When it first appeared in the 1960s the BMP was a revolutionary vehicle, allowing the infantry to actively fight from within an armoured vehicle, rather than just been a battlefield taxi. The US response was the M2/M3 Bradley, which was more modern, but also taller, slower and carried a smaller main gun. These two vehicles never clashed on a European battlefield, but eventually, in 1991, they met in the Middle East, when US Bradleys fought Iraqi BMPs during Operation Desert Storm.
We start with a look at the design history of the two vehicles, starting with the Soviet BMP and moving on to the various US attempts to match it. These were somewhat slow, and the Bradley didn’t enter service until the early 1980s. This is followed by a look at their technical specifications – this section is generally good, although I would have liked to see simple layout plans, showing how these machines were organised internally. We then move onto the combat, starting with a look at the background to the war and the two armies, before looking at the short ground campaign. This is largely seen from the US side, mainly because Iraqi accounts are still rather hard to come by. As well as an overview of the campaign, we get to follow some of the individual clashes in some detail, giving an idea of how the two weapons systems worked in practice.
One minor quibble is that the author sometimes assumes too much knowledge on the part of the reader. One example is the discussion of the difference between the M2 and M3 versions of the Bradley, one of which served with the infantry and the other with the cavalry. The cavalry version is described as having space for a small number of ‘cavalry dismounts’, a phrase that really doesn’t mean anything to me (it turns out to mean a scout). There is no clear explanation of why the cavalry version carries fewer passengers than the infantry version (two compared to seven), but later on it becomes clear that this is because the M3 carries more rockets and ammo for its own weapons.
As is so often the case, one thing this book makes clear is that technology can’t win wars without a good support system, the right doctrine for its use and well trained and well motivated personnel. Despite the best efforts of some of the elite Iraqi formations, Operation Desert Storm was a very one sided clash, and Bradley equipped US units overwhelmed their BMP equipped opponents, despite the Soviet machine having some technical advantages. Having a bigger gun doesn’t matter if it’s not properly maintained, loses accuracy and wears out too quickly!
Design and Development
The Strategic Situation
Author: Mike Guardia