Is the Bradley due for upgunning?

Developed in the 1960s and 1970s, and entering service in the 1980s, the M2/M3 Bradley series of fighting vehicles was designed to counter first generation Soviet BMP and BTR series vehicles. As such, the Army equipped it with the 25mm M242 Bushmaster chain gun. The M242 performed very well against Russian and Chinese built armored vehicles in Desert Storm, and later in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

But the threat is not static. More and more, infantry carriers and other armored vehicles are getting bigger and bigger, and carrying more and more armor. And small anti-tank missile teams are employing longer ranged missiles. The armor piercing ammunition for the M242 has been improved, but there is little room for growth. To achieve more armor penetration, the Bradley will simply need a larger gun. And to that end, the Army is experimenting with a 30mm autocannon.

The 30mm Mk44 Bushmaster II gun isn’t new. It’s been around in various forms for almost as long as its little 25mm brother. It was intended to be the main armament of the cancelled Marine Corps Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle. And it is mounted as secondary armament on the Navy’s LCS and LPD-17 ships. Various foreign powers have evaluated or adopted it. So adapting it to the Bradley would seem to be a simple matter.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-0WDES6HoU]

But it isn’t quite that simple.

The Bradley was designed with the smaller 25mm in mind. The size of the gun here wasn’t so important. The gun and its mount are in the gunhouse portion of the turret, above the hull of the vehicle proper. The size of the gunhouse itself wasn’t critical.

But the ammunition cans for the gun are stored inside the turret basket. That’s the part of the turret, the ammo system, turret drives, and support that extends down inside the vehicle, and rotates on a roller path on the bottom of the hull.  And the turret basket size, essentially its diameter, went far to fixing the exact size of the Bradley.

You can simply put a new turret on the Bradley, with the same size turret basket. The 30mm round isn’t that much larger than the 25mm. 25mm ammo is 13.7 centimeters long. The Bushmaster II 30mm ammo is 17.3cm long.

But that extra inch or so of length cuts into the crew space of the Bradley. Already fairly cramped when designed, the turret crew space has further been crowded by installation of additional electronics, fire control, and networking equipment. An inch doesn’t seem much, but even my relatively small 5’10” frame, when seated in the commanders seat, had my knees in uncomfortable contact with the ammunition cans.

We’ll see if the Army decides to pay to upgrade the Bradley, search instead for a whole new vehicle, or just continue to move along with what we have and hope for the best.

13 thoughts on “Is the Bradley due for upgunning?”

  1. Great details. These are the kind of things policy makers (or other amateurs like myself) simply don’t know and don’t take into account.

  2. Hmm, if 137mm to 173mm is an issue for overall length, I guess both the L/60 and L/70 variants of the venerable Bofors 40mm are right out (311mm and 364mm respectively).

    That OTO-Breda Fast Forty looks like a nasty beast against anything other than an MBT. Besides, being a huge WWII naval buff, bringing back the Bofors in any capacity works for me.

    1. Is selecting a shorter crew (ala the Soviet Union tank corp) a possibility? I can’t see the Army getting the funding to upgrade all the Bradleys needed.

      1. Not really. That would pretty much require revamping the entire Army personnel system. Not to mention the fact that actual assignement as a crewmember takes place at the platoon level.

        Are we going to bar tall Lieutenants from being in the Infantry?

        Couple that with the trend that pretty much everyone is getting bigger.

  3. We need the ammo in a bustle behind the turret, then some sort of feed around the edge to the gun up front. There is just no other way with that size turret ring.

  4. Brad,

    Good summation of the issue.

    A couple of more considerations…..

    1. Change ammo storage to vertical rather than horizontal and modify the feed system chutes.

    2. While you are restricted by the turret ring there is another vaiable. The additional weight (a larger gun will result in a weight difference) may cause an issue with the engine and/or transmission-drive train.

    3. The fire control systems will have to be swapped out…to include the ballistic sights since they are calibrated to the 25mm.

    4. Don’t get me started on the repair parts & tool swap outs, bore site equipment, training devices, manuals which have to change.

    Oh, and at 6’1″ and 210 pounds, the M2A1 turret was already too small!

  5. I would keep the 25mm for a while longer while working on a new vehicle (while hoping that we could keep it simple…). The basic gun and weapons available are still pretty lethal against any APC/IFV out there. If we are worried about lack of penetration for heavier armor, we could either add extra Javelins to the basic load or add both Javelins and an additional CLU to each platoon. Bradley turret is WAY too small when you put a BFT/FBCB2 and a large Soldier with body armor on. Even the turret hatches are too small for anyone with armor on to get in or out.

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