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Scrapping Crusader: The Army’s Crusader Cannon

May 16, 2002 at 12:00 AM EDT


DONALD RUMSFELD: After a good deal of consideration, I have decided to terminate the Crusader program.

TERENCE SMITH: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made the announcement May 8, saying the army of the future had to be fast and flexible.

DONALD RUMSFELD: What’s going to happen we’re going to do exactly what I said, we’re going to cancel the Crusader; we’re going to make our case persuasively with the Congress, we will persuade as many people as we need but not all, given the nature of life and it will end up being canceled.

ANNOUNCER: It’s simple: Crusader will change the way the army fights.

TERENCE SMITH: This promotion video touts the Crusader as a 40-ton cannon mounted on an automotive chassis. Using computers and robotics, it’s designed to hurl 10 to 12 artillery shells a minute, and strike targets up to 25 miles away. $2 billion has been spent for development. Manufacture and deployment are earmarked at $9 billion more.

It’s a program that may not die easily. Opposition to killing the Crusader erupted immediately. Three ranking Republican lawmakers from Oklahoma, where much of the cannon is to be produced, led the charge, joined by a phalanx of retired army officers and an alliance of manufacturers who will make their case to Congress.

Even the lobbying on the Crusader has taken a toll. A civilian official of the army lost his job after providing talking points to Crusader supporters in Congress. Rumsfeld appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee today to explain his decision.

Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan is chairman of the Armed Services Committee:

SEN. CARL LEVIN: The Department of Defense has not provided us with any study based on rational or objective criteria to support this decision as of this time. The purpose of this afternoon’s hearing is for the committee to examine the reason behind the Secretary’s decision to terminate the Crusader program, and the implications of this decision for the future modernization and combat capability of the army.

TERENCE SMITH: Rumsfeld defended his position.

DONALD RUMSFELD: The decision to recommend termination is not about killing a bad system Crusader is potentially a good system. We know that. It’s not about a system we could not use. It could be used. And it is not about a system the army would not like. The army would like it.

But the issue is how do we balance the risks, and in short, it is about forgoing a system that was originally designed in a different strategic context to make for more promising technologies that can accelerate transformation.

TERENCE SMITH: Rumsfeld said the Crusader was too heavy for rapid deployment. Fully loaded, it weighs much more than 40 tons.

DONALD RUMSFELD: However, the problem is that when you add the armor back on and ammunition and fuel and the people and the ammunition you need and the vehicle that goes with it, it isn’t 40 tons or 60 tons, it’s 97 tons. That is a lot. It seems to me it’s important to have that in mind. I asked how many C-17s would it take to move 18 Crusader tubes into a battle. And the answer was 60 to 64 C-17’s to move 18 Crusader tubes into a battle. That’s a bucket. That’s half of the entire C-17 fleet.

SEN.JAMES INHOFE: Mr. Secretary, I don’t believe that. And I know that you do and I think maybe there is a miscommunication here and I have heard this over and over and over again. Ammunition that’s a different thing, you always have to worry about getting ammunition to the area where it’s going to be used, but essentially we’re talking about one with the re-supply vehicle being able to be transferred to the C-17 and two if you don’t use the re-supply vehicle. That’s essentially then if you have 18 and take 18 of our C-17s.

TERENCE SMITH: Several Senators complained that the Department’s decision making process had been too hasty– among them Democratic Max Cleveland of Georgia.

SEN. MAX CLELAND: I will say to you that it does bother me that you’re asking us to in effect ratify decision you have already made that eliminates this program of the Crusader where we have already pumped $2 billion into it and exchange it for what? You haven’t even analyzed the alternative, you don’t have an alternative.

TERENCE SMITH: As of now, defense bills in both the House and Senate still authorize $475 million this year to develop the Crusader.