The M2 Bradley IFV (Infantry Fighting Vehicle) and M3 Bradley CFV (Cavalry Fighting Vehicle) are American infantry fighting vehicles manufactured by BAE Systems Land and Armaments, (formerly United Defense).
As with other infantry fighting vehicles, the Bradley is designed to transport infantry offering at least some armored protection while providing fire cover to dismounted troops and suppressing enemy tanks and armored vehicles. The M2 holds a crew of three: a commander, a gunner and a driver; as well as six fully equipped soldiers. The M3 mainly conducts scout missions and carries two scouts in addition to the regular crew of three.
The 25 mm cannon fires up to 200 rounds per minute and is accurate up to 2500 m depending on the ammunition used (HE or APDS-T). The twin TOW2B missiles are capable of destroying most hostile tanks at a maximum range of 3750 m. A large drawback of the TOW is that it can only be fired while the vehicle is stationary. The Bradley also carries an M240C coaxial 7.62 mm medium machine gun, located to the right of the 25 mm chain gun. It is highly capable in cross-country open terrain, in accordance with one of the main design objectives of keeping pace with the M1 Abrams main battle tank. Whereas the M113 would float without much preparation, the Bradley was initially designed to float by deploying a flotation curtain around the vehicle. This caused some drownings due to failures during its first trials. Armor upgrades negate this capability.
The vehicle hull is of aluminum construction, one of the points used by critics to deride the vehicle. Aluminum armor tends to vaporize in the face of HEAT warheads; this and the storage of large quantities of ammunition in the vehicle initially raised questions about its combat survivability. Spaced laminate belts and high hardness steel skirts have been added to later versions to improve armor protection, although this increases overall weight to 33 tons. Actual combat operations, however, have not shown the Bradley to be overtly deficient as losses have been few. In friendly fire incidents in Desert Storm, many crew members survived hits that resulted in total losses for lighter USMC LAV 25 vehicles.
USAF LTC James Burton conducted highly publicized live fire tests where it was found that the center of the vehicle was most likely to be hit. His efforts to redesign the Bradley were not fully implemented; Bradleys still store their fuel dangerously in the vehicle center, whereas M113A3s have their fuel stored on the left and right rear to prevent fires/explosions inside the troop compartment. Despite this perceived vulnerability, the Bradley Fighting Vehicle has proven to be highly survivable when hit by enemy fire.
The Bradley series has been widely modified. Its chassis is the basis for the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System, the M4 C2V battlefield command post, and the M6 Bradley Linebacker air defense vehicle. Armed with a quad Stinger surface to air missile launcher (instead of the TOW anti-tank missiles) and maintaining the 25 mm autocannon, the M6 Bradley Linebacker Air Defense Vehicle possesses a unique role in the U.S. Army, providing highly mobile air defense at the front line. Its suspension system has also been used on upgraded versions of the US Marines' Amphibious Assault Vehicle.
The total cost of the program is $5,664,100,000, and the average unit costs $3,166,000.
The Bradley, named after WWII General Omar N. Bradley, consists of two types of vehicles, the M2 Infantry Fighting Vehicle and the M3 Cavalry Fighting Vehicle. The M3 CFV was originally planned to be named after General Jacob L. Devers, but it was decided the Bradley name would apply to both, since both vehicles are based on the same chassis (they differ in only some details). The M2 carries a crew of three and a six-man infantry squad. The M3 carries the crew of three and a two-man scout team and additional radios, TOW and Dragon or Javelin missiles.
The troubled development history of the Bradley is described in a book by Air Force Lt. Col. James Burton, which was adapted for the 1998 film The Pentagon Wars starring Kelsey Grammer and Cary Elwes.
During the Gulf War, M2 Bradleys destroyed more Iraqi armored vehicles than the M1 Abrams. 20 Bradleys were lost; 3 by enemy fire and 17 due to friendly fire incidents; another 12 were damaged. The gunner of one bradley was killed when his vehicle was hit by Iraqi fire, possibly from an Iraqi BMP-1, during the Battle of 73 Easting. To remedy some problems that were identified as contributing factors in the friendly fire incidents, infrared identification panels and other marking/identification measures were added to the Bradleys.
In the Second Gulf War, the Bradley has proved somewhat vulnerable to mobility kills (attacks that do not necessarily destroy the vehicle completely, but render it inoperable or immobile, such as track or engine malfunctions) through IED and RPG attacks, but casualties have been light—the doctrine being to allow the crew to escape at the expense of the vehicle. As of early 2006, total combat losses included 55 Bradleys.
The M2 (also sometimes written M2A0 to help prevent confusion) was the basic production model, first produced in 1982. The M2A0 can be identified by its standard TOW missile system and 500-horsepower engine with HMPT-500 Hydromechanical transmission. Basic features also included an integrated sight unit for the M242 25 mm, and thermal imaging system. The M2A0 was amphibious with the use of a "Swim Barrier" and was C-141 and C-5 transportable. All M2A0 vehicles have been upgraded to improved standards. The A0 series armor protects the vehicle against 14.5 mm AP.
M2A0s and other early production models of the M2 include seating for a total of seven dismounted infantrymen in the rear of the vehicle, in lieu of the six carried in later versions of the vehicle. Seating was adjusted on later models to make dismounting easier and because changes in doctrine and additional armor plating on the sides of the vehicle had made use of firing port weapons irrelevant.
Introduced in 1988, the A2 received an improved 600-horsepower (447 kW) engine with an HMPT-500-3 Hydromechanical transmission and improved armor (both passive and the ability to mount explosive reactive armor). The new armor protects the Bradley against 30 mm AP rounds and RPGs (or similar anti-armor weapons). Ammunition stowage was reorganized and spall liners were added. The M2A2 was qualified to be transported by the C-17 Globemaster III. M2A2s will all eventually be modified to M2A2 ODS or M2A3 standard.
An air defense variant, these vehicles are modified M2A2 ODSs with the TOW missile system replaced with a four-tube Stinger missile system. Despite the fact that the vehicle is superior to the Bradley SFV (the crew does not have to dismount and can fire on the move) and the M1097 Humvee Avenger (since it is tracked and armored) these are due to be retired from U.S. service.
It is also armed with a M240C machine gun mounted coaxially to the M242, with 2,200 rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition. For engaging heavier targets (such as when acting in an anti-tank fashion), the Bradley has a TOW missile system onboard, which was changed to fire TOW II missiles, onwards from the M2A1 model. M2 infantry Bradleys also have turreted firing ports for a number of M231 Firing Port Weapons or FPWs, providing a button-up firing position to replace the top-side gunners on the old ACAV, though the M231 is rarely employed. Initial variants carried 6 total, but the side ports were plated over with new armor used on the A2 and A3 variants, leaving only the two rear-facing mounts in the loading ramp. No versions of the M3 CFV carry firing port weapons, though early versions had all six firing port mounts fitted and plated over, while newer versions retain the two ramp mounted firing ports (again, plated over). All versions are also equipped with two four-barreled smoke grenade launchers on the front of the turret for creating defensive smoke screens, and can also be loaded with chaff and flares.