M2 / M3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle (USA)

By the end of the 1950s, most armies had either adopted a fully tracked armoured personnel carrier (APC), such the Bundeswehr (HS.30) and US Army (M113) or a combination of tracked and wheeled, such as the Soviet Army (BTR-152 and BTR-60) and British Army (Saracen and FV432). The wide variation was due to the rapidly changing nature of infantry tactics, and the low priority of armoured infantry vehicles as compared to tanks. In the 1960s armoured infantry vehicles started the move over to the next stage in their evolution - the infantry fighting vehicle. This was because it had been recognised that, given the prevailing doctrines of the day, a large number of tactical nuclear weapons would be used in a conflict in Europe and so it would be unrealistic to expect the infantry to dismount from their APC and fight on foot (which they had to do) in a highly contaminated environment. Both the West Germans and the Soviets concluded that the solution centred around allowing the infantry to fight from within their vehicle as its armoured shell would give the infantry a measure of protection from the radiation and usual battlefield hazards. The vehicle could also carry additional firepower to enable it to support the infantry. The Soviets started production of the BMP infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) in 1967 with the Germans following with the Marder IFV a couple of years later. Both vehicles were better armed and armoured but suffered from greater complexity, cost and a reduced squad size.

The US Army eventually came to the same conclusion and began accepting bids from US firms for the development of the MICV-65 (Mechanised Infantry Combat Vehicle-1965). While they accepted the Pacific Car and Foundry XM701 design (based around many of the same components as the M109 and M110 family of self-propelled guns) and testing was completed in 1966, it was never accepted for service as it was deemed too heavy, too slow and could not be airlifted in a C-141. It was also at the point at which the US Army was increasingly being drawn into the Vietnam War. Vietnam increased the US Army's interest in armoured infantry tactics as it used the M113 on many of its operations, but the M113 was not well-suited to the mounted attacks that were often employed and was lightly armoured, and so could not withstand hits from direct anti-tank weapons such as the RPG-7 or large mines. This created a situation where the squad would often ride on top of the vehicle rather than sit inside, as the 'battlefield taxi' ignores the psychological effects of mechanised infantry combat - few battlefields are as horrible in reality than the pictures conjured up in a claustrophobic, fearful and anxious mind. In 1968 a special task force was formed by the US Army, headed by Major General George Casey, which categorically urged the Army to continue developing the MICV as changes in the Soviet Army and its major programme of modernisation would lead to the US Army being faced with a fully mechanised army. At the same time, FMC Corporation, which built the M113, had been one of the loosing bidders in the MICV-65 programme and decided that the future of the APC business was going to move in the IFV direction and so allocated its own funds to developing the XM765 AIFV (Armoured Infantry Fighting Vehicle) and showed it to the US Army. The Army were looking to develop the XM1 tank (which would become the M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank) out of the failing MBT-70 project and wanted an IFV that was more mobile and better protected than the XM765 but decided to give FMC a contract to develop a better armoured and more mobile version. FMC came up with the XM723, which was based more on the US Marine Corps Amtrac series of vehicles, rather than the M113 and had a novel laminated steel / aluminium armour which was relatively light but gave improved protection against small arms fire up to 14.5mm.

The programme however was delayed due to a number of external factors including problems with the proposed VRFWS-S 20mm autocannon and the intrusion of the proposed Army cavalry scout vehicle programme (XM800 ARSV). The FMC vehicle had begun testing and proved very impressive. However, the Army began to realise that following the Vietnam War, Congress was not going to be overly enthusiastic about funding a large number of new equipment programmes, many of the predecessors of which had been cancelled due to cost. The XM800 ARSV programme was eventually cancelled, but in 1975, the idea began to emerge about combining the two proposals into a common vehicle. The lingering controversy in the Soviet Army was picked up by US Intelligence and another special task force, under Brigadier General Larkin was formed to examine the issues. The Marder was again examined but rejected on cost, weight, lack of amphibious capability, armour protection and armament. The task force also looked at the French AMX-10 and some Israeli captured Syrian BMP-1s. Additionally, a separate study was conducted into the idea of a Heavy Infantry Vehicle but it showed that such a solution could cost double that of an IFV. Many other armies have reached the same conclusion, and such vehicles have usually been produced on purely an expedient basis, such as the British Army 'Ram Kangaroos', and the Israeli use of Centurion and T-55 hulls. Such vehicles cost more due to having to have a more powerful engine (and a suitable transmission and suspension) to give the vehicle decent mobility, as well as the higher lifetime costs of maintenance, repair and use. There are also implications as regards tactical usage as such vehicles cannot be made amphibious and have to either wade or extra provision must be made in terms of tactical bridging. Additionally, for the US Army, consideration has to be given to the fact that certain formations (such as those for the RDF) have to be air or sealifted great distances. At the end of 1976, the Larkin Task Force concluded in favour of an IFV but agreed with the necessity of producing a common vehicle for the cavalry, armed with a two-man turret and missile launcher.

The XM723 derivative was designated the XM2 for the IFV requirement and the XM3 for the Cavalry Fighting Vehicle requirement. Development proceeded relatively smoothly (with some problems with the transmission being resolved through a competitive development programme, which General Electric won), the two-man turret generating some controversy in the infantry as it reduced the squad size from nine to seven, although the addition of the TOW missile launcher was warmly welcomed. The initial eight prototypes were delivered for testing in 1978 and production approval was received in 1980. The vehicles were named after General Omar Bradley and the first unit to receive them was the 41st Infantry, 2nd Armoured Division at Fort Hood, with the 3rd Mechanised Division being the first in Europe to be equipped in 1983. There were many criticisms of the project in the press and national media during 1983 - 4 despite the Bradley passing its operational and technical tests without difficulty. The real test came during Operation Desert Storm which it passed with flying colours, where three Bradley's were disabled and a small number damaged as a result of enemy action. A total of 6,785 M2 / M3s were built of which 400 were for Saudi Arabia. The hull of the original Bradley was made of all-welded aluminium armour with spaced laminate armour fitted to the sides and rear of the hull. The driver sits in front on the left, and has a single-piece hatch cover with four (three to the front and one to the left) day periscopes, the centre one of which can be replaced with a passive night periscope. To the right of the driver lies the Cummins VTA-903T engine (500hp), coupled to a General Dynamics Land Systems HMPT-500 hydromechanical transmission. The vehicle is equipped with a number of manual and automatic fire extinguishers. The turret is welded aluminium armour with steel appliqué armour on the outside and has the gunner on the left and commander on the right and has twin M257 smoke grenade launchers on either side. The gunner has a combined day / thermal sight, with a link to the commander and magnifications of x 4 and x 12 as well as periscopes for side and side observation. The gunner also has a daylight back-up sight. The main gun is a Boeing M242 Bushmaster 25mm Chain Gun with a 7.62mm M240C machine gun mounted coaxially and is fully stabilised. The gunner can select single shots, 100 or 200 rounds per minute fire. The anti-tank capability comes from the Raytheon TOW weapons system fitted onto the left side of the turret, the TOW missile having a range of 3,750m. The M2 carries seven infantry at the rear. The infantry can enter or leave via a hydraulically operated ramp at the rear of the vehicle and there is an additional single-piece hatch on the roof. Six firing ports (two each side and two to the rear) allow the squad to fire XM231 5.56mm weapons from inside the vehicle. The vehicle has a torsion bar suspension with six rubber-tyred road wheels, one drive wheel to the front and one idler to the rear on each side, as well as two track return rollers and a double roller. The main difference between the infantry and cavalry versions is that the cavalry version carries a five-man crew, has no firing ports and carries a greater ammunition load.

The first variants were the M2A1 and M3A1, which entered production in 1985. The M13A1 gas particulate filter system was fitted on all models allowing the commander, gunner and driver to be linked to the central NBC system. There were numerous other improvements including a turret power indicator, padding for the driver's station, redesigned weapons interlock, simplified storage, two camouflage nets and replacement of the single water tank with two smaller ones. The Dragon AN/TAS-5 night sight is also carried and up to five Dragons can be carried instead of TOWs. It was also equipped with improved fuel and fire suppression systems. A total of 1,371 A1 vehicles were built which have all been upgraded to A2 standard. The second variant is the M2A2 and M3A2 Bradley IFVs, which evolved out of a Block II study to look at possible enhancements. Improvements for this model includes restowed ammunition, internal armour protection for certain components, spall liners, additional armour protection, a ballistic shroud for the commander's sight and an improved drive train and suspension. The engine has also been uprated to 600hp to cope with the additional weight. The US Army plans to upgrade 2,300 of its original configuration Bradley IFVs (known as the A0) to the A2 standard. As a result of Desert Storm there are plans to fit some 1,433 A2 conversions with a number of extra modifications including a laser rangefinder, GPS system, a simple IFF capability, driver's viewer enhancer, a missile countermeasures device and improved stowage. These vehicles will be known as the M2A2ODS / M3A2ODS. After Desert Storm the US Army initiated a Bradley Modernisation Plan that included the Desert Storm modifications mentioned previously, the development of a Bradley A3 (that includes enhancements to mobility, lethality, command and control and survivability), modernising a number of A0 Bradley IFVs up to A2 standard and moving some of the old M113 mission packages over to Bradley hulls. In 1997, the US Army signed a LRIP contract with United Defence to supply 35 A3 Bradley IFVs following testing with eight prototype vehicles. The US Army is expected to upgrade around 1,113 vehicles to the latest A3 standard over the next eight to ten years. Other variants include the Battle Command Vehicle, XM5 Electronic Fighting Vehicle Systems carrier, M4 Command and Control Vehicle, M7 Bradley FIST (Fire Support Team) and Bradley-Linebacker M6 air defence vehicle.

(M2A3) Hull length: 6.55m. Hull width: 3.28m. Height: 3.38m. Crew: 3+7. Ground Clearance: 0.46m. Weight: 36,886kg (combat) Ground pressure: 0.79kg/sq.cm Max speed: 61km/h. Max range (internal fuel): 400km on road. Armament: 25mm M242 cannon, 1 x 7.62mm M240C MG coaxial, 1 x double tube launcher for TOW anti-tank guided missiles.

Zaloga, Steven and Sarson, Peter. M2 / M3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle 1983 - 1995, Osprey (UK) Ltd, 1995, London, New Vanguard Series No. 18.
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United Defense LP M2 Infantry Fighting Vehicle / M3 Cavalry Fighting Vehicle in Jane's Armour and Artillery 2001 - 2002
How to cite this article: Antill, P. (20 June 2001), M2 / M3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle (USA), http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_bradley.html

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