May 20, 2003
Criticism of Military Technology
Porphyrogentius has some comments on military technology, which reminded me of an incident in the mid-1980s. At this time, the M2/M3 Bradleys were new equipment, and not yet proven on the battlefield. A report on 60 Minutes examined the Bradley, and found that it presented too large of a target on the battlefield, didn't hold a large enough number of troops in each unit, was too heavily armed for an infantry carrier, was not heavily enough armored for a tank, was too heavy to move around on the battlefield, and outpaced the truck-based supply convoys. In other words, it was too big, too small, too powerful, not powerful enough, too slow, and not slow enough - all at the same time!
I never watched 60 Minutes again. I figured if that was all they had, they weren't worth the hour.
Posted by Jeff at May 20, 2003 08:12 PM | Link Cosmos
In all fairness to 60 Minutes, the Bradley is a pretty lousy piece of equipment. Granted, it's still better than most IFVs, but I wouldn't go into combat in one for all the tea in China.
I have heard a lot of different things about the Brads, and mostly the complaints I hear seem to be pretty minor - at least in comparison to other IFVs. Their weaponry is good (though I've heard some bad things about ammo storage), protection seems good for anything lighter than a tank (will defeat typical RPGs, for example). The size is certainly an issue, but a lot of that is the turret. They are apparently quite cramped. Mobility seems pretty good. I don't know about the workload to keep them running, but I've got to think its no worse than any other tracked IFV. I wonder what your issues are with it? Please elucidate.
I was under the impression the Bradleys weakness was its armour. It's a comparable vehicle to the Russian BMP-2, and the old BMP-1 suffered horribly when fighting against the Afghans, because while it can fight, it's still too much of a juicy target.
I understand the US modified their IFV tactics to dismount the infantry rather than attempt to fight from behind (too thin) armour, which was the original, I believe, reason for the IFV's invention in the form of the BMP-1, but still.
I know in the computer game, Operation Flashpoint, the Bradley is a target that gets iced in the first fifteen seconds, not sure how much that bears with reality, but if I ended up in one on a battlefield it would sure sober me. ;)
Issues with the Bradley:
Armor: Bradley armor will not stop most RPG rounds; it will barely stop 7.62mm rounds. Hit a Bradley with .50 cal fire or better and it's a funeral pyre. In the First Gulf War, Bradleys trailed the tanks for protection; even the scout Bradleys.
Silhouette: The Bradley is ludicrously high, making it easy to spot. And on the modern battlefield, what can be seen can be killed.
Limited Dismounts: Mechanized infantry is still supposed to be infantry first. But the Bradley carries only a small number of dismounts, meaning the value added by a Bradley company is less than that added by an M113 company.
Weapons systems: The 25mm is a great weapon for suppression, but the TOW was a mistake. Bradley guys end up thinking they're out hunting tanks instead of doing their job, which is providing infantry support. An M1 is the best tank-killing system on the battlefield; when I get infantry, I want them to worry about doing infantry stuff. Bradley guys tend to forget that.
Is all of that the Bradley's fault? No, much of the problem comes from how the Bradley is used. But it's still a marginal vehicle from a survivability standpoint.
And yet, how many Bradleys were taken out by RPG fire in Iraq? The added armor was apparently sufficient. I have not yet read an in-depth analysis of Bradley performance in Iraq.
I was in a M113 based squad, it does have more room, but the .50 cal was no substitute for a 25mm with thermal sights. The M113A3 is a great vehicle, but being able to advance buttoned up, and engage the enemy does have something in its favor.
The M113 was an APC that brought you to the fight, get out and walk. The Bradley was designed to be in the fight with you.
The Bradley’s reliability, survivability and lethality has surpassed initial expectations. In fact, more enemy armored vehicles were destroyed in the Gulf War by Bradleys than by the Abrams Main Battle Tank. Of the 2,220 Bradleys deployed in that war, only 3 were lost to enemy fire. Another 17, however, were lost to friendly fire, mainly from Abrams tanks. The military is working on a more reliable vehicle-identification system. Meanwhile, it hopes that improved communications and better navigation systems, including a GPS digital compass, will reduce incidences of friendly fire.