family of helicopters in the 2030s.
The Army will pick the winning engine from two competing teams in the ITEP program in 2018.
The service is also funding product improvement programs for CH-47 Chinooks and Apaches.
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.