Tag Archives: armor

Son of FCS

So, the debacle of the Army’s Future Combat System is mostly dead. A lot of the networking initiatives are still alive, and some of the reconnaissance stuff as well. But the master plan for a family of armored vehicles to replace the Strykers, Bradley’s and Abrams all with one chassis is dead. The Army started looking at a follow-on program shortly thereafter, but the specter of 70 ton Armored Personnel Carriers doomed that paper program.

Now it looks like the Army is finally going to get serious about a program to develop the replacement for the Bradley.

The Army also wants the vehicles to cost $200 per operating mile. This falls between the $100 per mile of the Bradley and the $300 per mile of the M1 Abrams tank.

The new troop carriers must meet “non-negotiable” criteria for protection against everything from cannon rounds and RPGs to explosively formed penetrators, along with the ability to accommodate future growth in terms of size, weight, power and network connectivity as well as carry nine soldiers, said Michael Smith of the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence during a conference call with reporters today.

However, the rest of the vehicle’s performance will largely be up to contractors to determine as long as they meet minimum criteria.

The Army is looking at a unit cost of about $10 million apiece, which is mighty expensive, but not out of the realm of sanity in this day and age.

Now, you might have figured out that I’m about the biggest fan of the Bradley around, but I think it is high time to start this new program. Why? A couple of different reasons.

First, the fleet is old, and has been rode hard. I’ve said before that I think running the fleet through depot maintenance will be enough to keep it going. Sure. But depot maintenance ain’t cheap. And the older your fleet is, the more often you have to cycle through.

Secondly, there just isn’t a lot of room left for growth on a Bradley. It’s already been upgraded several times over its almost 30 years of service, to include changing the engine and transmission, ugrading the suspension somewhat, adding large amounts of new armor, redesigning the interior layout, totally revamping the communications system from Cold War era radios to a digital battle management system, and revamping the fire control system to include a laser range finder and commander’s thermal sight.  There’s not a lot of physical room left to add stuff, and power supply to the electronics is limited.

Finally, the 25mm main gun on a Bradley is getting to be just a little light. Most infantry fighting vehicles entering production these days mount 30mm or even 40mm guns. Don’t be surprised if we see a 40mm on the next generation vehicle (alternatively, don’t be surprised if the MK46 30mm gun is selected as a cost saving measure- it’s already in service).

Oh, one last thing. I think it is great that they want to provide seating for nine dismounts instead of the 6 or 7 a Bradley can carry. Mech platoons are always short of dismounts. There’s never enough of them. And since the standard army squad is nine men, this will promote tactical homogenity throughout the force.

Replacing the Bradley before the Strykers and Abrams makes sense. The Stryker fleet is young, already networked, and has room for growth. The Arbrams fleet hasn’t been used nearly as hard as the Bradley fleet in recent years, was designed almost from the start for networking, and still has substantial room for growth. Further, it is still far and away the best tank on the battlefield. If the Army manages this replacement program tightly, and doesn’t try to make it a vehicle for all people at all times, they may just come up with a good design. Let’s just hope it goes a little faster than the original Bradley’s development, which only took about 20 years…

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Filed under armor, army, ARMY TRAINING, infantry


For over 50 years, the US Army had a simple doctrine for using tanks in urban combat-Don’t.

Oh, sure the manuals listed ways to use tanks in cities if you had to, but the emphasis was on avoiding towns and cities. Tanks bring three big assets to a fight- mobility, survivability, and firepower. Fighting in the close terrain of a city sacrifices mobility. And to a certain extent, survivability. Because ranges are so short in cities, and there is a lot of “high ground” readily available on rooftops, and potential ambush points from alleyways and such, tanks can become vulnerable to a lot of short range, man portable anti-tank systems such as RPGs. Reducing two of the three biggest assets of a tank is really changes the risk/reward calculation.

Also, during the Cold War, while the Army focused so much of its intellectual energy on a possible fight in Western Europe, they had a curious inability to honestly address urban warfare. There are few places on earth with as many cities, towns and villages as Western Europe. Yet the Army seemed to think all the fighting would take place outside of town. This in the face of all the evidence to the contrary. After all, the Army had to fight in all those very same cities and town when they defeated Germany in WWII.

In Desert Storm, you could hardly have designed a battlefield that was more suited to the way the Army hoped to fight. No cities,  very few civilians running around, and a mechanized, force on force fight. It’s no surprise the Army was happy to operate in the open desert, and leave the assault on Kuwait City to the Marines and our allies.

But the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the subsequent war there were another matter. By necessity, the Army wound up fighting in cities. The learning curve was steep. And city fighting is an infantry intensive form of warfare. Armor was no longer the “Arm of Decision” but another source of supporting fires, much like artillery and close air support.

After a couple years of fighting in cities, tankers started screaming about some of the upgrades their tanks needed to both do their job better, and protect their crews, and reduce the vehicle’s vulnerabilities. Enter the TUSK or Tank Urban Survival Kit.


Most of these are pretty minor modifications. The tank itself can still perform its regular hot-war mission of blasting other tanks at long range, and running around like crazy in the enemy’s back yard.

The tank/infantry phone is great because the team leader on the ground can tell the tank exactly what he needs. M1s never had it before, because it never made a lot of sense when the Army envisioned battalions of tanks and Bradleys charging across the field at 40 miles an hour. Again, they  didn’t want to hear anybody saying anything heretical like “tanks will find themselves creeping along at 3mph in a city.”

The loader’s shield didn’t make a lot of sense in Western Europe either. You want to keep the profile of a tank as low as reasonably possible. And in a tank battle, the loader is not likely to come under small arms fire very much. Indeed, his weapon was added almost as an afterthought. But in city fighting, having that machine gun is very handy. And since it is, and the ranges are so short, having a shield makes a great deal of sense, even if it does raise the profile somewhat.

Some other components, like the thermal site for the loader’s weapon, and the remote weapon station for the commander, weren’t really practical earlier, or anywhere near cost effective. Now that they are, they’re being added.

The additional armor on the sides and the slat armor on the engine compartment? Well, an RPG is unlikely to destroy an M1 on the side, but it could damage the running gear, and leave it immobile. This solves that problem. And the slat armor addresses the same issue.

Any tankers our there wanna add something?


Filed under 120mm, armor, army, ARMY TRAINING, ducks, guns

Bulletproofing a space station

Roamy here.  So I’ve talked about bulletproof vests and space debris, it’s finally time to talk about shielding.  A common way of testing different shielding designs is a two-stage light gas gun.

Your gun might be bigger, but mine shoots faster.

A high-speed rifle can shoot around 1.5 km/sec; a light gas gun can shoot up to 8 km/sec.  The “light gas” part comes from using either hydrogen or helium in the first stage.  A really good explanation of how this works can be found here. Basically you blow up some gunpowder, which moves a piston, which compresses the light gas behind an aluminum disk machined to burst at a specific pressure. Disk bursts, moving the projectile down the barrel to the target, past X-rays and/or cameras so you can figure out the speed, then impact.

Shielding for space debris is based on the Whipple shield, where you have a sacrificial plate to break up the debris into smaller particles.  (Dr. Fred Whipple, not the “don’t squeeze the Charmin” guy)  For the Space Station, you also have a thermal insulation blanket made up of thin layers of metallized plastic film and netting spacers.  A lot of thought goes into how thick the sacrificial plate should be, the spacing between all the components, and how to replace it on orbit when it’s done its job.

If you have just a sacrificial plate of aluminum and a thermal blanket, you can still get this kind of damage.

Sorry for the poor quality, but it was the best I could find that was cleared.

Add in a blanket like a bulletproof vest – Kevlar and Nextel or other aramids and ceramic cloth, and you get some dimples and craters instead.

L to R, sacrificial plate, protective blanket, simulated pressure wall

That little marble in front of the protective blanket in the picture above?  One of those fired at 6.7 km/sec is what caused that damage.  Remember from your physics class, kinetic energy equals one-half mass times velocity squared.  Only one gram or so, but that velocity squared is a bitch.

Update by XBradTC: Basically, NASA engineers are facing the same problem that every tank, bullet-proof vest, and warship designer faces- the balance between weight, protection and likely risk.

It would be the simplest thing imaginable to protect an infantryman from head to toe against small arms fire. The problem is, the weight needed to protect him would leave him immobile. An infantryman who can’t move isn’t an infantryman anymore. So risk becomes a factor. For a soldier that will spend most of his time in a Humvee, it’s pretty easy to justify adding a groin protector and deltoid armor. But a troop who has to ascend and descend steep mountains all day in Afghanistan can’t really hump that extra armor. The risk of sustaining a non-lethal wound to extremities becomes acceptable in that case.

Same thing with tanks. Tanks are more heavily armored on the front slope than elsewhere, because that is where they are most likely to be hit by the most dangerous projectiles.  You can’t armor something so heavily that it is invulnerable without sacrificing the mobility of the tank to a degree that renders it useless.

In NASA’s case, it costs a lot of money for every pound lifted into orbit. Without any protection, you face an unacceptable risk from small impacts. But with too much mass devoted to protection, you sacrifice lifting up the resources that are the whole point of the project.

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Filed under armor, guns, space


So I’m cruising along the I-10 today, and come across an armored vehicle on the back of a flatbed truck. It was a newly refurbished AAVP-7 amphibious armored assault vehicle.


It’s fairly common to see military vehicles being transported on I-10, but I do believe this was the first time I’ve seen an AAVP-7.

The Marines were justly famous for their many amphibious assaults in the Pacific Theater during WWII. We commonly envision them charging down the ramps of small landing craft. And they did. At first. But early on, the Marines realized that troops were incredibly vulnerable to the enemy right at the shoreline. Somewhat serendipitously, an inventor in Florida named Donald Roebling had spent the 1930s developing an amphibious tracked vehicle for search and rescue in the massive swamps of Florida. Eventually, the Marines got wind of this, and via a long and painful development process, came up with the Landing Vehicle Tracked, which was an armored tracked vehicle that was seaworthy enough to manage the run from ship to shore, but could also move inland, away from the worst kill zones on the beach. Several variants were used in the war, by the Marines, and by the US Army. Postwar developments and deployments led to today’s AAV-7 family of vehicles.

The personnel carrier version is a big vehicle. It has to be, to carry the 25 Marines it is loaded with, in addition to its three man crew. There are also recovery and command versions of the vehicle. It can swim at about 8 knots in the ocean, and make about 35mph on land. Originally designed solely to transport Marines ashore for the assault, since Desert Storm, the Marines have used it mostly as an armored personnel carrier.

The AAV-7 is also pretty old. It first entered service in 1972. The fleet underwent a Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) in the early 1980s, giving them an improved engine and transmission, and upgrading the weapon station from a single .50cal machine gun  to a station with both a .50cal and a 40mm Mk19 grenade launcher. An additional rebuild program started  around the turn of the century. The latest improvements include another new, larger engine (the same 600hp diesel as the M2 Bradley) and other improvements to the suspension system to increase ground clearance and ease maintenance. Given the additional armor the Marines have added to them over the years, the improvements were needed just to regain the original level of capability.

The Marines currently intend to replace the AAV-7 fleet with the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, a smaller, much faster, more heavily armed vehicle, but that program has its neck on the chopping block right now in these austere times. In an age when a Bradley or a Stryker costs about $4 million the price of the EFV in 2007 was listed as an astonishing $22 million dollars! That’s half the cost of a MV-22 Osprey. The money spent on the development of the EFV alone would have more than paid for recapitalizing the AAV-7 fleet.

To go back to the early LVTs in WWII, it is interesting to look at the differences between the philosophy of the Army and the Marine Corps when addressing amphibious operations. The Army didn’t use many LVTs in the European theater. They mostly stuck to small and medium sized landing craft, while the initial waves of almost all Marine landings went in on LVTs. Why?

Well, most Marine assaults were on relatively small islands. Almost every square inch of any island they landed on  was fortified, and under the guns of the Japanese. There was no room for maneuver. The Marines were pretty much forced to charge straight into the teeth of the defenses.  Following the initial landings, there would be a sharp, relatively short fight for the island. Cut off from reinforcements, the Japanese could do little beyond delaying the inevitable loss of the island, and extract a high price in blood.

The Army’s amphibious operations in Europe were of a different nature. Rather than seizing a small island cut off from other resources, these invasions were generally to gain a foothold into a new theater of operations, such as North Africa, Sicily and Italy, and most famously, Normandy as the gateway to Western Europe.  Given the large size of these theaters, the Germans could not defend as densely every possible landing site. This gave the Army a good deal of leeway to maneuver in terms of choosing the exact landing sites. But the initial landings weren’t the point of the fight. The only purpose of the landings was to secure a means of bringing in the huge follow-on forces needed in these theaters. That meant the huge fleet of amphibious ships that landed the first wave of Army forces had to turn around immediately, and start shuttling in the next wave of divisions. For instance, the US Marines and Army landed on Okinawa on 1 April 1945. By the end of the second day, virtually all of the over 100,000 troops who would fight there were landed. But contrast that with Normandy, where the first day was just the kicking in of the door. The buildup of troops to fight in Western Europe would go on almost until the end of the war.

Given the limited numbers of amtracs available, and the differing nature of amphibious assaults between European and Pacific theaters, the decision was made to give the Marines (and, of course, the large number of Army units in the Pacific) priority on production. After WWII, the Army generally abandoned the amphibious assault mission, leaving that mission to the Marines.


Filed under army, ARMY TRAINING, marines

The M60A2 Patton

With its weird turret shape, you can see why the called it “The Starship.” The -A2 was not a terribly successful variant of the long serving M60 series of tanks. The gun/launcher just never seemed to work very well. The same 152mm (6″) gun/launcher as also used on the M551 Sherridan light tank.

About 500 “Dueces” were built, but almost as soon as it entered service, the decision was made to scrap the turrets and use the hulls to make either M60A3 tanks, or Armored Vehicle Laid Bridge carriers from them.


Filed under armor, army


So, I was driving from California to Phoenix yesterday. And was mildly surprised to see a Bradley being transported on a flatbed. I mean, I often see armor being transported, but it is usually MRAPs or FMTVs or Humvees.  There aren’t any Army units nearby so you don’t see a lot of Army vehicles.

But there it was, a Bradley. I couldn’t reach my camera, sadly. But as I got closer, I realized it wasn’t just a Bradley, but a Bradley FIST. We earlier discussed the Infantry/Artillery Team and the importance of artillery forward observers. The forward observers in a mechanized or armored company team are called the Fire Support Team, or FIST (and yes, we always called them “fisters” and giggled like schoolgirls).  For many years, the FIST was mounted on either an M113 or the M981 FIST Vehicle. But eventually, enough Bradley chassis were available to mount the fire support team on them. The biggest difference between a regular Bradley and the M7 B-FIST is that the TOW launcher has been replaced by a laser rangefinder/target designator and additional communications.


Filed under armor, army

A Relentless Enemy – 60 Minutes – CBS News

It is ironic that one of the news outlets that was most opposed to the War on Terror, CBS News, also manages to provide some of the best coverage. Oh, there’s the usual “the war is lost” slant to it, but that just goes with the territory.  There’s not a single news organization that doesn’t have that as their default template for every story.

Whoops. Video didn’t want to embed. Click here to see the whole thing.


Filed under Afghanistan, armor, army, ARMY TRAINING, guns, infantry, war

Head Games

Back in my day, virtually all the equipment and weapons of both the Army and the Marines were identical. Our Battle Dress Uniforms were almost indistinguishable.  We both used the M16. We both used ALICE gear to carry loads, and we both used helmets and flak jackets known as Personal Armor System for Ground Troops (PASGT), though no one called them that. There were just “kevlars” and “flak jackets.”

Since the late ’90s and the turn of the century, we’ve seen a divergence between the services on most of these fronts. The services both have separate and distinct working uniforms, boots, weapons (to some extent) and load bearing equipment.

Even the helmets worn by Soldiers and Marines are different. The old Kevlar helmet has been replaced in the Army by the ACH or Advanced Combat Helmet. This is a somewhat lighter helmet that has a somewhat different profile to enable troops to hear better and to use night vision devices and radio headsets.

The Marines, on the other hand, have opted for the Light Weight Helmet, which retains the profile of the old Kevlar, but uses improved materials to provide the same ballistic protection at a lighter weight.

One of the unseen differences between the two helmets is the suspension. The ACH uses a series of pads to fit the helmet to the wearer. The LWH uses a web suspension system much like the old Kevlar helmet. And therein lies a bit of controversy.

It is no secret that Traumatic Brain Injury may well be the “signature” wound of our current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The concussion from IEDs has caused untold numbers of concussions and worse among our troops. And some folks think the web suspension of the Marines LWH isn’t up to the job of protecting against that.

John Maxie was riding in a Humvee in Iraq’s Anbar province last week when two roadside bombs went off, searing him with blasts of intense heat and explosive force that felt like a 2-by-4 hit him on the head.

Maxie, 20, a Camp Pendleton-based Marine corporal, survived.

He and his parents believe they know what saved him from serious brain injury: a pad insert that he attached to his helmet before deployment in March.

“This pretty much validates the fact that the suspension kit is doing its job,” said Maxie’s father, Greg. “Our son was very lucky to be that close to a ‘kill zone’ of a blast and walk away with nothing but scratches and a hearing loss.”

The Maxies are among many Marine families who are following the lead of Bob Meaders, a former Navy doctor and the grandfather of another Camp Pendleton Marine, who has launched a drive to add non-regulation pads to standard-issue helmets.

There’s little scientific evidence on whether extra padding means better blast protection. But the Iraq war is yielding a higher percentage of brain injuries than any previous U.S. conflict, according to researchers. While some families take comfort in buying the pads themselves – and manufacturers are pushing the product in publications aimed at military audiences – the Marine Corps disputes the benefits.

We aren’t convinced that the padded helmets are a great advance in preventing TBI. We are convinced, however, that the padded suspension system is far more comfortable for wear. On that basis alone, the Marines should adopt it.

That doesn’t mean the ACH isn’t without problems of its own. ACHs made by two manufacturers have been shown to have quality control problems and have been recalled.


Filed under Afghanistan, armor, army, ARMY TRAINING, infantry, iraq, marines, war


Almost every day, we get hits from people looking for information on Rocket Propelled Grenades, or RPGs (well, we get hits for RPG, maybe they’re looking for Role Playing Games?).

We’ve discussed briefly the evolution of handheld anti-tank weapons in US service, and we’ve talked about some of the challenges light armor faces in defeating RPGs.  What we haven’t really discussed is the RPGs themselves.

The Russian experience with handheld anti-tank weapons up through WWII was much like our own.  But after the war, where our Army progressed toward a disposable weapon that every troop could carry, they persisted with a reusable weapon employed by a two man team of gunner and ammo bearer. The first iteration of these post-war RPGs was the RPG-2, which was also known as the B-40. It was an incredibly simple weapon- pretty much just a tube with a trigger.

The round itself was an 82mm HEAT warhead. The rocket motor burned completely before the round even left the tube. It then coasted to the target.

The problem was, this meant the weapon had a very short effective range, only 150m for a stationary target, and less than 100m for a moving target.

The Soviets addressed this shortcoming in their next production model, the RPG-7.

Entering service with the Soviets in 1961, the RPG-7 was an evolution of the RPG-2 concept. It had a somewhat more refined launcher, to include optical sights. It also had a two-stage motor, with a first stage that boosted the grenade out of the launcher, then a sustainer motor that drove it to the target. This gave it a much better effective range, though it was still better to keep the range as short as possible.  The warhead was significantly larger as well, being 105mm in diameter (the effective penetration of a HEAT warhead is a function of its diameter; generally, penetration is 6x the diameter of the warhead).

The RPG-7, in many different variants, has been produced or used by many nations (there’s even a US company that makes it!) and has been used in virtually all wars and insurgencies since its introduction. It is still in use in the Soviet Army, and is still in production. And of course, it has frequently been used against US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. And it is in use by our allies in the Iraqi Army and the Afghan National Army. It is pretty much ubiquitous.

As we mentioned in an earlier post, the RPG-7 is hard pressed to defeat a Bradley or an Abrams, and are hardly a sure thing against a Stryker. But against a Humvee, they are a very dangerous threat. You just can’t armor up a Humvee enough to defeat one.

Nor have the Russians been content to rest on their laurels. While an updated RPG-7 with various warheads is still the standard Russian hand-held anti-tank weapon, they’ve continued development of newer, more potent PRGs. They’ve adopted the RPG-18 and its successors, which is a disposable weapon based very closely on the US M72 LAW. They’ve also deployed the RPG-29, a reusable weapon with updated warheads to defeat modern armor. Hezbollah used the RPG-29 to great effect against Israeli armor in the 2006 war.

The latest in the RPG family is the RPG-32, which is designed with an export market in mind. It has been selected for service by Brazil, Jordan, Mexico and Argentina.


Filed under Afghanistan, armor, army, guns, infantry, war

A little more Stryker

The El Paso Times (being near Ft. Bliss) has an interesting article on the transition of a Heavy Brigade Combat Team equipped with Bradleys and tanks transitioning to Strykers.

Each Stryker brigade has 322 vehicles, which include all 10 variations, said Roy Sayer, executive officer for the Army Transformation Team in Texas. Most of them, 128, will be infantry carrier vehicles, he said. Others setups allow medical evacuations, minesweeping and reconnaissance. In most cases, the weapons can be fired on the move from inside the vehicle by using monitors for targeting.

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Filed under Afghanistan, armor, army, ARMY TRAINING, guns, infantry, war


You’ve seen the news about the Battle of Marjah in southern Afghanistan. And you’ve heard that one of the major challenges facing the Marines are mines and IEDs slowing their advance.  Well, one part of the toolkit for the Marines is a vehicle adapted from the M-1 Abrams tank especially to clear minefields. Behold, the Assault Breacher Vehicle, or ABV.

That “comb” on the front of the ABV is a plow to dislodge any landmines or IEDs buried along the ABV’s path. Now, ABVs don’t have a monopoly on plows. Often, one tank in each Abrams platoon (of 4 tanks) will have a plow.

The big boxes on the back of the ABV contain Mine Clearing Line Charges, or MICLICs. The MICLIC consists of a rocket that drags a tube of high explosives through the air then lays them along the intended path, across any suspected minefields. After the charge is emplaced, it is detonated, and the blast pressure from the explosion causes any mines nearby to sympathetically explode.

The Marines like their ABVs, and the Army, which has let its engineering vehicle capability slide, may purchase some as well.


Filed under Afghanistan, armor, army, guns, infantry, marines, war

Wish List

In the comments of our Bradley gallery below, frequent commenter GaigeM asks what I would like to see added to the Bradley:

If you could improve that Brad in any way, how would you? Trying to get a feel for what would be the next generation of AFV/IFV (with symmetrical warfare in mind).


Gaige, most of the improvements I’d like to see have been made. My biggest heartburn (as a dismount) was the seating in the back. It made sense when the Army thought the Firing Port Weapons would be important. But they were almost never used. Keeping the complex seating into the A2 variant, which only had the ramp weapons, was lunacy. In any event, the ODS variant introduced bench seating that made a lot of sense.

Improvements to the fire control system went far beyond what I thought it really needed. A laser rangefinder was nice, in that several Brads took TOW shots at targets beyond max range. That was never really a problem with the gun. Now, the fire control system, with a LRF and a lead-generating computer ensure first round hits, in a system comparable to the M1’s fire control. This never struck me as terribly important when the main gun is an auto-cannon. The addition of a Commander’s Independent Thermal Vision sight, with its ability to hand-off targets is very nice. I just wish there was a more elegant place to put it than sticking up like an afterthought.

As for the comm/nav/C3 installation (either BFT or FCBC2), that’s pretty neat, what little I know if it, and I especially like that there is a panel in back for the squad leader to gain situational awareness. In the bad old days, there were theoretically headsets for the dismounts to listen to the intercom, both for fire commands for the FPWs, and to maintain situational awareness, but they never worked (if you plugged them in, they tended to drain so much signal strength that the driver couldn’t hear the intercom, or even the crew in the turret). Even if they did work, it’s a poor substitute for a visual presentation. After all, seeing is believing.

For the hull, we’re rapidly approaching the max weight we can add without suffering some serious drawbacks in performance. We’ve already souped up the engine from the original 500hp to 600hp, just to keep the nominal speed up to 42mph. As a result, you aren’t going to be able to add a lot in the way of armor. Some critics have complained that the Brad’s armor won’t stop anti-tank weapons. That’s not the point. The point is that very few anti-tank weapons will cause a catastrophic loss of the vehicle so quickly that the crew doesn’t have time to escape. To date, the Army has written off 55 Brads in Iraq. That’s an entire battalion’s worth, but it would be interesting to know just how many were casualties. I suspect it is pretty low, especially compared to Humvees.

As for the armament, might as well get rid of the last two FPWs in the ramp, if they haven’t already.  I used to wish there was a commander’s weapon on a cupola around his hatch, but now I’m undecided. I’ve heard that some Brads have had the TOW system replaced with a two-round Javelin launcher, so they can “fire and forget.” That trades a little range and lethality for the ability to shift targets faster. Not sure I’d want to see the whole fleet go that way (I’d rather see Javelin seekers built into a TOW body instead), nor even sure how many have had this done. It may just be a test program. Can’t think of any changes to the co-ax I’d like.

As for the main gun, the 25mm Bushmaster… It’s pretty long in the tooth. I’d really like to see it replaced with something along the lines of the 4omm on a CV-90.  Failing that, I’d at least like to see the 30mm MK46 chain-gun. But you can’t just throw one in a turret and slap it on a Bradley. There’s a relationship to gun size and turret ring diameter, and I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be able to enlarge the turret ring diameter on a Bradley hull to fit it.  Now, you mentioned this in the context of a next-generation vehicle, I think it’s pretty likely we’ll see a bigger gun. In the next-gen vehicle, we’ll also likely see a greater electrical generation capacity. And a battery charger.


Filed under armor, army, ARMY TRAINING, guns, infantry, iraq, Personal, war

Bushmaster 30mm Cannon

For about 20 years, the Marines have been working on a replacement for their AAV-7 amphibious assault vehicle.  On the cusp of being put into production is the EFV, or Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.

Main armament of the EFV is a 30mm Bushmaster cannon. This is a souped up version of the 25mm M242 Bushmaster on Bradleys.

Ironically, just as the Marines have solved most of the problems they have faced in developing the EFV, it is likely to be cancelled after the latest Quadrennial Defense Review as a cost saving measure.

H/T: MCPO Airdale at the H2.

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Filed under armor, ARMY TRAINING, guns, infantry, marines, Politics, war

South Korean Armor

We are hardly an expert on South Korea, having never been stationed there, and only visiting for a month for Exercise Team Spirit ’87, the annual joint US/South Korean wargames. Still, we found it a fascinating place, and a country that faces some interesting challenges, from a defense standpoint.

South Korea is on a peninsula. It’s only shared border is with its antagonistic neighbor, North Korea. North Korea invaded South Korea in July of 1950. After some truly harrowing fighting, US forces, rushed to the scene, managed to stem the tide, defeat the North Korean People’s Army, and regain lost ground. Disaster struck once again when massive Chinese forces entered the fight on the side of North Korea. Eventually, the lines were stabilized roughly along the 38th Parallel, the original border between North and South. In effect, we were right where we started. US forces have been present on South Korean soil ever since. Still, the South Koreans understand that, ultimately, their security rests on their shoulders. They have made enormous strides in becoming  a democratic nation, and a highly industrialized one at that. A large part of that effort has been devoted to their defense industry.

From a strategic and operational standpoint, S. Korea faces a couple challenges. One, N. Korea has a massive army. It may not be particularly well equipped, but it is huge. And that army has a huge number of tanks and armored personnel carriers. Second, S. Korea isn’t that large a country. There isn’t a hell of a lot of room to maneuver on the strategic or operational scale (as contrasted to the tactical level, say, division and below).  For instance, the capitol, Seoul, is very near the border, in fact, within artillery range of N. Korea.  And being on a narrow peninsula, while it narrows the front you have to defend, and reduces the chances of flanking movements, it also allows the enemy to concentrate, and denies you the opportunity to use flanking movements in the counterattack.

One other thing. Korea is very mountainous. Like, really, really. So if you operate armored vehicles in that terrain, they better have a high horsepower to weight ratio, so they can make it up hills. There’s two ways to increase that ratio- increase the horsepower, or decrease the vehicles weight. Better yet, do both.

The Republic of Korea Army (or ROK Army) is organized along lines roughly similar to the US Army. For many years, it was equipped mostly with US weapons, but S. Korea has long worked at building its own defense industry, both to support its own army, and supply weapons to the international market. Most weapons, while not directly based on US systems, were roughly analogous. For instance, they built the K1 and K1A1 tanks, that bore a familiarity to the US M1 and M1A1 tanks.

As for armored personnel carriers, the ROK army has used a design based on the M113 since the 1980s. It is long been due for replacement. Finally, the Koreans have begun to field a new Infantry Fighting Vehicle, known as the K21 KNIFV (Korean Next-generation Infantry Fighting Vehicle).

One of the most interesting things about the K21 is how they saved weight. The K21 weighs about 26 tons.  In contrast, a Bradley weighs about 33 tons. They are similar size vehicles. How did they save the weight? Well, for one thing, they make the chassis out of fiberglass.  Yeah, fiberglass. Used in conjunction with ceramics and other materials, they can achieve good levels of protection for less weight. It will be interesting to see how it holds up to the stress of service.

As for armament, they’ve gone with a much larger weapon than a Bradley has. Instead of a 25mm autocannon, they’ve gone with a 40mm cannon. This provides a couple options that the 25mm doesn’t. First, most of the tanks it will face are older Soviet designs such as the T-55 and T-62. The APFSDS round of the 40mm can actually penetrate the side armor of these older tanks. Of course, it is fully capable of defeating armored personnel carriers. Also, with 40mm gun, you can have what are called “programmable rounds” where as the round leaves the muzzle the fire control computer sets the fuze of the round to either burst on impact, after a delay, or at a set distance from the muzzle. This is excellent for troops in the open, or for anti-aircraft fire.

The K21 also has a two-round anti-tank missile launcher, similar to the TOW launcher on a Bradley, but firing a domestically produced missile.


Filed under armor, army, ARMY TRAINING, guns, infantry, war

Behind the Iron Curtain

A lot of attention has been paid to the threat IEDs and EFPs pose to Humvees in Iraq and Afghanistan. Heavier armor, jamming of cell phone signals, the CROWS weapons mount and “Rhino” countermeasures have all worked to make Humvees more survivable in an IED environment.  Also, moving from Humvees to MRAPs for some missions has increased troop survivability.

Still, IEDs aren’t the only threat Humvees and similar vehicles face. One of the most common weapons on the battlefield is the RPG, or Rocket Propelled Grenade.  An RPG is a pretty simple weapon. It’s basically a HEAT warhead with  a rocket motor to push it along, all fired from a simple tube. Our guys use a similar weapon,  the AT-4, which is a disposable, one shot weapon. The RPG is reloadable.


The RPG is a real threat to light vehicles like Humvees, MRAPs, and even Strykers and Bradleys. Its HEAT warhead can penetrate the armor of just about any armored vehicle short of a main battle tank like the M-1. An RPG hit on a Humvee will often result in death or injury to the entire crew and a catastrophic loss of the vehicle.

So how do you defend a vehicle like the Humvee from RPGs? They are too small to carry explosive reactive armor or an anti-RPG cage. You can’t keep adding additional armor. The chassis just won’t take that much weight.

Well, for a couple decades, the armies of the world have been exploring “active defense” against RPGs (and similar HEAT warheads). Using a radar sensor to detect an incoming round, the active defense would instantly and automatically react to fire a projectile to impact with the warhead.  Two big problems have always existed with this. One, the sensors and controls just haven’t been practical until the recent improvements in electronics. Secondly, having a vehicle that routinely has troops (and innocent bystanders) nearby suddenly start shooting off explosives is kinda unsafe.  Recently, Artis LLC, in conjunction with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) came up with a system called Iron Curtain that uses a combination of advanced sensors, downward firing countermeasures, and special explosives and projectiles to field a system that can defeat RPG rounds without posing a great risk to dismounted personnel.

The system probably won’t be ready for service for another year or so, but can potentially be a great aid in saving the lives of troops.


Filed under Afghanistan, armor, army, ARMY TRAINING, guns, infantry, iraq, war

Best of: Iraq/Afghan gun camera footage

more about “33 of the best military combat videos…“, posted with vodpod



Filed under Afghanistan, army, ARMY TRAINING, guns, iraq, war

Road Trip

We’ll be out of town the next day or two, so no posting. Sorry.

In the interim, here’s a little something to tide you over. Our best tour in the Army was in the 4th Infantry Division, rising to the position of a section leader for a section of two Bradleys. In garrison, we were responsible for the crews, training, and maintenance of both vehicles. In the field, the Platoon Leader took command of the other Bradley, and we worked as his wingman.  Here’s a good look at some of the firepower and mobility of a Bradley. Lots of nice shots of the 25mm and the TOW missile system.

There’s some obvious Iraq footage, and some from operational units, but a lot of the footage seems to come from the 29th Infantry at Ft. Benning. The 29th is the demonstration unit at the Infantry School. They provide the vehicles for basic training for infantrymen, and troops for young infantry officers at school to practice with. They also periodically provide firepower demonstrations to VIPs to show what the taxpayers are getting for their money.

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Filed under armor, army, ARMY TRAINING, ducks, guns, infantry, iraq, Personal, war

Joint Air Attack Team

We’ve talked before about how the post-Vietnam era Army found itself facing down an enormous Soviet Group of Forces in East Germany, and struggling to find a  way to deter them from rolling over NATO forces.

The standard Soviet tactic was the echelon attack. A US brigade might find itself under attack by a full Soviet Motor-Rifle Division. Fair enough. As a rule of thumb, units in the defense are expected to be able to handle an attack by a force up to three times their size. The problem came when the second echelon of Soviet forces would slam into our US brigade, before they have had time to reset after the first attack. And if the second echelon didn’t break through, there was a third echelon behind that. Sooner or later, our US brigade would be overwhelmed.

The key to defeating the echelon attack was  to disrupt the follow-on second and third echelons. We’ve discussed the Cobra and Apache attack helicopters in the deep strike role. And the Air Force would do its part by performing interdiction missions, dropping bridges, disrupting supply and fuel depots.

But there was another tactic, designed to compliment the strenghts and minimize the weaknesses of attack helicopters and close air support aircraft like the A-10. That was the Joint Air Attack Team, or JAAT. Utilizing artillery, scout and attack helicopters, Airborne Forward Air Controllers, and close air support aircraft like the A-10, a JAAT could overwhelm the air defenses of a Soviet unit and pound it into the dirt. Even if the unit wasn’t destroyed, it would be so disrupted that it couldn’t keep to its schedule. This would buy our defending ground brigade time to reset from the first echelon and prepare for its attack.

Here’s a training film from either the late 70’s or early 80’s showing the basic concept.

With the exception of the A-10, all the platforms shown have been replaced. The M-60 tanks have been replaced by M-1s, the OH-58 scouts by updated OH-58D Kiowa Warriors, the AH-1Qs by AH-64s, and the OV-10 by modified OA-10A’s.  Still, the basic concept is still a viable one.

There were a couple of real challenges to making a JAAT work. First, airspace management. It can be a real challenge making sure artillery rounds and airplanes don’t occupy the same airspace. For obvious reasons, the aviators, both Army and Air Force are kinda picky about that. There’s also the challenge of making sure the helicopters and fixed wing air know where each other are, to avoid collisions.

The other challenge was timeliness. It takes some time to put a JAAT together. If the JAAT takes too long to assemble, it can miss its chance to catch the follow on echelon. But if units have trained together before, and have worked out the kinks, it can be put together much more quickly.


Filed under armor, army, ARMY TRAINING, ducks, guns, history, planes, war


We’ve kinda given up on collecting militaria the last few years, but if we had this budget, we like to  think we might have done a little more…

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Filed under Afghanistan, armor, army, ARMY TRAINING, Around the web, guns, infantry, iraq, Personal

Video Monday

We’re not going to get around to writing much today, so here’s some clips cribbed from Right Wing Video.

There’s some NSFW language, so turn the sound down.

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Filed under Afghanistan, armor, army, ARMY TRAINING, guns, infantry, iraq

Combat Engineering, Marine Corps style

We haven’t given the Engineers much love here, and that’s an unacceptable oversight on our part. Traditionally, Engineers have had three main roles on the battlefield: 1. Mobility; 2. Countermobility; and 3. Force Protection.

Mobility refers to removing or reducing any obstacles the enemy may have placed in the intended path of movement for our forces.  The obvious example would be minefields, though other obstacles may include wire obstacles, anti-tank ditches or abatis, or more frequently, a combination of these.

Countermobility, is of course, just the opposite, placing obstacles to the enemy’s mobility in his path, either to deny a route to him, turn him to a different route, delay him (both for buying time and to make him an easier target) or to channelize him into  terrain that can serve as a kill zone. The same techniques are used.

Force Protection refers to building and improving fighting positions, either for vehicles or for dismounted troops. As a rule of thumb, most units actually had to provide their own positions. I’ve spent many an hour digging a two-man fighting position. But sometimes you get lucky and the engineers were able to help out. As for vehicles, some tanks had a dozer blade, or the unit recovery vehicle had a dozer blade, and could at least start a fighting position for the vehicles. But the best positions are dug by real, honest to goodness bulldozers. There’s always a shortage of bulldozers, and never enough time, so you do what you can. Other force protection measures might include building berms, or filling Hesco barriers to provide protection from small arms fire and artillery and mortar fragments.

Engineers also have the capability to fight as infantry when needed. Normally, this is avoided except in emergencies, as there are always plenty of engineering tasks to do. And there’s damn near always a shortage of engineers to do them. In the Army, typically, engineers in heavy units ride in either M113 APCs or in Stryker vehicles in Stryker Brigade Combat Teams. In the Marines, Engineers are mounted in AAV-7 amphibious vehicles.

That’s fine for most tasks, but sometimes, there’s a need for a more specialized vehicle. In the Marines, one of the specialized vehicles will soon be the Assault Breacher Vehicle. Based on the M-1 Abrams tank, the ABV is designed to breach minefields using the Mine Clearing Line Charge (MICLIC) and its plow, and to breach roadblocks either with the plow or a dozer blade.

The MICLIC is a string of high explosives dragged in front of the vehicle and across a minefield by means of a modified 5″ rocket. Once in place, the charges are detonated and the blast overpressure detonates any mines in the path. After that, the ABV plows the ground to push aside any mines that were missed by the charge.

There’s a pretty awesome video below the fold showing some of the testing of the ABV, showing the MCLIC in action, how the ABV integrates with the Navy’s amphibious warfare ships the Marines operate from, and just how handy the dozer blade can be clearing a roadblock.  If you ask me, it looks like a lot of the testing was pretty fun.

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Filed under armor, army, ARMY TRAINING, guns, navy


Somehow, I don’t think they planned it to go this way….

By the way, kids- Don’t try this at home.


Filed under 120mm, armor, army, ARMY TRAINING, guns, iraq

Apache Glory

A friend of ours, the Roaming Fire Hydrant (the only  rocket scientist we know) liked this video enough to forward it. And since we always like to post ‘splodey videos, here you go.


Filed under Afghanistan, army, ARMY TRAINING, guns

Here’s a little more “Boom” for you.

It’s a mashup of some footage from Iraq. Most of this looks to be from 2004 or early 2005. There’s some small arms, Bradleys, TOWs, Javelins, AT-4s and 500lb bombs. Interestingly, there’s a brief bit of Blackwater MD530 helicopters.

H/T: Military Videos.

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Filed under armor, army, ARMY TRAINING, guns, infantry, iraq

HEAT Rounds and Sabots redux

I don’t know why I spent all that time typing about HEAT rounds and sabots when National Geo covered pretty much all the high points in just over two minutes.

H/T: From my position…


Filed under 120mm, Afghanistan, armor, army, ARMY TRAINING, Around the web, guns, iraq