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Get the Missiles: The Army's Bradley Fighting Vehicle Is Getting a Big Upgrade

Sebastien Roblin

Key point: The M2 Bradley will be able to better take on enemy tanks with this upgrade.

The M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle is nominally used to carry infantry into battle, but is frequently misidentified by journalists as a tank. This is understandable, as the tracked vehicle currently tips the scales at thirty-three tons from all the add-on armor it has received, and bristles with both a twenty-five-millimeter Bushmaster automatic cannon and a TOW antitank missile launcher.

Oddly, critics of the vehicle have sometimes complained that the Bradley’s sheer firepower often makes the infantrymen it carries onboard an afterthought. In theory, the onboard mechanized infantry squads are supposed to dismount in denser terrain to scout out enemy positions and ambushers, maintain defensive perimeters, and flush adversaries out of buildings and other built-up areas that the Bradley can’t reach.

However, a notable limitation of the M2 as a troop transport is that it can carry just seven dismounts—in earlier models, just six—while a mechanized infantry squad currently has nine men. Each mechanized infantry platoon therefore has to divide three squads between four Bradleys, meaning that all the members of squad are not able to ride in the same vehicle.

The Army is halfway through a two-stage update process for its roughly 1,800 remaining M2 and M3 Bradleys, to restore automotive power to the chassis and upgrade its computer systems to be more accommodating of to future improvements. In January 2018, it emerged that an even more ambitious M2A5 upgrade is being planned for the mid-2020s, which might stretch out the hull to carry more armor and personnel and install a more powerful thirty-millimeter cannon turret.

That’s right: the Army’s biggest and baddest troop carrier might get even bigger.

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The U.S. Army’s Bradleys have likely seen even more use in combat than the more famous M1 Abrams main battle tank. In swirling mechanized battles in the open deserts of Iraq in the 1990–91 Gulf War, the Bradley reputedly destroyed even more armored vehicles than Abrams.

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