Armor: M2 IFV More Useful Than a Tank


December 29, 2023: The United States has sent Ukraine over a hundred 30-ton M2 IFVs (Infantry fighting vehicles). These arrived in early 2023 and were armed with a 25mm autocannon and two TOW ATGMs (Anti-Tank Guided Missile) launchers as well as a coaxial (with the autocannon) 7.62mm machine-gun. M2 has a crew consisting of a driver, gunner, and vehicle commander. The M2 can also carry six infantrymen in the back, or nearly a ton of cargo

The M2s proved very effective in combat. Their night vision equipment enabled them to operate effectively at night and ambush Russian vehicles or infantry seeking to move under cover of darkness. The Russians appear to have ignored the fact that most of the armored vehicles Ukraine receives from NATO countries have night vision capability. In theory, this severely restricts Russian mobility. If there is heavy fog, especially at night, the Russians can move safely, although slowly.

The M2s are more mobile than a tank and their 25mm autocannon is more effective against infantry and light armored vehicles than the main gun of a tank. Moreover, tanks only carry a few dozen shells for their 125mm main gun compared to 600 or more 25mm shells on the M2. Ukrainian forces use their M2s frequently and nearly 20 percent of them have been lost in combat. One M2 was captured intact by the Russians, who had never had possession of an intact M2 before. Russian technical exports are examining the M2 in detail to so if they can find any unknown, to them, weaknesses.

Ukraine has also received many more of the M2’s predecessor, the M113. The M113 has been around since the early 1960s and is still used as an armored transport. The current version is the M113A3 version, which is the standard for most of the 10,000 M113s still used by the U.S. Army. The U.S. sent hundreds more M113s after Ukraine found the initial shipment suitable. About 30,000 M113s are still used by several dozen nations. Most M113s still operational are used for support roles although Israel still uses them in combat. Ukraine also found the M113 very useful as a support vehicle. For combat the M2 is far superior.

The M113 is a boxy armored vehicle that entered service in 1961 with American army armored units and from 1963 on saw combat in Vietnam. It served effectively during the Vietnam War and was the main American APC (Armored Personnel Carrier) throughout most of the Cold War. About 80,000 M113s were manufactured between 1960 and 2007. At 13 tons, although often closer to 15 tons with added armor and other accessories, the M113 is lighter than the M2 IFV (Infantry Fighting Vehicles) and wheeled Stryker that replaced it in the combat role after the 1980s.

The major shortcoming of the M113, as well as the M2, is the time and expense of keeping them running compared to wheeled armored vehicles. That’s because they run on tracks like a tank. The lighter M113 has a max speed of only 65 kilometers an hour compared to at least 100 for wheeled armored vehicles. M113 tracks wear out quickly and have to be replaced at great expense, over $10,000 a set, every 6,000 kilometers or less. Traveling on roads wears out the tracks faster. The tracks also limit how much weight you can add. All American M113s have gone through the RISE, or reliability improvements for selected equipment upgrades. This included a new, more powerful engine, several other improved mechanical components as well as new electronics. RISE began in the late 1980s when the U.S. Army had 20,000 M113s in service. Export customers carried out similar upgrades or had the Americans do it.

The M113 is still in use because it proved to be a very flexible and reliable platform, lending itself to modifications by many of the dozens of armed forces that still use it or once did. Some countries have added turrets, mounting 25mm autocannon. By the 1990s an updated M-113 cost less than $2 million each. This late model M-113 had much better armor protection and reliability but was still inferior to the M-2 that replaced it as an infantry combat vehicle.

In the 1980s the M113 was joined, but not replaced by nearly 5,000 25-ton M2 Bradley IFVs. The M2 required more maintenance to keep it operational and, like the M113, required regular track replacement after every. The M2 cost $3 million each, compared to $200,000 for a late model M113.




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