Nobody can accuse the Army’s acquisition system of thinking small. The Army has a nearly three-decades-long history of inventing massive, highly integrated and extremely complex modernization programs that go through years of research and development, cost billions of dollars and, in the end, often produce nothing.
The earliest example of this phenomenon was the RAH-66 Comanche, intended to be a stealthy scout/attack helicopter to replace both the Kiowa Warrior and the Apache. The program began in 1991 and was terminated in 2004 after producing two prototypes and spending nearly $7 billion.
The Crusader program started in 1994. It was intended to be an advanced mobile, long-range artillery system and to serve as the basis for a family of armored vehicles. The combination of the end of the Cold War and the system’s growing weight, complexity and cost resulted in Crusader’s cancellation in 2002 following the expenditure of more than $2 billion.
Then there was the canonical “too big to succeed” program, the Future Combat Systems (FCS). FCS was the largest and most ambitious acquisition program the Army ever attempted. It encompassed a suite of manned and unmanned ground vehicles, unmanned aerial vehicles, new long-range fire systems, a variety of sensors and a new command, control and communications architecture. Begun in 2003, the FCS program encountered a series of developmental delays, management mistakes and funding cuts that resulted in its cancellation in 2009 after some $19 billion had been spent. An attempt to harvest the work performed on the manned vehicle segment of FCS via the Ground Combat Vehicle program also came to naught when that program was terminated in 2014.