October 19, 2004
Armored warfare is not just about tanks. Infantry fighting vehicles (IFV) often fight alongside tanks, carrying infantry to deal with enemy infantry and anti-tank weapons.
The United States uses the M2 Bradley. The Bradley carries a three-man crew (driver, gunner, and commander) and six infantrymen. It carries a 25mm Bushmaster cannon, two ready-to-fire BGM-71 TOW (Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided) missiles (six more are stowed), and a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun. The infantrymen can also fire their M16 or M4 assault rifles through firing ports. A cavalry variant, the M3 Bradley, is used for scouting, with a two-man squad and twelve TOWs stowed. The Bradley is able to fight against opposing tanks and win.
The British use the Warrior. The Warrior has a more powerful 30mm cannon and a coaxial machine gun (7.62mm), but it does not mount an anti-tank missile mounted on it. The Warrior carries a seven-man squad. The major export variant is the Kuwaiti Desert Warrior with a 25mm cannon and a TOW launcher. The British are planning an upgrade to keep Warrior going through 2025. This involves adding a new 40mm gun and the ability to fire on the move. The M2/M3 Bradley vehicles have been able to do this from their introduction.
France uses the AMX-10. This vehicle entered service in 1973, and is still going strong. It carries an eight-man squad, and is armed with a 20mm cannon, a 7.62 coaxial machine gun. The AMX-10P has been exported to a number of other countries, most notably several of the Persian Gulf States (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE).
Germanys IFV is the Marder. The Marder is 34 years old one of the oldest IFVs in the world. Like the AMX-10P, it has a 20mm cannon and a 7.62mm machine gun in a tower firing in the rear arc. Unlike the AMX-10P and Warrior, it can carry an ATGM, the French Milan. Milan is also man-portable so the Marders six-man squad can take it with them. Marder is slated to be replaced by the Puma, with a 30mm cannon with a new airburst munition. Puma is still in development and can be transported on the A400M cargo plane.
Russia has two major IFVs: The BMP and the BMD. The BMP was designed for the Soviet infantry forces in the 1960s. It has a three-man crew and carries eight soldiers. With a 73mm gun, a 7.62mm machine gun, and an AT-3 Sagger, it was the best infantry fighting vehicle in the world when introduced. The BMP-2, first seen publicly in 1982, replaced the 73mm gun with a 30mm gun, and the AT-3 anti-tank missile was replaced with the AT-5. The BMP-3 is the current version, and features a 100mm gun (capable of firing laser-guided anti-tank missiles in addition to shells similar to those used by the T-55 tank), with a 30mm gun mounted coaxially and a 7.62mm machine gun also mounted coaxial. It entered public view in 1990. The BMP-2 and BMP-3 carry seven infantrymen.
The BMD series are for the airborne troops. The BMD-1 has the similar armament suite as the BMP-1, but is able to be dropped from a cargo aircraft (most likely an Il-76 or an An-22) with the crew inside. The BMD-2 carries an armament suite similar to that of the BMP-2. The BMD-3 is larger and heavier than the BMD-1 and BMD-2, and carries an upgraded armament package (in addition to the BMD-2s 30mm gun, 7.62mm coaxial machine gun, and AT-5 missile launcher, it also carries an AGS-17 automatic grenade launcher and an PRK light machine gun). In essence, the BMD gives Russian airborne forces a credible anti-armor capability.
China operates a variant of the BMP, the WZ 501. The WZ 501 carries the 73mm gun of the BMP-1, and adds the Red Arrow 73 missile (a Chinese version of the AT-3 Sagger). Like the BMP-1, it has an eight-man infantry squad and a three-man crew.
The best of these systems is probably the M2/M3, due to the extensive success the Bradley has had in Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom. The Warrior also has seen action in these wars, but the Bradleys edge comes in its ability to fire on the move, and the integral anti-tank missiles. IFVs are not supposed to fight tanks, but in war, things that are not supposed to happen have a disturbing tendency to happen. With its turret-mounted TOWs, the Bradley is able to handle things if it runs into enemy tanks. The ability to fire on the move is another asset hitting a target on a battlefield is hard enough when the target stands still. A moving target is even harder to hit. This is not denigrating other infantry fighting vehicles, but the Bradley is the best of a superb lineup of infantry fighting vehicles. Harold C. Hutchison (email@example.com)