The Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions." --American Statesman Daniel Webster (1782-1852)

Thursday, November 8, 2018

4 Generations of American APC Development

I had done in the past a comparison between the American APC's and the Soviet BMP series for my "Red Storm Rising" post.


   I decided to show 4 versions of American APC's since WWII, I have experience with 2 of them, the 113 and the Bradley, I have seen the earlier versions in museums but originally didn't know much about them until now. 
During World War II, it became increasingly clear that infantry would need mobile, protective transport vehicles to carry them to and around battlefields. In a world of armored warfare, it was not enough for them to be brought up in trucks and then slog their way forward on foot.
Some efforts were made to get around this during the war, but it was in the aftermath that armored personnel carriers (APCs) began to emerge.
In September 1945, just as the war was ending, the US Army put out a new specification to the manufacturers of military vehicles. It was looking for a personnel carrier, fully enclosed to protect the men inside and tracked for cross-country travel.

M75 Armored personnel carrier. 
Seven years later, the M75 APC entered service. Like many APCs, it was developed using components from existing vehicles, in this case the running gear from the M41 light tank.
The hull mostly consisted of a large steel box, with twin doors at the rear through which ten infantrymen could embark. The driver sat at the front beside the engine, and the commander sat behind him with a cupola and .50 caliber machine gun.

M75 with troops dismounted

The M75 did not have an amphibious capability, an increasingly important feature in post-war fighting vehicles. Due to changing demands and understanding of modern warfare, it was already showing its flaws by the time it reached the Army. But as a proof of concept, it moved the US military forward.
Built in small numbers using components from tanks, the M75 was also not cost-effective. The Army soon began looking around for a better option.

M75 APC in Oorlogsmuseum Overloon, The Netherlands.

Introduced in 1953, only a year after the M75, the M59 was its replacement. Learning from their experience with that first APC, designers incorporated features such as amphibious systems and a lower profile.
In many ways, the M59 looked like the M75. It was little more than a steel box with a sloped front, carried along on tracks. The driver again sat at the front, between the engines, with the commander nearby in a cupola that carried a .50 caliber machine gun and periscopes for safely viewing the surrounding area.
But the overall design was cleaner than its predecessor, and it was less vulnerable to enemy fire. A hydraulic ramp at the rear and two hatches in the roof gave infantry multiple ways in and out of the vehicle.
    M59 APC in West Berlin, German

The M59 was successful enough to be mass produced and turned into several variants. These included a command vehicle, a mortar carrier, and an ambulance.
The M5 had one critical flaw. Its engines were underpowered relative to the demands placed upon them, leading to heavy wear. That affected its reliability and placed a hefty burden on maintenance teams. The drawback was outweighed by its advantages, however, as it was both better and cheaper than the M75. It remained in service for decades.

M-59 Armored Personnel Carrier at the General George Patton Museum and Center of Leadership, Fort Knox, Kentucky.
As the technology and doctrines of war developed during the Cold War, demand emerged for another sort of APC, one light enough to be transported by air. The M59 and M75 were both too heavy for this, so the US Army put out another specification for an APC light enough to be carried by aircraft.
In 1960, the resulting machine started to roll off the assembly lines and into infantry divisions. This was the M113 APC.

FMC T113 proposal

At first glance, the M113 looked a lot like its predecessors: little more than a rectangular metal box on tracks with a sloped front. But under that shell, it was a more sophisticated vehicle.
Critically, it was built out of aluminum rather than steel, making it significantly lighter but still tough enough to protect the men inside.

U.S. Army soldiers dismount from an M113 armored personnel carrier during a training exercise in September 1985
Once again, the driver and engine were installed at the front. The commander’s cupola was mounted in the center of the vehicle, again equipped with a machine gun and devices to let him see out.
Around him, ten infantrymen sat along the walls. They could get in and out through a hydraulic ramp at the back or a hatch above their heads. The vehicle could become amphibious with little preparation, using its tracks for propulsion.   I was licensed on both the M113,

 the M548 Variant which used the same drive-train as the M113 and I got licensed in the Bradley.

M113 ACAV in Vietnam, 1966

Initially equipped with a gasoline engine, the M113 switched to diesel in 1963 with the M113A1 model. It was also modified into a wide range of variants, carrying everything from specialist radar to missiles to bridge-laying equipment. Tens of thousands were made and sold around the world.

A combined arms operation in Vietnam. M113s clear the way through heavy bush while infantry follows.

As the 1960s progressed, expectations for transport vehicles changed. The potential for war against the Soviet Union brought with it the fear of nuclear, biological, and chemical contaminants (NBC) as well as the need for fast, tough vehicles that could take part in fighting.

M2 Bradley  The Bradley Killed more Soviet Tanks than the M1 Abrams during Desert Storm.

The appearance of the Soviet BMP series of vehicles made the case more urgent and set the US on a course towards its first infantry fighting vehicle (IFV).
It took over a decade of changing specifications, with political battles over design and budget, before the resulting vehicle finally appeared in 1981. Named after WWII general Omar Bradley, the Bradley Fighting Vehicle came in two forms.

U.S. General of the Army Omar Bradley.
The M3 Cavalry Fighting Vehicle was an anti-tank weapon, carrying missiles and a two-man scouting team. Using the same chassis, the M2 Infantry Fighting Vehicle carried a six-man infantry squad and was the latest development in US armored troop transports.

M2A3 Bradley firing its M242 Bushmaster
The Bradley kept many of the basic features of preceding transports, including tracked propulsion and a front-mounted engine with infantry in the rear. It was equipped with a small turret, carrying an M242 25mm chain gun and a coaxial machine gun. It had solid aluminum armor, NBC protection, excellent mobility on land, and amphibious capability.  The Bradley racked more kills than her more powerful stablemate the M1-Abrams, the TOW-2 was a very effective weapon against the BMP's and the assorted Soviet or Chinese tanks the Iraqi's had.

     There have been attempts to replace the Bradley but so far they have not succeeded in bumping the Bradley.
     I will have a "Berlin Wall" post showing up tomorrow since November 9th  is the day free passage was permitted by the Eger government although it was an accident.


  1. The picture of the APC with the 100 on the side is an M-114, a prototype vehicle used in Vietnam. It had rubber tracks, a round rear hatch and was quite small. The M548 you have shown is actually an M-1015, a 548 variant with power generation capability for EW shelters (like the MSQ-103 shown), they sucked.

    1. Hey Gromit;

      Yeap, the pic of the MSQ was a stock pic, the one we had in school was a 1015, but the one we had in my unit was a 548, It was sold to the shah of Iran, but when the wacky ayatollah's took control, the 548 was at the port for a couple of years until the Army took it back and converted it to the MSQ system that we had. I thought it was fun to drive although the pivot steer was nonoperational, LOL

  2. Spam in a can... I'll stick with my airplane! Got a look at both BMPs and Bradleys, thanks but no thanks!