Armor: Timeless Usefulness

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December 5, 2016: Lithuania is buying 168 M577 APCs (Armored Personnel Carriers) from Germany for $10,000 each. The Germans were about to retire these vehicles, which is why they cost so little for fellow NATO member Lithuania. M577s are unarmed armored support vehicles with a higher profile (in the rear passenger area, so a commander and his staff can stand up. M577s are a variant of the M113 APC. Over 7,000 M577s were built since the early 1960s, as one of several variants of the popular M113. M577s have proved very useful and versatile and Lithuania plans to use them for all manner of support functions (command, medical and moving personnel and supplies.

Dating from the 1950s over 80,000 M113s were manufactured through the 1990s. About a quarter of those are still in use with the armed forces of some fifty countries. There have been 40 variants of the 13-15 ton M113, for chores like mortar carriers, air defense, command, carrying cargo, and so on in addition to the basic job of carrying troops on the battlefield. Upgrading older M113s to the much improved M113A3 standard, and conversions to variants, has been a big business for decades. The basic M113 is sturdy, reliable, amphibious and flexible and that is why it has survived for so long.

Until 2007 the U.S. Army still used over 10,000 M113 armored personnel carriers. These vehicles were mainly used for command posts (M577), mortar carriers, battlefield ambulances and combat transports. Since 2007 over a thousand American M113s were upgraded with better armor protection, night vision gear and better engines. These included 334 M577s versions and 66 Mortar Carriers. The M577 command post versions, which are jammed full of computers and communications gear, enable commanders to keep planning operations even as they move with their M-1 tanks and M-2 infantry fighting vehicles. The mortar carrier uses a 120mm weapon that provides mechanized units with instant artillery firepower.

The M577 can quickly be converted to a battlefield ambulance. That’s because the M577 is already unarmed (required by the international agreements), has an auxiliary generator (to power any medical equipment, including air conditioning, while the vehicle engine is turned off) and storage space on top, which is usually where the tent is kept (for command staffs to set up as an extension of the vehicle). That tent can still be used for M577 ambulances used as mini-hospitals. Battlefield medical care have been revolutionized since the 1990s with medics performing more surgical procedures. After the Cold War ended West European nations downsized their armed forces and sold off a lot of unneeded armored vehicles cheap. The M577 was always sought after by those who appreciated the vehicles timeless usefulness.

 


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