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M2 Bradley

United States of America

M2 Bradley Series

M2A2 Bradley #2
Unveiled / Entered Service
1981
M2A1 Bradley
Status
In Service
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Table of Contents

Steel Aces Play for free
the highly anticipated MMO tactical tank shooter for 2024.

Introduction

The M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle has been in US Army service since 1981 and has since seen extensive upgrades, which have kept pace with changes in infantry tactics.

Ten years later it gained fame during the Gulf War when it reportedly knocked out more Iraqi tanks with its TOW ATGM system than the M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank.

With over 6,000 vehicles manufactured, a number of programs to seek a replacement have been started and terminated since the 1980’s. The current program, The XM30 Mechanized Infantry Combat Vehicle (MICV) has been running since 2020, with both Rheinmetall and GDLS developing designs with an expected delivery date of 2027.

Background

XM723 Prototype
XM723 Prototype

With the ever-growing nuclear arsenals of both the West and East during the 1950’s and 60’s, both sides were forced to change their infantry tactics to meet the new threat of fighting on a nuclear contaminated battlefield, which made the Armoured Personal Carrier obsolete and created a new requirement for an improved vehicle, the Mechanized Infantry Combat Vehicle.

The concept for the MICV was simple. Rather than the infantry disembarking from the vehicle and fighting on foot and risk contamination, allow the infantry to fight from within the vehicle.

The MICV would feature a manned turret with a medium calibre weapon (20mm+ chain gun) and firing ports in the hull for the infantry to shoot their personal rifles through.

The MICV had to have improved armour offering protection against heavy machine gun fire, grenades, and artillery splinters, but also feature internal NBC protection to keep the crew and troops safe.

The first MICV-65 (the name of the program) prototype delivered to the US Army was the XM701, which was built by the Pacific Car and Foundry company. It was trialled in 1966 but ultimately did not progress to production. Coupled with the US Armies involvement and expense in the Vietnam War, the MICV-65 program was shelved, only to be restarted in 1968, by which stage the Russian MICV equivalent, the BMP-1 was in full production.

The FMC Corporation (who were manufacturing the M113 APC) proposed a redesigned M113 designated the XM765 Armoured Infantry Fighting Vehicle (AIFV), which was eventually rejected and were asked to develop a faster and more heavily armoured version of the vehicle designated the XM723 Mechanised Infantry Combat Vehicle.

By 1975 The US Army Cavalry program to develop a new scout vehicle had been cancelled and their requirements were added to the development of the  XM723. The cavalry called for a two-man turret and an anti-tank (ATGM) capability, which were accepted in 1976 as new requirements for the joint MICV program.

The XM723 was split into the MICV XM2 Infantry Fighting Vehicle and XM3 for the Cavalry version. In 1978 eight prototypes were delivered for trial’s and in 1980 the vehicle was accepted into service as the M2 for the infantry and M3 for the Cavalry. Both vehicles were named after the WW2 General Bradley and first vehicles were delivered in 1981.

Firepower

The Bradley uses the 25mm M242 Chain Gun (aka Bushmaster) as it’s main weapon. It has a dual feed, which means the gunner can switch from Armour Piercing rounds (x70) to High Explosive Tracer (x230) by pressing a button on the gunnery controls.

Since its introduction, the Bradley has seen several improvements in the gunnery systems, ammunition, fire control systems and even seen a Commanders Independent Sight added, which gives the Bradley a Hunter Killer Capability. This allows the commander to look for targets independently of the gunner who is looking for targets using his fixed sights.

Up until the 2020’s, the Bradley had the most effective Anti-Tank Guided Missile capability of any NATO IFV in the form of a built-in dual tube ATGM launcher on the left side of the turret, which is operated safely from within the vehicle, opposed to other IFV which have a single tube hand-held system that is operated from the outside of the turret.

The Improved Bradley Acquisition System (IBAS) introduced on the A3, provides the vehicle with a significant improvement over the original TOW-II targeting system of the ODS Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

IBAS consists of a 2nd Generation Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR), a day television camera, a TOW tracker, a dual target tracker, an eye safe laser range finder, and a dual axis stabilized mirror assembly.

The Bradley’s ATGM of choice is the TOW-II. The weapon has continually been upgraded since its introduction and can fire the updated TOW 2A, TOW 2B and TOW Bunker Buster missiles. Two missiles are kept in the launcher ready firing and an additional five missiles are stowed in the hull.

Like all Infantry Fighting Vehicle, the Bradley features a coaxial Machine Gun, the 7.62mm M240. This is used against personnel and soft skin vehicles as an alternative to the main gun, especially in built up areas to avoid collateral damage.

Protection

The Bradley is constructed of both armoured aluminium and steel mix. The original M2 had 25mm thick hardened steel side plates along the hull sides.

On the M2A2 upgrade, new sections of hardened armour plate were added across the turret and hull. Its believed that this can withstand AP rounds of up to 30mm in calibre, but this is not publicly confirmed.

BUSK Kits

The new sections feature brackets for mounting modular reactive armour as found on the Bradley Urban Survival Kit (BUSK) that was designed to protect the vehicle in urban area’s against RPG and IED attacks as well as sniper fire.

In 2012, a new BUSK package was introduced and installed on all US Army M2A3 stationed in South Korea called BUSK III, which features a new blast-proof fuel cell, a blast resistant driver seat, a turret survivability system and an emergency ramp release.

 

Mobility

The Bradley’s engine output has been uprated to cope with the added weight of upgrades through out its service life. The most recent, the M2A4 is now 675 hp compared to the original 600 hp, enabling the Bradley to keep pace with other vehicles and having the neccassery power-to-weight ratio to tackle rough terrain.

The Bradley also has an amphibious capability when using a flotation screen and uses its tracks to power it through the water.

Variants and Marks

Vehicle Marks

M2 Bradley

The initial production model in 1981. The vehicle carried 6 troops into combat and was air transportable via C-5 Galaxy as well as amphibious using a swimming kit. All M2 have been upgraded to more modern versions. Initial production was budgeted at 100 vehicles per year, which was ramped up to 680 by 1985.

M2A1

The fist major upgrade of the vehicle saw the addition of a new NBC filtration system that pumps fresh air into the crews masks.

The ATGM capability was improved with modifications to the system to fire the latest version of the TOW, the TOW-2. Production began in 1986.

M2A2

M2A2 Bradley
M2A2 Bradley

In 1988 the A2 entered production. It featured new large sections of armoured panel along the hull sides and the turret. These also had additional mounts for adding Explosive Reactive Armour. The new armoured panels covered the infantry’s internal firing ports.

Additional protection came in the form of Kevlar liners mounted on the inside of the hull to catch any metal splinters released from the external armour being penetrated.

The additional armour had a negative impact on the vehicle mobility. In 1989 the M2A2 started to be manufactured with a more powerful 600hp VTA-903T turbo charged diesel. Eventually all older A0 and A1 vehicles would receive the new powerful engine. Production was completed in 1995.

M2A2 ODS

M2A2 ODS
M2A2 ODS

The A2 model received enhancements based on operational experiences of the 1991 Gulf War aka Operation Desert Storm (hence ODS).

The principal modification was the addition of a new eye-safe laser range finder for the gunner that increased overall accuracy of the 25mm M242 Chain Gun. Other improvements included a new FBCB2 Appliqué computer system allowing Commanders to communicate over the US Armies digital network.

The driver also received a new thermal sight for operations at night.

M2A2 ODS-SA

M2A2 ODS-SA
M2A2 ODS-SA

The ODS package was later further enhanced with Situational Awareness (SA) technology. This includes camera’s mounted on all sides of the Bradley, that allows the crew to increase their field of vision in the immediate area around the vehicle, making it easier to operate and navigate in urban area’s as well as assess threats.

BAE Systems sales brochure highlights new enhanced roof protection and new sights.

M2A3

M2A3 Bradley
M2A3 Bradley

A complete overhaul of all electrical systems, which includes a new Commanders 360-degree Independent Sight for dual tracking of two targets at once, a new ballistic computer and other automated gunnery features as well as the latest in digital battlefield management and communication systems with the Armored Brigade Combat Team.

M2A4

AKA the Bradley A4 ECP (mobility), it is the latest model of the M2 Bradley, the engine’s output has been increased from 600hp to 675hp to accommodate the weight of other upgrades, improvements to the fire suppression system, IED Jammers and improved self-diagnostic equipment to improve repair times.

Also visible in pictures of the vehicle in the manufacturer’s brochure is the changes to the Commanders Independent Sight and the thickness of the armour plates on the hulls side (added in the A2 upgrade) has increased.

M24A4E1 (2024)

A major upgrade in defence and sighting technology. The US Army is ordering the vehicle to replace the same number of Bradley’s donated to Ukrainian. It has been fitted with Iron Fist hard-kill Active Protection System, latest generation of sighting technology and environmental controls.


Variants In Service

M3 Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicle (CFV)

Used exclusively by the US Army Cavalry, it is classed as a reconnaissance vehicle working along side the M1 Abrams and has a number of internal changes for this role. It can be identified by the infantry firing points being capped over on the hull sides. It also carries more spare 25mm ammunition and spare TOW ATGM.

M270 MLRS

M270 MLRS
M270 MLRS

The M270 Multi-Launch Rocket System features the launcher and cab on an M2 Bradley chassis.

M4 Command and Control Vehicle

A command superstructure mounted on the M270 chassis as developed from the M2 Bradley.

Bradley FIST

M2A3 FIST
M2A3 FIST

Due to the M113 FIST (Fire Support Team) vehicle being unable to keep pace with the Bradley and M1 Abrams, the decision was made to transfer the specialist Laser-locater Designator and other equipment to the Bradley, which was mounted in place of the TOW ATGM launcher.

Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV)

Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle
Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle

The M113 APC has been in service since 1960 and whilst the Bradley has replaced it on the frontline, 6000 odd vehicles are still serve in various support roles. The AMPV has been developed as a turretless Bradley to replace these vehicles.

As of mid-2023, the AMPV is in full production with BAE Systems in a planned five different roles. READ MORE


Variants Trialled and Retired

CVAST

Bradley CVAST
Bradley CVAST

After entering production, there were concerns in the early 1980’s if the M242 was of a significant calibre to penetrate future Soviet Infantry Fighting Vehicles. The CVAST featured a new turret housing a new 30mm or 35mm chain gun. The project was eventually terminated following the introduction of the BMP-3 in 1987, as it was felt the M242 could sufficiently penetrate its thin armour.

ADATS

M2 Bradley ADATS

During the later part of the 1980’s, The US Army selected the Air Defense Anti-Tank System (ADATS) as a replacement to their dated anti-aircraft systems. The ADATS turret system featured x8 launching tubes with a radar on top and could be mounted on both wheeled and tracked vehicles. The internal troop compartment was retrofitted with the control stations for detecting and engaging enemy aircraft.

A total of 562 vehicles using the Bradley chassis and hull were ordered, but by 1990 the order was cancelled.

Light Tank Concept

Bradley Light Tank
Bradley Light Tank

Teaming up with the UK defence contractor Vickers, United Defence proposed a Light Tank variant by mounting what appears to be a Vickers Mk5 turret, which had a version of the British L7 105mm rifled main gun.

The Bradley Next Generation

Bradley Next Gen
Bradley Next Gen

Unveiled in 2016, it featured a new improved chassis capable of taking even more armoured protection, changes to layout of components for increased internal volume, 600-volt electronics and final drives from the M109A7 for further growth of digital systems.

Bradley Stinger Fighting Vehicle

Initially intended as a replacement to the Vulcan Air Defence vehicle, the BSFV transported a x5 man squad with handheld Stinger SAM launchers and x6 spare missiles.

from 1992, the Army started to take delivery of an expected 267 vehicles but by 1993, was deemed unsatisfactory and a replacement, the BSFV-E was announced in 1995.

Bradley LOSAT

Bradley LOSAT
Bradley LOSAT

LOSAT is a former Anti-Tank Guided Missile that used a kinetic energy penetrator rather than a shape-charged warhead. The Bradley’s hull was modified into a tank destroyer. Intended as a replacement to the M901, the vehicle was eventually dropped in 1993.

M6 Linebacker

Bradley LineBack
Bradley LineBack

AKA Bradley Stinger Fighting Vehicle Enhanced (BSFV-E), the Linebacker was a converted  M2A2 ODS that had had its TOW-II ATGM launcher replaced with a x4 tube Stinger SAM launcher for engaging low-flying aircraft. This vehicle was withdrawn from service in 2006.

Bradley Stingray

Bradley Stingray
Bradley Stingray

In 1982 a new laser countermeasure system was integrated to an M2 Bradley. The technology worked by damaging the sighting and sensors of the enemy’s fire control systems on armoured vehicles and helicopters. It’s reported that two vehicles were deployed during the 1991 Gulf War, but this system was not used nor adopted by the army.

Bradley MCT30

Bradley MCT30 Turret
Bradley MCT30 Turret

During 2014, the US Army trialled (including live firing) the Kongsberg MCT30 unmanned turret on a Bradley hull for the Future Combat Systems (FCS) program. The main weapon is the medium calibre, 30mm XM-813 chain gun. The project has since been surpassed by the introduction of the M2M4E1 in 2024.

Operators

Croatia

A total of 89 refurbished M2A2 US Army surplus vehicles purchased in 2021, with an estimated completion date of 2026.

Lebanon

A Total of 32 M2A2 were purchased in 2016 and delivered the following year.

Saudi Arabia

Two different batches of 200 new vehicles (400 total) were purchased in 1989 and 1990. Deliverers started in 1990 and ended in 1993.

Ukraine

Nearly 200 vehicles in the M2A2 configuration have been supplied from US Army reserves since mid-2023.

United States of America

6,724 M2 – M2A2 and M3 – M3A2 vehicles were built for the US Army from 1980 to 1994. All earlier models were modernised to the M2A2 standard. Since then, the US Army has steadily financed batches of vehicles to be upgraded to the M2A2 ODS-SA, M2A3 and recently the M2A4, the most recent being 128 vehicles being upgraded to the M2A4 in 2019.

Combat History

The Gulf War 1991

Also known as Operation Desert Storm, the M2 Bradley was heavily deployed with the US Army and was where the M2 “made its bones” reportedly scoring more tank kills with its TOW ATGM system than the M1A1 Abrams.

United Nations Operation in Somalia II 1993 – 1995

A UN lead coalition of over 20 countries contributed to the peace keeping efforts in the country following the 1991 civil war. The largest contributor was America, who deployed special forces, attack helicopters, aircraft, light skin vehicles, M1A1 Abram’s Main Battle Tanks and M2 Bradley IFV.

The Iraq War 2003 – 2011

The Bradley was deployed in both the initial 2003 invasion and thereafter occupation. It contributed to countless anti-insurgency operations and battles. To minimise losses, it received The Bradley Urban Survival Kit (BUSK) that was designed to protect the vehicle in urban area’s against RPG and IED attacks as well as sniper fire.

Yemeni civil war 2014 – Present

In 2015, Saudi Arabia led a coalition of Arab Nations against the Houthis deploying both M1 Abrams and M2 Bradley vehicles.

Syrian Civil War 2011 – Present

Civil unrest and protests grew in 2011 to a full blown civil war in 2011. In 2014, the US intervened in the war to fight ISIS (Islamic State). In 2019 American presence grew and mechanised infantry with M2 Bradley’s were deployed.

Russian Invasion Of Ukraine 2022 – Present

Following the Russian Invasion, Multiple countries have been providing financial and military aid to help Ukraine repel Russian Forces. The US, as one of the biggest donors has been supplying Ukraine with Bradley’s since early 2023.

Specifications

characteristic
Result
Main Gun
M242 Bushmaster 25mm
ATGM Capability
Secondary Weapons
Coaxial 7.62mm Machine Gun
Ammunition Storage
x300 Ready and x600 Stored 25mm / x2 ATGM Ready and x5 ATGM Stored
Engine
Cummins 675 hp
Transmission
HMPT-500 hydromechanical
Top Road Speed
66 km/h
Road Range
402 km
Fuel Capacity
587 Litres
Vertical Obstacle
0.9m
Water Capability
Amphibious
Trench Crossing
2.5m
Gradient
60%
Side Slope
40%
Length Gun Forward
n/a
Length Hull
6.5m
Width
3.2m
Height
3.3m
Ground Clearance
0.3m
Weight
36.2 Tonnes
NBC Protected
yes
Standard Armor(s) Type
Steel, Laminated
Optional Add-on Armor(s) Type
Composite, Bar, Modular, Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA)
Active Protection Systems
no
Crew
Commander, Gunner, Driver
Infantry
7 in M2A2 ODS/M2A3/M2A4