Getting back on track

Army Catching Up With Demand for Track

This National Defense Magazine article discusses the Army’s response to the track shortage issue, menioned here.

“The trends are positive,” said Jack Dugan, acting director of TACOM’s Integrated Logistics and Support Center in Warren, Mich. “With a push by the leadership of the Army, we got some supplemental dollars, we got a cash infusion in June and we were able to start buying some significant quantities. Based on lead times, we are starting to see the stuff come in.”

Track usage in Iraq has been staggering, as armored vehicles—especially Bradley fighting vehicles—have been crunching sand and asphalt on continuous patrols and convoy escorts. “In some cases, we were having a year’s worth of op tempo in a week or a month,” according to Dugan.

That sounds an awful lot like corporate-speak for “we’re scrambling to cover our asses.”

I realize that demand can’t be predicted reliably even in peacetime, so I’m not faulting the manufacturers. But I think the shortage of tracks for Bradleys and Abrams is just more evidence that the military was taken by surprise by the amount of post-invasion fighting in Iraq.

The numbers speak volumes. Before Operation Iraqi Freedom, average peacetime demand for Bradley track was 7,500 track shoes per month. Demand soared nearly 1,300 percent, to an average of more than 100,000 shoes per month from March to October 2003. In Operation Desert Storm, track usage was—adjusted for the lesser durability of older track—the equivalent of 50,000 shoes per month in February 1991.

Abrams track usage multiplied nearly tenfold, from an average 8,500 shoes per month to 79,500 per month from March to October 2003. Equivalent demand in February 1991 was 41,500 shoes. And the surge in track usage in Desert Storm lasted for a much shorter period, noted Dugan.

There is no reason for the military to have been blind-sided by this. In fact, I doubt that it was. I’m sure that there was a fair amount of discussion about this at some levels, but, like the Interceptor body armor that the Army is short of, no one (important enough) thought stockpiling more tracks was worth the expense when there are so many cool things to buy.

The article notes that the wheeled Stryker LAV will take some of the pressure off of track manufacturers, but if our invasion and occupation force consisted mostly of Strykers instead of Bradleys and Abrams, we’d probably be reading about tire shortages instead.

Also noted is the fact that, while 129,000 shoes for Bradley track have been rebuilt, M1 tracks cannot be rebuilt at all.

UPDATE: Tracked vehicles don’t have this problem. It’s a Stryker in a Dec 12 photo from