Tag Archives: bradley

Mother of the Bradley

The familiar Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle had a long and somewhat troubled design history (what weapon system hasn’t???).   After several M-113 derivatives and other considerations, the Army asked FMC Corporation for something competitive with the Soviet BMP vehicles.  The first prototypes, named XM-723 appeared in 1973.   One of those prototypes on display at the Infantry Museum at Fort Benning (these were taken before the museum relocated).

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Note the port firing weapon stations on the side.  Here’s a close up view.

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This early prototype lacks the TOW launcher found on later prototypes and of course the production M-2/3 Bradleys.  I cannot confirm, but the turret may be an early “one man” version with a main gun and coax machine-gun.  The gun may be either a 20mm or early 25mm (Forgive me for not climbing up and measuring the bore!).

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The TOW addition was somewhat a reaction to reports from the Middle East wars, where anti-tank missiles had performed well.  So well that some were calling into question the dominance of the main battle tank at the time.

If we look at the Bradley today, from the perspective of an ultimately successful weapon design consider a “lesson learned” if you will.  In 1977, General William DePuy testified to Congress:

Almost every army you look at is ahead of the American Army, as far as taking care of our infantry. The Russians, are ahead of us, the German, are ahead of us, the Dutch are ahead of us, the French are ahead of us, the Yugoslavians are ahead of us. Almost everybody has a better infantry vehicle than the U.S. Army. We would have been better off in 1963 when we started to just build the MICV immediately. Are we to start over again? My guess is that if you start over again, you will have a 10 percent increase in effectiveness and 50 percent increase in cost.

Bradley development continued over anther five years after General DePuy made that statement.  Weapon development is not a simple, linear process.   Still, a “good” weapon in the hands of excellently trained troops today will trump the “perfect” weapon delivered after the shooting is over.

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The Second Siege of Sadr City: The US Military Vs. Sadr’s Militia

Nothing like a little ‘splodey to start the day.

Sadr  City is one of the infamous slums of Baghdad. Back in my day, the Army had no realistic doctrine for fighting in cities. We paid a little lip service to it, but in reality, tried very hard to avoid it.  Heavy units- mech infantry, and armor, especially tried hard to avoid combat in close terrain like cities. In 7 years in mech units, I never once trained in a built up area.

Reality, however, has a tendency to intrude upon fantasy. The fact is, much of the terrain worth fighting for in large parts of the world in in the cities. American forces fighting in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities quickly learned to adapt the barebones doctrine that existed to the reality on the ground. They used the massive firepower available to them to minimize exposure to enemy fires. They quickly learned how to minimize exposure to enemy anti-armor weapons. And they learned how to integrate the fires of heavy weapons and air support with the agility of dismounted troops.

There’s a huge pool of US troops that are extremely well versed in this most difficult of fighting- city fighting.

**some NSFW langueage**

 

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Mmm… Bradleys

I got nuttin’ today (so far!), so I thought I’d just post some pics.

Click each to embiggen:

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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.

RPG-7

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.

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Just a little live fire…

No real point to it, just liked the video and thought I’d share. It’s rare to see training footage using service ammo.

 

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The Bradley IFV

We love posting YouTube videos. Mostly because it is easier than writing, but also because the truth about a picture being worth a thousand words.

By far the funnest, and most rewarding job I had in the Army was as a Bradley Commander. While life wasn’t exactly like the video (somehow, the videos don’t spend a lot of time showing Brads on the washrack in the winter…), it had its moments. I had a couple pleasant flashbacks to fun on the range and out in the boonies.

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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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A little gunnery? Why thank you…

Just a quick vid of what Bradley gunnery looked like in the winter of 2002 in Germany. I found this via a troop’s myspace page.

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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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Bob Gates and the future Army.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates came out last month with his proposed cuts in various acquisition programs throughout the DoD. The biggest impact this had on the Army was cutting the vehicle procurement portion of the Army’s Future Combat System (FCS) and moving to put most of the networking portion of it on the back burner.

The FCS program was originally designed with two major goals in mind:

First,  to both bring all of the army’s combat brigades into network-centric warfare, where using networks to link all combat elements would speed the flow of information, enhance the mental agility of units, reduce the fog of war, and allow our units to out think and outfight enemies large and small.

The second goal was to replace the Army’s legacy fleet of heavy armored vehicles, such as the M1 Abrams, the M2 Bradley and the M109 howitzer, with fleets of much lighter vehicles that would be easier to transport to the theater of operations, and more agile on the battlefield. An overriding goal of this part of the program was to use a single common set of components for all the vehicles in the fleet.

There are a couple problems with this holistic approach to re-equipping the Army. One, it is technologically very ambitious. Any part of the program that lags behind the anticipated timeline causes almost the whole program to be delayed. And in a program like this, time isn’t just money. It’s a LOT of money.  Second, when the FCS program was started, the Army had one vision of what future missions would likely look like. The primary outlook was one of short duration operations against nation/state actors such as Iraq. To say Desert Storm was the model they were working from would be an oversimplification, but it certainly had a large influence. But events since then have shown some of the limitations of that outlook. The vulnerability of lighter armored vehicles to IED attack took the Army somewhat by surprise. Not totally, mind you, but somewhat. In a war of maneuver against a state level enemy, you might expect to lose some forces to mines and other demolitions, but maneuver would mostly allow you to avoid mines, and your agility on the battlefield would prevent the enemy from having enough advance notice of your movements to emplace very many ambushes. That obviously isn’t the case in a counter-insurgency such as Iraq, and to a lesser degree, Afghanistan.  When you have to drive through the same neighborhoods on a regular basis, even a fairly dim enemy can figure out where to put mines and IEDs. And given that the FCS goal was for no vehicle heavier than 27 tons,  there was no way to provide enough protection against any but the smallest mines and IEDs.

As a means of testing this concept of a happy middle ground between the heavy Abrams/Bradley force, and light infantry/artillery team, the Army conceived the Interim Brigade Combat Teams.  These are better known as Stryker Brigade Combat Teams, since they are mounted on Stryker vehicles.  The Stryker is a modified version of  a Canadian designed Light Armored Vehicle, but a key part of the vehicle and brigade design is the integration of its networking capabilities.  And it has been quite successful in Iraq. It isn’t invulnerable to IEDs or mines, but the crew survivability is pretty good, and combination of speed, armor and firepower is pretty close to what the Army had hoped for. But even supported by the Mobile Gun System, the Stryker Brigade is a little too light to go on the offense against an armored enemy.

But the attempt to force several different types of vehicles, from tanks to artillery, to infantry carriers to share a common basis has not been successful. The challenges, from keeping weight down, to providing enough armor, to finding a powerful, but lightweight engine, are just too much to form a successful program.

With the demise of the common family of vehicles from the FCS program, the Army will have to stretch the life of its core fleet of Abrams and Bradley vehicles. They are already somewhat old, most of them having been bought in the 1980s, but with proper funding to reset/upgrade their mechanical components and continued improvement of their sensors and networking capabilities, there’s probably enough life left in them to stave off mass obsolescence. And several parts of the FCS program will be integrated into the Army in the future, such as its great emphasis on UAVs, unmanned ground sensors, and perhaps even unmanned ground vehicles.  Certainly, the demand for much greater bandwidth at the tactical level isn’t going to go away, in spite of mounting challenges there (there is only so much of the radio spectrum available). Some technologies, such as the Non-Line of Sight- Launch System are well on their way to being fielded with the Army (and the Navy’s LCS ships will use it as well).

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Even more Dragon Gunnery…

We’ve talked about  the old M47 Dragon anti-tank missile system before, once or twice.  For technology that entered service in 1973, it was pretty impressive. But by the time I fired my first live Dragon in 1991, it was clearly obsolescent.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Dragon had a fairly short range, 1000 meters, which meant that every vehicle with a machine gun had a fair chance of zapping you if you shot at them. And merely breathing heavy could be enough to make you miss the shot. And anyone who’s running around the battlefield is pretty durn likely to be breathing heavy.

Still, in the old M-113 equipped units, it was pretty much the only anti-tank weapon in the company, so you made the best of it that you could. It made somewhat less sense in the M2 Bradley equipped units, since each Bradley has a built in 2-round TOW missile launcher. Even then, each squad had a Dragon sight as part of its equipment. There is missile stowage for spare TOW rounds onboard the Bradley, but you can swap out TOWs for Dragons on a one-for-one basis. Or you can cheat and do like we did in Desert Storm, and load the full load of TOWs and strap a Dragon to the base of the turret basket.

We managed to get through the 4 days of ground combat without having to shoot any Dragons in my company. Normally, we would have turned in excess ammo for storage until the next war. Some, like the small arms ammo, it was easier to just shoot the stuff we had uncrated than to turn it in. But missiles like the TOW are somewhat more expensive than a 5.56mm round. On the other hand, the safety regulations for shipping ammunition, usually by merchant ship, are very stringent. We had tossed all the packaging the missiles all came in. So the word came down that we were authorized to expend them. By that time, almost all my company had actually left southern Iraq and was waiting in Saudi Arabia for a flight home (which would take almost a month).  We had just enough people to move the company’s vehicles, with a couple of us as spares to drive captured Iraqi vehicles. And I was the only qualified Dragon gunner in the bunch.

As a result, after countless “dry-fires” using the simulator, I finally got to fire a live Dragon. And as a bonus, I got to fire it at a real Soviet made armored vehicle (an old MTLB). And I didn’t get to fire just one. I fired all 14 Dragons we had in the company.  By the time I was done, the MTLB looked like Swiss cheeese…

I fired one more live Dragon, a few years later in Colorado. That was fun as well, but I only got to kill a plywood target with that.

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Stupid is as stupid does

Boredom, even in a combat zone, is a real problem in the service. In fact, especially in a combat zone. And while the Army and the rest of our services are highly trained and very competent, they are still mostly a collection of young men and women, who, not surprisingly, act like young men and women. I’m a little hesitant about posting this video, because some of the accidents are real, and people really were hurt, but the bad comes with the good. Not all the incidents are our troops. There’s a few from our allies, and even some showing our adversaries.

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Why? Because we love things that go “BOOM”

H/T: Theo

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Knock! Knock!

People sometimes ask me what my favorite job in the Army was. By far the best was being a Bradley Commander. Why? Well, here’s a little taste of what a BC does for a living.

more about “Knock! Knock!“, posted with vodpod
No, this isn’t me.
H/T: The Jawa Report, with thanks to Vmaximus for giving me the heads up.

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The Bushmaster

Just in case you wondered what the 25mm of a Bradley looked like…

A little 25mm and a lot of 7.62 coax…

Update:

Here’s an example of firing a table at gunnery training in Grafenwhor, Germany. Some NSFW language.

This is some pretty poor shooting. I’m not sure what their issue was, but they seemed slow to engage and their accuracy was pretty poor. Understand, though, that the targets are much further away than they appear.

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The Deerhunter

Well, elk actually. My first gunnery rotation as a gunner (as opposed to being a dismount) was going pretty well. I was the gunner on A-11, my Platoon Leader’s track. The crew was LT K as the Bradley Commander (BC), your humble scribe as the gunner, and Chuck as the driver. Bradley and Tank gunnery isn’t just driving to the range and popping off a bunch of rounds. You have to reach certain levels in the simulator. Then, the whole battalion goes to the ranges. There’s several of them, in fact. You start by doing some non-firing exercises that show you have a basic grasp of the concept. Then you graduate to a firing the coaxial gun. Finally, you go to the dress rehearsal, then you fire on what is called Table VIII, which, if successfully completed, qualifies the crew.

Our tale starts on Table VII, which is the dress rehearsal. You first fire a couple of rounds to confirm your zero- that is, making sure the sights of the gun actually point to where the rounds will go. Then you drive from station to station, engaging targets. Some are engaged from a stationary position, and some on the move. After you’ve done this, you go back and do it all again. At night.

On this particular night, A-11 had the duty as “the spotter”. When crews would zero their main gun, we would help them spot the shot to tell how well their sights were aligned. The target was a large square board on a pop up target. Normally, when you hit a pop-up, down it goes. They have a mechanical lifter to raise it for your next shot.

I’d been spotting shots all night, from just after sundown until almost 3am. Finally, it was our turn to go. After a mechanical problem with the zero target was solved-which led to “The Great Hot Mic Frab-up”(but that’s a story for another time), the range was hot, and we were cleared to zero. One small problem. While we had been fooling around waiting for the folks in the tower to raise the zero target, an elk had decided this was a fine time to graze. Right next to the zero target.

Now, one of the things you hear at every single range safety briefing is this, “Don’t shoot the wildlife!” In fact, post policy called for a cease fire. Shooting the wildlife is a major no-no. It was a good way to lose stripes and a goodly portion of your pay. So, I called in to the tower and told them that a large herbivorous mammal was standing next to the target. There was some hemming and hawing and cogitating going on up there. We were running out of nighttime. We had to finish up pronto, shoot at night, and clear the range so the next company could come in and start their runs. Eventually, the call came from the tower, “Pop a round down there to scare him off.” I looked at LT K. LT K looked at me… What were they smoking up there? After a brief conversation with the controllers in the tower to confirm they were in fact in possession of their faculties, LT K and I decided to proceed. We had just zeroed the gun that morning, and I was pretty certain the sights hadn’t drifted at all. This particular track held its zero very well. The decision was made to just put one round through the zero target to confirm, and since that was right by the elk, maybe it would scare him away.

Select Single Shot AP. Manual Safety Off. Electrical Safety Off. Ghost round cycled. Sights on target. LT K gives his fire command. I respond with, “On the way” and squeeze the triggers. CRACK.

Down goes the zero target.

And down goes the second elk standing right behind it. The one nobody saw.

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Mounted Combat

One of the driving forces in the design of the M2/M3 Bradley family of vehicles was the desire to match the Soviet BMP-1 in capability. The Army had nothing like the BMP. The BMP carried infantry soldiers to the battlefield, it had a built in Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) and a main gun that could defeat armored personnel carriers. One feature that would influence the Bradley was the ability to “fight mounted.”

This photo of a model of a BMP shows the firing ports on the side of the vehicle. Infantrymen (or, in the Soviet Army, motorized riflemen) could fire their AKM rifles through these ports, aiming them by means of the vision blocks mounted above. The chances of hitting anything were slim, but the idea was to suppress enemy infantry and anti-armor teams while sweeping through their positions. This ability to fight while under armor caught the imagination of US Army planners. While the M-113 ACAV modification was used to fight mounted in Vietnam, casualties were high among gunners, even after gun shields were installed.

During the long development of the Bradley, designers went to great lengths to make it possible for the infantrymen inside to provide suppressive fires. The seating arrangement in the rear was designed so the infantrymen would be facing the outside of the vehicle.

Instead of the simple bench seats of the M-113, this required each dismount to have his own seat, one that could be folded and moved so the team could quickly dismount when the ramp came down.

The next issue became the weapon. The standard M-16 was just too long to place in a firing port. What for the Soviets was a simple hole in the side of the track, became for the US a new weapon system. Rock Island arsenal modified the M-16 design to produce a new weapon that could be used. This involved shortening the weapon and removing the front (and eventually rear) sight. The rear stock was removed. The front handguard was replaced and the barrel was shortened. Most importantly, the weapon was converted to fire full automatic only and the rate of fire was increased to 1200 rounds per minute. This was the M231. Since the firing port weapon (FPW) would be aimed by looking out of the vision blocks above it, the weapon fired tracers only. The firer would “walk” the tracers onto the target. Several spare 30 round magazines for these weapons were stored under each seat, a separate supply of ammunition from their own personal weapons.

These weapons screw into a ball-joint in the side of the vehicle. There were two ports on each side and two ports on the rear ramp for a total of six weapons. The ball joints were air-tight. To prevent a build up of dangerous gun gases in the compartment, each weapon had a brass catcher bag with a hose attached to a fan to vent the gases.

All in all, the Army had put a lot of time, money and effort into making sure the Bradley had 360° coverage for short range suppressive fires while mounted under armor. There was just one problem. It didn’t work worth a damn. The vision blocks were extremely difficult to look out of, much less use to aim a weapon. When the Bradley was moving, the vibration of the vehicle made vision almost impossible. The high rate of fire combined with the 30 round magazine meant that by the time you managed to walk the tracers to the target, you were out of ammo and had to reload. Also, because of the limited space inside the Bradley, most of the teams personal equipment had to be stored by strapping it to the outside of the vehicle. This blocked the arcs of fire for the weapons. The rear ramp could not be lowered with the FPWs in place. They had to be unscrewed and stored before the team could dismount. Finally, and most importantly, the Army realized that any terrain that was close enough to require suppressive small arms fires would need to be cleared by dismount infantry anyway, negating the whole concept.

The M2A1 maintained all six firing ports, but the M2A2 deleted the firing ports on the side in favor of heavier applique armor. This left only the two firing ports in the rear ramp. After Desert Storm, the complex individual seating arrangement was deleted in favor of a simple bench seating arrangement much like the M-113. This made mounting and dismounting much simpler and quicker.* While the capability to use FPWs in the ramp remains, this is rarely done.

I’ve only used the FPWs once. While I was a dismounted team leader in Colorado, we did a live-fire assault course. The first run through had us dismounting and making a conventional assault by fire and movement with supporting fire from the Bradley. The next iteration had us making a mounted assault using the FPWs. I managed to get off 2 magazines, but I never even saw the targets. I’m fairly certain no one else did either. Afterwards, rather than turning in the surplus ammo, we took the FPWs out of the vehicle and fired them like submachine guns. Since there are no sights and no stock, it is an extraordinarily inaccurate weapon. I suppose you could hit a targe at 50 meters, but even that would be a stretch.

Interestingly, FPWs are still in service. While looking for a picture of an FPW, I came across this photo of then PFC Ross McGinnis in the turret of an up-armored Humvee.

In addition to his M-2 .50cal machine gun and M-4 carbine, he has an M-231 FPW for close in work.  This photo of McGinnis ran in Stars and Stripes a few days before the action in which he lost his life and earned the Medal of Honor.

*As an added bonus, when the dismounts are off the vehicle, the bench seats make  excellent cots for the Bradley Commander or Gunner to sleep on. The Driver almost universally sleeps in his compartment.

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M2 Bradley Family

While I try to write this blog so people not familiar with the Army can understand it, those of you who want to know more about the M2/M3 Bradley family of vehicles are encouraged to read this Defense International Daily entry.

 

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