America has had a long tradition of picking up some foreign weapons. Whether it was getting military aid from France during the Revolutionary War to borrowing Spitfires from England in World War II to using Israeli Kfirs as aggressors in the 1980s, our troops have put foreign-designed systems to good use. This idea makes even more sense in the face of the Pentagon being forced to tighten the belt while global threats proliferate.
So here are six foreign warfighting platforms that DoD should buy now:
1. Spain’s Alvaro de Bazan-class frigates
With the retirement of the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, the United States could use some additional hulls in the water. The Littoral Combat Ship has had some good moments (like USS Freedom making four drug busts in seven weeks during a 2010 SOUTHCOM deployment), but that ship is still wrestling with teething problems, not the least of which is the fact that the missionized software packages that were supposed to make the LCS unique aren’t working.
The Navy plans to buy 20 frigates in the future, but perhaps they ought to look at getting Spain’s Alvaro de Bazan-class frigates instead. With a SPY-1 radar, a five-inch gun, and a 48-cell Mk 41 VLS that can fire Standard surface-to-air missiles, Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles, and Vertical-Launch ASROCs, it would be a direct replacement for the Perry-class ships.
2. Denmark’s Absalon-class multi-role ships
Denmark’s been building flexible warships for decades, thanks to the use of Stanflex technology. One of the more intriguing designs to emerge from this philosophy is the Absalon, a 4,500-ton ship that has a five-inch gun, and five “flexible” stations. These stations can carry a variety of weapons – usually 36 RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles and 16 RGM-84 Harpoons.
But the real secret is that the Absalon also can serve as a small roll-on/roll-off vessel, a supply ship, or even as a treatment point for casualties. With a top speed of 24 knots, the ship can keep up with the large-deck amphibious assault ships like the Wasp and America classes. Also, at $225 million per hull, they are about five-eighths the cost of a Freedom-class littoral combat ship.
3. Ukraine’s BTMP-84
Infantry has a tough job on the conventional battlefield. They can’t keep up with the tanks, but they are needed to support the tanks. They also, of course, need some support on the battlefield. But how to get troops to the battlefield, yet still get them some support? Ukraine’s BTMP-84 may be the answer to that.
The Ukrainians stretched a T-84, added some road wheels, and got a vehicle with the T-84’s firepower (a 125mm main gun with as many as 36 rounds of ammunition, a 12.7mm heavy machine gun, and a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun), plus the ability to carry five infantrymen. While it doesn’t carry as many troops as a Bradley or LAV-25, its firepower more than makes up for that.
4. Brazil’s EE-9 Cascavel Armored Car
With the retirement of the M551 Sheridan in the mid-1990s, the 82nd Airborne is in need of some armored firepower. That two-decade search could end with the EE-9 Cascavel.
With a 90mm main gun and 44 rounds, this 13-ton vehicle can keep up with Strykers, and it can provide much more sustained fire support (Stryker Mobile Gun Systems only carry 18 rounds for their 105mm main guns). The vehicle, about the size of an M113 armored personnel carrier, could be carried by a C-130.
5. UK’s Systems Hawk 200
Combat aircraft are expensive these days. Both the F-22 and F-35 cost over $100 million per airframe – and billions in RD. Yet having a lot of airframes is not a bad idea. The Hawk 200 is a possible solution.
With the same APG-66 radar used on the F-16, the Hawk can fire Sidewinders and AMRAAMs, making it a solid choice for air-defense. It also can carry almost 7,000 pounds of bombs or air-to-surface weapons. The U.S. Navy already operates the similar T-45 Goshawk, which means that some logistical support capability already exists. The Hawk 200 could be America’s lightweight joint strike fighter.
6. Israeli Sa’ar 6-class corvettes
The United States has made use of Israeli weapons in the not-so-distant past. The Marines’ Shoulder-launched Multi-purpose Assault Weapon is one such weapon. So was the RQ-2 Pioneer, best known as a spotter for naval gunfire from Iowa-class battleships during Desert Storm.
Now, Israel’s new Sa’ar 6 corvettes might be something to look at. With a 76mm gun, 16 anti-ship missiles, and 32 surface-to-air missiles, these vessels could enable the U.S. Navy to counter Russia’s Buyan-class corvettes and Gepard-class light frigates.