The M2/M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle is an integral part
of the United States armoured forces of today. Serving both an as infantry
fighting vehicle and for cavalry reconnaissance and scouting, its ability to
fight alongside the Abrams Main Battle Tank is central to US warfighting
The M2/M3 Bradley fighting vehicle established a
commendable combat record during deployment in the 1991 Gulf War and the
invasion of Iraq in 2003. During the Gulf War, Bradley vehicles from several
troops of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment of the U.S. Army engaged and
destroyed a number of Iraqi armoured vehicles in the Battle of 73 Easting and
Although the Bradley was found susceptible to
improvised explosive devices (IED) and rocket-propelled grenades during
Operation Iraqi Freedom, its crew survivability rate was excellent. In some
cases, the Bradley defeated Iraqi tanks with its TOW missiles. Special-purpose
vehicles based on the Bradley include a forward observation variant and
anti-aircraft and anti-tank platforms.
The first of the ‘battle taxis’, the US army’s trend-setting
M75 APC, entered service in 1952. It carried a driver, a commander and a squad
of ten men. It was of all-steel construction and was high, making it difficult
to conceal, and it was not amphibious; it also had a petrol engine.
Nevertheless, it was an impressive start. The M75 was followed by the M59,
which entered service from 1954 onwards. This too was of all-steel
construction, but was cheaper than the M75 to produce and was amphibious in
Still not satisfied, the US army persevered and its efforts
in this particular development chain culminated in the M113 APC, which became
the archetypical APC between 1960 and 1985. The original US army requirement
was to provide a lightweight armoured personnel carrier for armour and infantry
units; it had to be capable of amphibious and air-drop operation, have superior
cross-country mobility, and be adaptable for multiple functions by means of
kits and/or modification of its superstructure. The designers succeeded in meeting
all of these objectives, and the M113 proved to be one of the most successful
military designs of all time, with over 80,000 being produced for service in at
least fifty armies in a production run which lasted from 1960 to the early
The M113 had a body fabricated from welded aluminium, which
protected the crew (commander, driver and eleven infantrymen) from shell
splinters and small-arms fire. It was powered by a diesel engine, giving a
maximum speed of 64 km/h and a range of 320 km (later increased to 485 km). The
infantrymen sat on two benches facing inwards, and exited through a
downward-opening rear ramp. The basic vehicle was armed with a pintle-mounted
12.7 mm machine-gun, although many users mounted heavier weapons, of which the
largest to enter service was a turret-mounted 76 mm gun in an Australian
version. The M113 was fully amphibious with little preparation, being propelled
in the water by its tracks. Apart from the normal infantry versions a large
range of specialized versions were produced, including bulldozers,
flame-throwers, mortar carriers, radar vehicles, anti-aircraft gun/missile
carriers, command posts, anti-tank weapons carriers, and transport for
engineers, communications and recovery operations.
The M113 was very successful, but one of the reasons for its
longevity was the difficulty experienced in finding a successor. By the early
1960s the US army had decided on a requirement for a mechanized-infantry combat
vehicle (MICV), the first attempt at which was a vehicle designated MICV-65, of
which five prototypes were produced, but it was considered too large and
development ceased. In 1967 the Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle (AIFV)
appeared, which was in essence an M113 adapted to meet the MICV requirement,
but this too was deemed unsatisfactory and development ceased, although the
design was later produced in large numbers for the Belgian and Dutch armies.
In 1972 the XM723 programme started, which was intended to
lead to a vehicle which would serve in both armoured and infantry units,
carrying a crew of three plus eight dismounting infantry. After many
vicissitudes, repeated reviews (most of them antagonistic), much criticism and
many redesigns, this programme resulted in the M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting
Vehicle (IFV) and the initial production vehicles were eventually handed over
in 1981, with the first unit forming in March 1983. Forty-one M2s were issued
to each infantry battalion, where they replaced M113s, although many M113s
continued to serve in other roles.
The M2 was constructed of welded aluminium with spaced,
laminated armour on the front and sides, and was armed with a turret-mounted 25
mm chain-gun, a coaxial 7.62 mm machine-gun and a twin TOW anti-tank missile
launcher. The vehicle crew consisted of commander, driver and gunner, and seven
infantrymen were carried, of which six were provided with firing ports and
periscopes. Thus, after a protracted and very expensive development process,
the US army finally obtained a MICV which was only marginally better than the German
Marder, which had preceded it into service by some fifteen years.
With its roots in the Vietnam era, the M2/3 Bradley fighting
vehicle did not enter service with the U.S. Army until 1981. Even then,
controversy swirled around its perceived combat capabilities.
At the height of the Vietnam War, the U.S. Army was seeking a
replacement for its M113 armoured personnel carrier. Combat experience had
revealed that the M113 was difficult to manoeuvre in jungle terrain, its high
profile was susceptible to shoulder-fired anti-tank weapons such as the
Soviet-made rocket-propelled grenade (RPG), and its armament was insufficient
to lend substantial direct fire support to infantry.
Although there were clearly defined specifications for the
new fighting vehicle that eventually became the M2/ M3 Bradley fighting
vehicle, progress was slow. Some sceptics questioned its light armour
protection and the real contribution its 25mm (0.98in) main weapon could make
on the battlefield. The concerns raised were largely based on the poor
performance of the Soviet BMP-1 troop carrier during the Yom Kippur War of
1973. Nevertheless, the requirement that a new fighting vehicle maintain
offensive pace with the emerging main battle tanks of the period and the need
for rapid reconnaissance and the advance of infantry to take and hold territory
Brokering the Bradley
Named in honour of General of the Army Omar N. Bradley, a
hero of the Allied victory in World War II, the Bradley fighting vehicle
weathered controversy, Congressional inquiry and funding battles on Capitol
Hill before production was authorized in February 1980 and the M2/M3 entered
service in 1981, a full 15 years after the research and development that
produced it had begun.
The Bradley has been constructed in two basic
configurations. The M2 infantry variant was initially designed to carry a crew
of three and seven combat-ready infantrymen who entered and exited the vehicle
through a rear access hatch. Later, the troop capacity of the M2 was reduced to
six. The M3 cavalry version carries the three-man crew and a pair of scout
infantrymen. Produced by BAE Systems Land and Armaments, nearly 6800 Bradleys
have been built.
In keeping with the armoured equation that attempts to
balance firepower, armour protection and mobility, the Bradley has been
designed and steadily upgraded to perform scouting and infantry support
missions. In combat during the Gulf War of 1991 and the invasion of Iraq in
2003, its tank and armoured vehicle killing prowess came into sharp focus as well.
The Bradley is powered by a Cummins VTA-903T eight-cylinder
diesel engine capable of a top speed of 66km/h (41mph). Its torsion-bar
suspension is adequate for rapid movement across desert sands and through
marshy or uneven terrain with a power-to-weight ratio of 14.7 kilowatts
(19.74hp) per ton. Armour protection is, out of necessity, light compared to
main battle tanks. Spaced laminate armour and additional steel plating are
sufficient to protect against small arms and shells up to 23mm (0.98in), enhancing
the base protection of aluminium alloy 7017 explosive-reactive armour (ERA).
While it may be considered a light weapon, the M242 chain
gun is capable of penetrating the armour of enemy vehicles firing
armour-piercing ammunition with a core of dense depleted uranium. High
explosive shells are effective against softer targets. The gunner chooses the
appropriate ammunition through an automated remote dual selection system and
is, therefore, able to engage multiple and varied targets in quick succession.
The Bradley carries 900 rounds of M242 ammunition.
Anti-tank armament includes the proven TOW missile system
carried in a collapsible rack on the left side of the turret. Seven missiles
are routinely carried in combat zones. Infantry support is also available with
a coaxial 7.62mm (0.3in) M240C machine gun with 800 rounds loaded and ready and
1540 rounds stored in reserve.
Following the Gulf War combat experience, an ODS (Operation
Desert Storm) upgrade was authorized for the Bradley. Countermeasures against
missiles were introduced, as well as the introduction of global positioning and
digital compass systems, a tactical navigation system and better laser
rangefinding equipment in the A2 variant. The A2 variant is also capable of
interfacing with the Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below (FBCB2) command
system. Infantrymen are accommodated with bench seating and heating elements
for the preparation of hot meals.
With the follow-on A3 upgrade, FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared) sighting was installed along with an electro-optical imaging system and better fire control. Currently, the GCV fighting vehicle is in development following the cancellation of the earlier Future Combat Systems Manned Ground Vehicles programme in 2009. The successor to the Bradley is anticipated by the end of this decade.