M2 Bradley Part 3: Modern Competition

Okay. I’ve talked about the Bradley’s massive firepower, and the many proposed variants that never actually entered production. I’ve mentioned that it compares pretty favorably to modern competition, but let’s actually give that a go. Let’s compare the Bradley to a modern IFV; specifically the CV9035 IFV. We’re going to try to keep this to a head to head between the two vehicles; we’re not going to try to compare the variants-that-might-be. For clarity, note that we’re looking at the M2A3 Bradley.

The Bradley wins the firepower shootout pretty clearly. The Bradley has significantly more ammunition available for its coax machine gun (both feature a 7.62x51mm GPMG coax), and features a twin-tube TOW missile launcher in addition to the 25mm autocannon, giving it an antitank punch (albeit an outmoded one). Let’s take a look at the autocannon though. This is as good an excuse as any to compare the two autocannons. The M2A3 carries 300 rounds of 25x137mm ammunition in it’s ready stowage magazines. One is for 67 rounds, one is for 133 rounds. The CV9035 carries 70 rounds of 35x228mm ammunition in it’s two 35 round ready magazines. Clearly the Bradley wins the “who can shoot longer without reloading” game, and the combat persistence of the Bradley has proven useful in Iraq. On the other hand, the 35mm gun is much better at penetrating armor. The best unclassified1 penetration data I have gives the 25mm M919 DU APFSDS round the ability to penetrate up to 100 mm of rolled homogeneous steel armor (RHA) or equivalent stuff. The 35mm can penetrate up to 130mm of RHA, and this is without using depleted uranium in the penetrator round. So the 35mm is going to be significantly more useful against more heavily armored vehicles, including other Western-made IFVs as well as the rumored BMP-3s with heavier armor. Not using depleted uranium yet means that 35mm has some growth potential left to help keep pace with future threats.

Let’s look at high explosive next. This is the more generally useful capability for an IFV. The 25mm HE shell has a weight of 180 g. The 35mm HE shell has a weight of 550 g, or about 3 times the mass. However (presuming the larger of the two magazines on the Bradley is loaded with HE), the Bradley carries about 3.8 times as many HE rounds as the CV9035. So, there’s a net HE weight advantage for the Bradley, and one might consider that the question comes down to the simple matter of whether one prefers more rounds or big rounds. But, being larger as well as used in many air defense applications, there are some wonderfully fancy fusing options available for the 35mm. These include the “3P” (Programmable, Proximity-fused, Prefragmented) as well as a hybrid KE/HE round called NR468 KETF (Kinetic Energy Time Fused), which sprays tungsten pellets. The bigger shell size gives designers more to work with, and more options are available.

One other thing is worth noting here. Most tracers on 25mm rounds burn out by the time the round gets about 2 km downrange, which makes it difficult to observe the fall of shot and score hits on further targets. The 35mm round does not have this problem, and Danish CV9035s have scored hits from beyond 3 km in Afghanistan. So, while the Bradley has the edge in firepower, there are a number of advantages to the 35mm gun on the CV9035.

Protection and survivability go hand in hand, and are both won by the CV9035. It has significantly better armor, using modern MEXAS composites that provide it with superior protection against both shaped charges and long-rod penetrators. The CV9035 underbody is designed to provide some measure of protection against mines, whereas the Bradley has a rather thin underbelly. In terms of supplemental protection, kits are available for both vehicles. The CV9035 should be better able to handle the extra weight in this area, since it’s a newer vehicle with a less heavily loaded suspension.

Survivability is more or less the flip side of the Bradley’s advantages in firepower; it’s packed with five TOW missiles, three AT4 rocket launchers, and 600 rounds of 25mm ammunition. The Bradley also lacks spall liners, and ammunition isn’t separated from the crew compartment. As such, it burns notoriously well. The CV9035 stores its smaller amount of ammunition in a safer fashion, and as a result it’s much less vulnerable to secondary effects. So the big2 Swedish vehicle is a safer vehicle for its crew and passengers.

Capacity on the CV9035 is a little vague, because different internal configurations. Ad copy from BAE-Hagglunds gives a capacity of 7, though I have some other sources3 that say 8. The M2A3 holds 7, though that last seat behind the driver is somewhat cramped. Possible slight advantage to the CV9035, but I’m about as willing to call this a wash due to uncertain sources.

Electronics fit is also a wash. Both the M2A3 and the CV9035 have fancy modern battle management systems, thermal imaging sights for the gunner, independent commander’s thermal imaging sights to provide a hunter-killer capability, and backup cameras to aid in administrative driving. There is, of course, the usual encrypted radio fit.

Despite similar weights, the CV9035 has significantly better mobility. It’s got a more powerful engine (755 hp as opposed to the 600 hp of the A3 Bradley), and the CV9035’s suspension is designed to handle soft ground (or snow) well. In Norwegian tests, the CV90 proved to have the best mobility of any IFV tested, beating out the Warrior 2000, the Bradley, and the Puma.

So where does this leave us? Well, despite the superior firepower of the Bradley, the CV9035 is as good or better in every other area. Once again, the CV9035 beats out a flashier opponent as the better buy. It does more things better, has more growth room left in its design, and is reasonably priced. I would also add that the CV9035 is probably not better enough to justify an upgrade if one already had Bradleys. But this is a showroom comparison, not a ‘should we upgrade’ article.

Interestingly, despite all of the many Bradley variant proposals, the CV90 series gives more options of things actually in production now (compared to the Bradley production line as it was when it was stopped). There’s the CV90 Armadillo, which is a turretless APC variant. There’s also the CV90120, which is a modern take on the Tank Destroyer/Assault Gun concept, being well armed but lightly armored. Finally, there’s the CV90+AMOS which features a turret with a pair of automatically loaded 120mm mortars for a very powerful short range indirect punch. The most interesting Bradley variants never made it to full rate production.

1.) While these are almost certainly not correct, I expect them to be reasonably close. Also, for most mature systems, I figure they’re all going to be off for similarly classified reasons, i.e. I figure they should be off by about the same amount and so make good comparison metrics.
2.) Seriously, this thing is bigger than a Leopard 1 tank. Ask me if I care.
3.) Including my copy of Jane’s Armour and Artillery, 2008-2009. It’s old because those books are damned expensive. I wouldn’t be opposed to someone gifting me a more recent copy though.

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