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March 22, 2023

Medium Brigade Flaws, and the Cure: The IBCT Revisited
LTC Michael K. Robel, USAR

Since our original study of the IBCT was published, there have been some developments.

  • The Light Armored Vehicle III (LAVIII) family of vehicles was selected as the interim vehicle to equip the IBCT.
  • The LAVIII weapons systems will primarily be the M2 caliber .50 heavy machine gun and the MK19 40mm Automatic Grenade Launcher.
  • An appeal was lost that sought to have the M113A3 be the interim vehicle instead of the LAVIII.
  • The first six brigades targeted for conversion to IBCTs have been identified and the process has begun. They are:
    • 2nd Brigade/25th ID (L)
    • 3rd Brigade/25th ID (L)
    • 2nd Brigade/2nd ID (M)
    • 172nd SIB (L)
    • 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment
    • An unidentified National Guard Brigade

These decisions, have ignited some additional debate about the IBCT and so we have decided to present some additional analysis. This paper will:

  • Compare the physical characteristics of the M113 Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) / M8 Armored Gun System (AGS) with the LAV III variants.
  • Discuss the ability to move the IBCT equipment via C-130
  • Determine the ability to strategically deploy the IBCT by air in 96 hours or less.
  • Determine the sustainability of the IBCT via air, and
  • Contrast the simulated performance of an M113/M8 IBCT with a LAVIII IBCT against an Opposing Force (OPFOR) Motorized Rifle Regiment using Shrapnel Game's Brigade Combat Team.


    Vehicle Characteristics Comparison

    Table 1 contrasts selected statistics of the LAVIII versus the M113/M8.

    Vehicle Length(inches) Width(inches) Height(inches) Weight (pounds) Armor1 (mm) Speed(mph) Fuel(gal) Range(miles) Weapon Ammo Capacity
    LAVIII2 - .50 cal 273 105 106 38,000 60/45/35 60 53 312 .50/40mm AGL 400
    M113A33 191.5 105.75 86.5 23,8804 12-445 41 95 483 .50/40mm AGL 1995
    LAVIII-AG 325 104.72 105.9 38,000 60/45/35 60 53 312 105mm 30
    M8AGS6 331 106 100 38,500 60/45/30 45 150 300 105mm 30
    Table 1 M113, M8, and LAV III Comparison

    The protection of both series of vehicles, without appliqué armor, appears to be about equal - protection against small arms up to about 12.7mm and 152mm shell burst within about 50 meters. There are appliqué armor suites available for both series of vehicles that raise the protection level to hand held anti-tank rockets and perhaps 20 - 30 mm automatic cannon rounds. Addition of these suites pushes both series of vehicles out of the C-130 transport capability and in the case of the LAV, would significantly reduce its mobility.

    In order to transport the appliqué kits, several would have to be loaded onto a separate aircraft and married up with the vehicles at the arrival air field and installed onto the vehicles. This would add to the complexity, timing, and numbers of aircraft required for the airlift.

    The LAV has the serious additional shortcoming and vulnerability of tires. Tires are easier to damage than tracks, and even though they are equipped to run flat, the vehicle could scarcely be considered capable of doing more than running for cover after the loss of more than one. In fact, SBIR project catalog (Solicitation 2001.2) states (emphasis added):

    "The Army's Objective Force will make extensive use of wheeled vehicles in both tactical and combat roles. Future vehicles must traverse soft and complex terrain that heretofore was the exclusive domain of tracked vehicles. Continuous operational speeds greater than 50 mph across rough terrain with highway dash speeds reaching 100 mph are required. the army's required operational tempo does not tolerate delays due to flat tires or minor damage from small arms. Differential wheel speed steering will be used to augment steering and requires tailoring wheel-tire stiffness to achieve optimal steering performance. While the latest pneumatic run flat technology being developed by the automotive tire industry may be sufficient for on-road commercial use, this technology is woefully inadequate to meet the continuous operational needs of the army's objective force."

    Killing power of the vehicles is equal, since they all use the same weapons. The M8 AGS mounts a low pressure 105mm and the LAVIII Mobile Gun System (MGS) appears to mount the 105mm M68A1 cannon as used on the M60 and M1 series tanks. Likely recoil problems exist for the LAVIII-MGS due to the high center of gravity of the vehicle.

    The LAV has an edge in road speed over the tracked vehicles, but this is probably balanced out by a greater range and off road performance for the tracks because of the tracked vehicle's lower ground pressure. The LAV's logistical footprint is slightly smaller given the smaller fuel capacity, but this is offset by the greater range of the M113.

    The M113 is widely available in the United States Army, other armies, and still in production in various versions. In fact, US Army Europe already uses the M113A3 as part of its quick reaction force, in August 2000 a unit, based on the 1-18 Infantry from the 1st Infantry Division deployed via C-130 from Schweinfurt to Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo in less than 48 hours7. Its widespread use makes it more likely a deployed force could get logistics support from an allied nation.

    The XM-8 was type classified, but was cancelled before production could begin. As of 1998, it was being considered for use by Turkey, but that buy apparently came to naught8. Presumably, United Defense still has the ability to begin producing the vehicle. A similar vehicle, the Stingray, is in service with Thailand.

    While General Motors Canada produces the LAVIII, the variants required for the IBCT are present only in prototype form. The vehicles currently being fielded are not the versions that were ordered in the recent contract award. General Dynamics is not currently capable of producing this vehicle.



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