M2 Bradley Part 2: Variants

I’ve already discussed my affection for the M2 Bradley. Everyone knows that the Bradley is loaded with firepower, though. What most don’t know, is that there were a ton of vehicles proposed off of the basic Bradley chassis. There would have been a complete family of combat vehicles that would fill a number of neat niches, but it didn’t happen for reasons of costs and that stupid peace dividend thing. We’ll start with the variants that we all know and love, and move to the more exotic ones.

The first and most obvious variant, of course, is the M3 Bradley Cavalry Vehicle. Intended for reconnaissance, it replaces all but two of the dismounts with a double load of stored 25mm gun ammo and TOW missiles. As far as recon vehicles go, it’s pretty big. But it’s also really heavily armed, and makes a good choice of a vehicle that can be used to cover the flanks against against an attack. It’s very much on the French model of recon vehicles, which is a model I approve of.

Next we come to the Bradley Linebacker. This was made somewhat hastily after the Bradley ADATS (see below) didn’t happen. It replaces the twin-tube TOW launcher with a four-tube Stinger launcher. It’s a pretty simple switch, and the resulting vehicle isn’t very well integrated into an air defense network. And Stinger missiles don’t have the greatest range, but it allows mechanized formations to have an extra antiair punch for dealing with low flying aircraft or attack helicopters. Also, visually, it doesn’t look all that different from a regular Bradley, so it’s a bit harder for ground attack pilots to spot which vehicles need to be prioritized.

The last of the TOW missile pod substitutions was the M7 Bradley Fire Support Vehicle. The job of this vehicle was to direct artillery fires. Key changes were a ground vehicle laser designator, a high end inertial navigation system to provide a good reference for the vehicle’s location, and extra radios to keep in good contact with the artillery. The laser designator, plus an additional high end night sight were in a box that replaced the TOW missile tubes.

There were several attempts to upgun the Bradley, given the concern that the 25mm autocannon would prove inadequate against newer IFVs. This has been a recurring trend, but they’re worth mentioning here. Variants have included using a 30x173mm Mk. 44 autocannon, the 35x228mm Bushmaster III autocannon, a 45x305mm cased telescoped weapon (the ’80s COMVAT program), and the 40x255mm cased telescoped gun from France. I don’t have much detail on the 35mm version, but the 30mm version had 180 ready rounds (and 360 stowed rounds). This is really good as far as 30mm gunned IFVs are concerned, but I don’t see much of a point. The 25mm M919 DU APFSDS round is almost as good an armor penetrator as the 30x173mm APFSDS used in Europe, and having 120 more rounds makes up for the smaller HE payload of the 25mm.

The cased telescoped rounds are kind of cool though. The 45x305mm CTA was originally a collaboration between Ares Inc and GIAT (France). While we in the US shut our part of the program down after the first Gulf War showed just how well we could kill BMP-2s with the 25mm, the French stuck with it, getting the English as second-choice partners and eventually shrinking the round down to 40x255mm CTA, which is now entering actual production. Interestingly, the Bradley can hold 105 of the 40mm CTA rounds. That’s a firepower upgrade I’d strongly consider, given the much bigger HE payload and the improved KE power in the 40mm CTA rounds. More on IFV guns later, for now let’s get back to the Bradley.

I’m going to group the next two variants together. Both replaced the troop compartment and the regular turret with a different arrangement to carry some new fancy missiles. Neither missile program survived the cuts at the end of the cold war. I’ll also look at both missiles in more detail elsewhere. The first vehicle was a dedicated anti-tank missile platform that would make the Soviets jealous. It replaced the turret and troop compartment with a pop-up KEM launcher assembly. This missile was beam riding and achieved results with a heavy long rod penetrator at high velocity. The second was the combined anti-tank and anti-aircraft ADATS missile, which ended up being adopted only by Canada. It’s a nifty electro-optically guided short range SAM that had a combination shaped charge and fragmentation warhead. The Bradley ADATS had a radar system that could track ten targets at once, but the missiles were laser beam riding, and the Bradley ADATS also had an infrared tracking system. Both vehicles and their respective missiles showed quite a bit of promise, but needed more funding to finish the program, and in the early 90s, this just wasn’t going to happen1.

But FMC’s2 engineers weren’t content to stop there. They had a number of designs based on the Bradley chassis and powertrain. This base, the Fighting Vehicle Systems Carrier, had a three man cab at the front that was lightly armored. You’re most familiar with this vehicle as the base for the M270 MLRS, one of the best rocket artillery pieces available. This vehicle gives the option of 227mm rockets with a wide variety of payloads or two ATACMS short range ballistic missiles. But that’s the one you know. The one that got made. What else is out there?

If you imagine an M270, but replace the missile launcher with a big aluminum box, you have the basic picture for the next set of vehicles that I’m going to talk about. The first is the XM1070 electronic fighting vehicle system. It has a crew of six (three in the cab, three in the box), a telescoping, 20-meter tall mast, and 60 kW of AC power on tap to drive all of the neat electronic warfare goodies that the modern general demands.

Next we come to the XM4 Command and Control vehicle. This had space for six men in the box, and had a telescoping 10-meter mast. Internally there were extra radios for the command staff, map boards, and battlefield management computers. Unlike the army’s previous command vehicle, the XM4 was designed to not require setting up a tent at the back for everyone to have enough space to get work done. As a result, it was NBC-protected and was capable of operating while moving, unlike the M577.

An ambulance variant was proposed as well. With the aluminum-armored body, it was designed to evacuate casualties and provide early medical treatment. Two medical personnel were carried in the cab with the driver, and the aluminum box could be configured for 9 patients on stretchers or 12 ambulatory patients on seats, all under armor that can resist artillery fragments and machinegun fire.

The next set of vehicles are logistics vehicles. Two cargo variants are avalable. One can carry six pallets of ammunition, the other can carry 2,000 gallons (7,570.82 L) of fuel. The cargo carrier can be switched from the solid cargo configuration to the liquid cargo configuration in one hour. Both cargo variants have a five ton crane. To round out the logisitcs and support package, an armored maintenance vehicle is also devised. This has space for three additional crew in the back compartment, and comes with welding equipment, an air compressor, a hydraulic pump, a workbench, and of course, plenty of tools.

There you have it. Probably the most versatile family of vehicles ever build around an IFV. Pity we didn’t see more of them in service.

1.) Thanks, Clinton.
2.) Food Machinery Corporation. I shit you not.

4 thoughts on “M2 Bradley Part 2: Variants

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