Even well-serviced vehicles must suffer the pangs of age and wear, however, and the pace of electronics breakthroughs is far faster than the Army’s vehicle replacement cycle. The US Army plans to keep its Bradley fleet for some time to come, and new technologies have made it wise to upgrade part of that fleet while renewing the vehicles. Hence the remanufacture program, which complements the restore-only RESET programs.
In an ideal world, the Army’s 30 year old Bradley would be at the tail end of its service life, and a new fleet of Infantry Fighting Vehicles would be entering service right about now.
Alas, ’tis an imperfect world we inhabit. First, there just really isn’t enough money to buy a new fleet. The Army’s first attempt at replacing the Bradley was an overly ambitious program that looked to replace not just the Brad but several vehicles with a common platform. The Future Combat System was a “system of systems” that would cover everything from infantry, armor and artillery vehicles to networking systems and UAVs. Not surprisingly the program collapsed under its own weight.
The current Ground Combat Vehicle program looks an awful lot like “Son of FCS” in terms of vehicles. Plus, while there is enough money to keep the program ticking over, there’s certainly not enough money to buy a whole new fleet.
The other big thing that argues against buying a new fleet is that the Bradley (and the Abrams) still gets the job done. It is no longer overmatched against threat vehicles, but it is still quite capable.
The fleet has been put to hard use, but the money is there to reset the fleet to mitigate a lot of the wear and tear 8 years of war in Iraq imposed. Ideally, the money could be found to bring the fleet to a uniform configuration of the latest model the M2A3/M3A3. That’s unlikely to happen. The older M2A2-ODS(v) family will serve quite a bit longer.
But even if the Bradley fleet can be restored, mechanically, to a sound basis, that doesn’t mean the fleet can continue indefinitely. There’s a very real limit to how much more can be done in terms of improvements and upgrades. There are limits to the electrical power available (and all those fancy new network systems suck up the electrons pretty quick) and there are space limitations as well. Adding all the electronic equipment into the turret has made an already crowded environment more than a little snug. Add in the fact that crews now have to wear bulky body armor in a space that wasn’t designed for it, and pretty soon, a gunner or BC won’t be able to enter or exit the vehicle.