Tag Archives: army

Wal-Mart and future Army vehicles.

So, Wal-Mart has a prototype of a new Peterbuilt/Great Dane big rig. Whether they order it into production remains to be seen.

I don’t really care about the aerodynamics part, but the drive train is interesting. Spill and I were talking about future Army vehicles (hope to get the podcast edited and published today) and one thing I neglected to bloviate on was the powerplants.

This Wal-Mart prototype uses a small gas turbine to charge a battery bank, and electric motors to actually move the vehicle. 

Today, the US uses the M1 Abrams tank, which famously uses a gas turbine. It, however, is directly geared to the transmission, much as a gas turbine is used to spin the props of a turbo-prop.  That gives the Abrams great power, and more importantly, great acceleration compared to diesel powered vehicles of similar weight and horsepower. The problem is, it isn’t terribly fuel efficient, with the a Abrams being famous for sucking down hundreds of gallons of JP-8 daily.

A hybrid gas turbine/electric plant avoids some of the pitfalls of that turbine inefficiency. First, the horsepower/torque requirement is shifted from the turbine to the electric motors. That means you can likely use a significantly smaller turbine. The turbine isn’t there to move the vehicle, it’s there to run the generator. And you can optimize a turbine and transfer case to run the turbine at its most efficient speed constantly.

Alternatively, when you have a decent charge on the battery banks, you can simply shut down the turbine, and yet still have power available to instantly move the vehicle. As it stands now, Abrams spend a LOT of time idling their turbines. Guess what? An Abrams burns fuel almost as fast at idle as it does when it’s moving.  It wouldn’t take much to configure the turbine to automatically start as soon as the vehicle started moving. And since every time you move, you start charging, that means your battery bank can be comparatively small.

I can easily see a future family of integrated gas turbine/electric motor powerplants for almost every type of Army vehicle. Further, this type of powerplant is very helpful when we’re also looking at the ever increasing electrical loads place on vehicles by sensors and networking.  And if future vehicles rely on lasers for active protection against, say, anti-tank missiles, they’ll need even more electrical power.

This is also very similar to the integrated drive system the Navy’s DDG-1000 Zumwalt class uses.


Filed under armor, ARMY TRAINING

Bradleys, Obsolescence, the Saudis- From the mailbag.

A reader, seeing the LAV live fire post, sent in a question about the Bradley.

As a non military guy, I’m curious about your opinion, as an ex Bradley TC, of the Bradley.

A bit of background: I’m a 42 yr old child of the Reagan buildup. To me the Bradley and the Abrams were awesome to deal with the situation for which they were designed.

I’m seeing a lot of criticism about them (the Bradley especially) considering the losses that have been inflicted upon them.

But to me; they were never invincible. They were just supposed to be able to allow us to stop the Soviets in Germany. There would have been losses. And now we are using the in ways they weren’t specifically designed for (insurgencies); Saudis in Yemen.

First, even though I’ve used the nom de plume “XBradTC” for over a decade now, Bradley’s actually don’t have a TC, they have a BC- Bradley Commander. There’s an obscure reason why I chose TC, mostly having to do with dealing with people that were in the Army pre-Bradley.

As to the Reagan build up and the Abrams and the Bradley, to be fair, both designs were actually pretty well finalized during the Carter years, though they entered into active service in the early 80s.

And yes, they were specifically designed to deal with the massive Warsaw Pact threat in Western Europe. Every armored vehicle design is a product of not just the technological state of the art, but also the doctrine of the buyer, competing interests of the various constituencies that will use it (for instance, the Infantry  and  the Cavalry had very different desires of what the then future Bradley would do and look like) and of course, cost concerns. Some aspects of the Bradley and Abrams were pretty radical, such as every vehicle having a built in thermal target sight. Other aspects, compromises, were also contentious, such as the fact that the Bradley carries a much smaller dismount squad than its M113 predecessor. That was forced onto the designers not because they didn’t value the dismount infantry, but size, weight and cost put an upper limit on vehicle size, and given the imperative to include a turret with both a 25mm gun, and a twin-tube TOW launcher, something had to give, and that was dismount seats.

As to criticism of Bradley losses, it is, to some extent, the nature of the beast. For all the folly of the movie The Pentagon Wars showed, the Bradley is far, far more survivable than its M113 predecessor. However, it was never designed to withstand anti-tank fires, such as AT-3 Sagger ATGMs, let alone the more modern Russian missiles in use today. One part of the design philosophy behind the Bradley (and even more so the M1) was that survivability was focused on the crew, moreso than the vehicle itself. The designers recognized that they could never make the Bradley withstand modern anti-armor weapons, but they could reduce the risks to the crew. For instance, the Bradley has an excellent fire suppression system built in with automatic sensors that trigger extinguishers on board to prevent flash fires in the crew and troop compartments. They might not fully extinguish the fire, but they will usually give the crew and troops time to exit the stricken vehicle.

Another aspect to the losses of Bradleys in Iraq is doctrinal. When the Bradley was being designed with Western Europe in mind, the Army’s doctrine toward combat in urban areas was pretty simple- don’t. In spite of the incredible urbanization of Europe, the Army’s doctrine looked at key terrain and road networks outside of built up areas as the prime maneuver space.

That was all well and good in the 80s, but in Iraq in 2004-2006, the key terrain was, in fact, the people. And of course, the people were only found in built up areas. That became an issue, as securing urban terrain requires a much greater density of manpower than a similarly sized rural area. And that lack of dismounts was a major handicap. Not only that, but the decreased sightlines in urban terrain somewhat negates the sensor advantage of the Bradley’s optics. It also meant that opposing forces would often have better angled shots at the sides, rear and top of Bradleys, where they were more vulnerable, with the thinnest armor.

Tactics, techniques and procedures could mitigate that to some extent, and the organic firepower of the Bradley was also quite useful, but by 2006, the Army decided that using MRAPs or Strykers in urban areas made more sense, and could provide greater numbers of dismounts and required less crew, and had greater speed on the road networks. And so, Bradleys were pretty much withdrawn from Iraq by the end of 2006.

As to the Saudi experience in Yemen,  I suppose that our correspondent is referring to the rebel video I linked to found in this post, with various Saudi Brads getting lit up.

For the most part, that’s just bad tactics. Laziness on the battlefield will get you killed. Always be scanning. US troops virtually always have their head out of the hatch, visually scanning, while the gunner is also using the turret to scan for targets and threats. Similarly, if halted for more than just a few moments, the dismounts kick out and begin securing the local area. 

That won’t eliminate the threat, but it will make it harder for the enemy. It’s one thing to take a hit. It’s another thing to give the enemy a gimme shot.

Overall, the Bradley is an excellent fighting vehicle. Having said that, it is quickly facing obsolescence. Much like ladies over thirty, it’s gaining weight and not getting any stronger. The original M2/M3 were powered by a 500hp diesel. The M2A2/M3A2 upgraded to a 600hp engine, but given the increased armor on those models, that was barely sufficient to restore it to previous levels of performance. And in the quarter century since the A2 models entered service, much more weight has found its way on board. The onboard digital battle management system, the newer thermal sights, revised interior, air conditioning and of course, the urban survival kit all added significant weight increases. Not only that, they also use vastly more electrical power, which the engine is hard pressed to provide. There is simply an upper limit to how much you can increase the power, both motive and electrical, in an existing design. And the Bradley is bumping hard up against that limit. Furthermore, while the 25mm gun is, for now, of sufficient lethality, very soon it will likely begin to be just a tad small for most threat scenarios, and the option for a 30mm or even 40mm gun will become more attractive.

LTG McMasters has been teasing some news about the Army’s future combat vehicle acquisition, and we hope to address that in another post soon.


Filed under armor, army, ARMY TRAINING

The Old Guard- The Army Drill Team

arThe 3rd Infantry Regiment (not to be confused with the 3rd Infantry Division) is the Army’s ceremonial unit. Among its subordinate units is The United States Army Drill Team.  The ADT serves as goodwill ambassadors to both the US and foreign audiences. 

Our own contributor Esli, for what it is worth, is an alumnus of the ADT.

And, for what it is worth, I taught Esli how to march.


Filed under army

Strategic Messaging, Done Right

A nine-dash line on Chinese passports.   A second Navy disguised as a Coast Guard.  And the above video.  They get it.  “Strategic Messaging” has heavy doses of propaganda.  We, on the other hand, continue to vigorously deny that basic fact.  And that the most effective propaganda is based in truth.

The video above is not simply for Chinese consumption.  We would do well to understand that.  And build our Navy accordingly.  But alas, our SECNAV is more concerned with putting women in Marine Infantry outfits and his “green fuels” initiative.  And the Commander in Chief is off taking selfies and complaining that capitalism causes glaciers to melt in the summer.

We’re so screwed.

H/T Pukka mate.



Sierra Army Depot

Yes, it’s RT, but it’s a straight news story. Worth watching a couple minutes.

The Army is roughly half the size it was at the height of the Reagan years. In addition to shedding almost half a million people from the active ranks (and who knows how many from the reserve components) the Army has also slashed the numbers of combat units. But of all the tanks and trucks and whatnot are still valuable assets. Waste not, want not. So, while a lot of equipment is sold to allies, there still remains a healthy stockpile.

A lot of equipment returned from overseas needs depot level maintenance. That maintenance is done at other depots. The advantage to storage at SAD is much like that at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base- you can store equipment outside for long periods with little deterioration.


The main warehouses.


Each little tiny dot is a truck or armored vehicle. The lumps to the right are “igloos” or ammunition storage bunkers.


Towed artillery pieces.



Very Bad Bradley Tactics

The only other nation to buy the Bradley Fighting Vehicle is Saudi Arabia. They bought 400 after seeing its performance in Desert Storm. And they are currently using them in Yemen against Iranian backed Houthi rebels. Unfortunately, they’re not using them well.

That first attack is simply inexcusable.  The dismount team should have been providing local security.  As for the ATGM attacks, again, crews need to be alert and scanning their sectors.

Another point. Compare this video of a Russian built vehicle immediately bursting into flames. Think back to the video of the Bradleys.  You’ll notice they don’t instantly brew up. The vehicle might be inoperative, or even beyond repair, but the fire suppression system works, at least long enough for the crew to escape.

And take a look at this video of US forces training in Ft. Irwin. Vehicle commanders are up and scanning. They’re also using their weapons to suppress any possible missile teams.


Filed under armor, ARMY TRAINING

About Armed Civilians at Recruiting Centers

In the wake of the Chattanooga shooting, we’re seeing several places where well meaning civilians have taken upon themselves the duty of standing guard over recruiting stations.

While we admire the intent, the fact is, it will have some unintended consequences. US Army Recruiting Command has issued guidance to the field regarding this.  Via TAH.

Subject: USAREC Policy – Armed citizens at recruiting centers ATO’s,

Situation: The USAREC COC has received reports from two Brigade ATOs, social media and TV coverage that law abiding armed citizens are standing outside of our recruiting centers in an attempt to safeguard our recruiters.


1) Recruiters will not acknowledge the presence or interact with these civilians. If questioned by these alleged concerned citizens; be polite, professional, and terminate the conversation immediately and report the incident to local law enforcement and complete USAREC Form 958 IAW USAREC 190-4 (SIR)

2) Do not automatically assume these concerned citizens are there to help.
Immediately report IAW USAREC 190-4 (Suspicious Behavior)

3) Immediately report any civilians loitering near the Station/Center to local police if the recruiter feels threatened. Ensure your recruiters’ clearly articulate to local police the civilian may be armed and in possession of a conceal/carry permit. Ensure recruiters include any information provided by local police in their SIR reporting the incident.

4) Ensure all station commanders implement FPCON Charlie 6 (Lock and secure entry points) addressed in previous email.

5) I’m sure the citizens mean well, but we cannot assume this in every case and we do not want to advocate this behavior.

*** The timely and accurate submission of 958s (SIR) is imperative to track these incidents and elicit support from TRADOC, ARNORTH and NORTHCOM.

As with Jonn, I agree that this is a mostly reasonable policy. The Army cannot endorse the actions of the citizens. Nor can they simply assume they mean well. Furthermore, should some untoward action occur, say, these citizens mistakenly take another American for a threat and engage them unlawfully, it is imperative that it be known that the Army had nothing to do with it.

Unfortunately, FPCON Charlie 6 (Force Protection Condition) basically shuts down the recruiting station. And therein lies a problem, as the sine qua non of recruiting is engaging with the public.

While informing local law enforcement, and filing SIRs makes sense, it also increases the odds of an unhappy encounter between these citizens and LEOs.

I think as a first step, USAREC might have directed station commanders to share this guidance with those citizens who are attempting to both provide a service and made a statement. One presumes that senior NCOs have enough judgment to discern the likelihood that a party of armed citizens outside have no ill intent, and sharing this guidance would cause them to reconsider if their actions were truly in the recruiter’s best interests. And if they choose to continue their vigil, well, provided they are within the bounds of the law, that is their right.


Filed under ARMY TRAINING, recruiting