In the comments of our Bradley gallery below, frequent commenter GaigeM asks what I would like to see added to the Bradley:
If you could improve that Brad in any way, how would you? Trying to get a feel for what would be the next generation of AFV/IFV (with symmetrical warfare in mind).
Gaige, most of the improvements I’d like to see have been made. My biggest heartburn (as a dismount) was the seating in the back. It made sense when the Army thought the Firing Port Weapons would be important. But they were almost never used. Keeping the complex seating into the A2 variant, which only had the ramp weapons, was lunacy. In any event, the ODS variant introduced bench seating that made a lot of sense.
Improvements to the fire control system went far beyond what I thought it really needed. A laser rangefinder was nice, in that several Brads took TOW shots at targets beyond max range. That was never really a problem with the gun. Now, the fire control system, with a LRF and a lead-generating computer ensure first round hits, in a system comparable to the M1’s fire control. This never struck me as terribly important when the main gun is an auto-cannon. The addition of a Commander’s Independent Thermal Vision sight, with its ability to hand-off targets is very nice. I just wish there was a more elegant place to put it than sticking up like an afterthought.
As for the comm/nav/C3 installation (either BFT or FCBC2), that’s pretty neat, what little I know if it, and I especially like that there is a panel in back for the squad leader to gain situational awareness. In the bad old days, there were theoretically headsets for the dismounts to listen to the intercom, both for fire commands for the FPWs, and to maintain situational awareness, but they never worked (if you plugged them in, they tended to drain so much signal strength that the driver couldn’t hear the intercom, or even the crew in the turret). Even if they did work, it’s a poor substitute for a visual presentation. After all, seeing is believing.
For the hull, we’re rapidly approaching the max weight we can add without suffering some serious drawbacks in performance. We’ve already souped up the engine from the original 500hp to 600hp, just to keep the nominal speed up to 42mph. As a result, you aren’t going to be able to add a lot in the way of armor. Some critics have complained that the Brad’s armor won’t stop anti-tank weapons. That’s not the point. The point is that very few anti-tank weapons will cause a catastrophic loss of the vehicle so quickly that the crew doesn’t have time to escape. To date, the Army has written off 55 Brads in Iraq. That’s an entire battalion’s worth, but it would be interesting to know just how many were casualties. I suspect it is pretty low, especially compared to Humvees.
As for the armament, might as well get rid of the last two FPWs in the ramp, if they haven’t already. I used to wish there was a commander’s weapon on a cupola around his hatch, but now I’m undecided. I’ve heard that some Brads have had the TOW system replaced with a two-round Javelin launcher, so they can “fire and forget.” That trades a little range and lethality for the ability to shift targets faster. Not sure I’d want to see the whole fleet go that way (I’d rather see Javelin seekers built into a TOW body instead), nor even sure how many have had this done. It may just be a test program. Can’t think of any changes to the co-ax I’d like.
As for the main gun, the 25mm Bushmaster… It’s pretty long in the tooth. I’d really like to see it replaced with something along the lines of the 4omm on a CV-90. Failing that, I’d at least like to see the 30mm MK46 chain-gun. But you can’t just throw one in a turret and slap it on a Bradley. There’s a relationship to gun size and turret ring diameter, and I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be able to enlarge the turret ring diameter on a Bradley hull to fit it. Now, you mentioned this in the context of a next-generation vehicle, I think it’s pretty likely we’ll see a bigger gun. In the next-gen vehicle, we’ll also likely see a greater electrical generation capacity. And a battery charger.