THE BADASS BRADLEY
The year was 1981. For many of the Soldiers in the U.S. Army’s infantry branch, their ride into battle was the M113 armored personnel carrier. It was a vehicle that was reliable and simple, but it was horribly outclassed by the Soviet-build BMP family of vehicles, the first of which had entered service in 1966. The previous August, an improved BMP had entered service.
That was when the first of the Bradley Fighting Vehicles emerged. While the older M113 had a single M2 .50-caliber machine gun, the Bradley featured the M242 25mm Bushmaster cannon, which was able to destroy most Soviet armored personnel carriers and BMPs. However, the Bradley did not stop there, adding a launcher holding two BGM-71 TOWs.
Two versions were developed. One, the M2, was intended for infantry units, could hold a crew of three and added space for six infantrymen. It held 600 rounds for the Bushmaster, and four re-loads for the TOW launcher. The M3, for cavalry units, held 900 rounds of 25mm ammo, and ten additional TOWs.
The Bradley made its bones during Operation Desert Storm. It destroyed more armored vehicles than the M1 Abrams tank – and only three were lost to enemy action. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Bradley again proved its mettle. Only 55 Bradleys were lost to enemy action in that conflict.
Like the M113, the Bradley has already survived at least one attempt to replace it. The Future Combat System of vehicles was cut in 2009. A second effort, the Ground Combat Vehicle, is also on the chopping block in the 2015 defense budget. It seems likely that the Bradley will be soldiering on for decades to come!