Tank Battles

I’m feeling poorly today, so here a “best of..” post from way back in the very early days of the blog.

I wrote earlier about bringing enough gun to the fight, but not too much. A prime example of this was the M-1 Abrams tank.

When this tank debuted, people were aghast at the cost. What they didn’t realize was it was acutally the result of an extreme cost cutting program. For 20 years, the Army had been cooperating with Germany to develop a sucessor to the M-60 series of tanks, but each iteration had become too complex and too costly. The Army finally decided that they would develop a tank using technology shared with the Germans rather than develop a tank to be used by both countries.

One of the sticking points was the main gun. The standard US tank gun was the 105mm M68. The Army thought this was sufficient to defeat current and projected Soviet armor (and were pretty much right).

The Germans had developed the excellent 120mm smoothbore, and wanted both countries tanks to use it. Our Army resisted for a couple of reasons. The biggest was cost. The new gun would have to be license produced here, with associated setup costs. Even more expensive would be providing stocks of ammunition for the gun. The Army had a huge stockpile of 105mm ammunition already. Buying an entirely new stockpile in the tight budgets of the 1970s wasn’t an attractive option.

In the end, the 105mm won-sort of. The decision was to place the M-1 into production with the 105mm, but make provision to add the 120mm in the future. As it turned out, for various reasons, this was a lot harder than anyone expected. Still, partly as a sop to our German allies, and partly over concern about the ability of the 105mm to defeat future Soviet armor, the 120mm was adopted for the M1A1 that entered service in 1988.

One disadvantage of the 120mm was a reduced ammo load. An M-1 with the 105mm carries 55 main gun rounds. An M-1A1 carries 40. As it turns out, however, few tanks will shoot their entire basic load in a single battle. In fact, not a single tank in Desert Storm fired its entire basic load.

Tankers, ever wonder why the coax on your tank has that massive 4000 round load? Because that’s where the designers originally wanted to put the 25mm M242. The only reason it didn’t make it into the final design was cost. Leaving the 25mm out saved about $100,000 just for the gun, and made the fire-control system simpler, and hence cheaper. 

Mechanized Leaders Course at Ft Benning

You get another video, because I can’t really think of anything interesting to post about today.

A couple interesting notes- you get to see troops disassembling the M242 25mm gun, and if you look closely, you’ll get some idea of why they call it a chain gun.

You’ll also see them trying to put the thing back into the turret of an M2A2.  When I went to Ft. Benning for the Master Gunner’s course, the second thing you have to do is pass a Gunnery Skills Test. Now, one of the tests is to put in and take out the M240C coaxially mounted machine gun. No problem, thought I. Well, small problem. All my experience was on the M2A1. I’d never even been in the turret of an M2A2. And the mount for the coax on an M2A2 is completely different. Before I even got on the vehicle, I looked at the test proctor and said, “Sergeant, Can’t I test on the other vehicle? I’ve never even seen the mount on one of these!”

“Why, Sergeant, we’re gonna give you two whole minutes to figure it out!”

Two minutes being the time allotted for the whole task…

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Bushmaster 30mm Cannon

For about 20 years, the Marines have been working on a replacement for their AAV-7 amphibious assault vehicle.  On the cusp of being put into production is the EFV, or Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.

Main armament of the EFV is a 30mm Bushmaster cannon. This is a souped up version of the 25mm M242 Bushmaster on Bradleys.

Ironically, just as the Marines have solved most of the problems they have faced in developing the EFV, it is likely to be cancelled after the latest Quadrennial Defense Review as a cost saving measure.

H/T: MCPO Airdale at the H2.

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A little more Bushmaster…

We’ve talked before about the Bradley’s main gun, the M242 Bushmaster 25mm cannon. The M242 is also mounted on the Marine Corps Light Armored Vehicle family of wheeled APCs. Additionally, the Navy uses the Bushmaster.

Several years ago, the Navy realized that their large combatant ships were very well equipped to sink the ships of just about any other Navy. What they weren’t equipped to deal with were small boats swarming around them in confined waters such as the Persian Gulf. Even before the suicide small boat attack on the USS Cole in December 2000, the Navy realized the dangers small boats could pose to large ships. But 5″ guns and Harpoon missiles aren’t the best weapons to defeat that threat. What you need is a smaller, faster firing gun. The first weapons mounted were old standbys, such as the M-60 machine gun, and that old reliable, the M2 .50 cal machine gun. But machine guns have a fairly short range, limited penetration against even fiberglass hulled boats, and aren’t terribly accurate when fired from a moving platform. Something bigger was needed.  And in stepped the Bushmaster. The Navy quickly developed a simple mount for the 25mm gun that could be bolted to the deck of a ship. The Mk38 mount could be operated by one man, was fairly inexpensive (compared to shooting a Harpoon at a Boston Whaler), and was quick to produce. And since they could be bolted to the deck, they could also be unbolted, and shifted from ship to ship. That meant the Navy only needed to buy enough to equip those ships that were in harm’s way. As ships entered the Persian Gulf, they would swap out the guns with those that were leaving. That meant the Navy didn’t have to buy a whole lot of guns.


As you watch the video, you’ll notice that even on a  large ship, there’s quite a bit of motion, and that mak es aiming the weapon difficult. And even with a gun as great as the 25mm, if you don’t hit the target, you’re not doing much good.  Something better was needed.  The gun itself was fine, but the mount left a lot to be desired.

Enter the Mk 38 Mod 2 mount. It is still a bolt-on mount, but it is quite a bit more sophisticated. Instead of being manually aimed, it is a remotely operated system, on a stabilized mount, with an electro-optical sighting system for day and night use.  By stabilizing the mount (much like the gun stabilization on a Bradley), the pitch, heave and roll of the ship no longer effects the aim. This increases the effective range of the weapon greatly. And of course, now with the E/O sight added, it can be used at night. As an added benefit, the system is now run from the ships Combat Information Center. The display from the sight can be used for surveillance, not just aiming the weapon.


The Mk 38 Mod 2 will be a self-protection weapon aboard US ships such as guided missile cruisers and destroyers operating in confined waters such as the Persian Gulf.

The M242’s bigger brother, the 30mm Mk46 will serve as secondary armament on board amphibious ships such as the LPD-17 class and the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS).

The Bradley IFV

We love posting YouTube videos. Mostly because it is easier than writing, but also because the truth about a picture being worth a thousand words.

By far the funnest, and most rewarding job I had in the Army was as a Bradley Commander. While life wasn’t exactly like the video (somehow, the videos don’t spend a lot of time showing Brads on the washrack in the winter…), it had its moments. I had a couple pleasant flashbacks to fun on the range and out in the boonies.


Road Trip

We’ll be out of town the next day or two, so no posting. Sorry.

In the interim, here’s a little something to tide you over. Our best tour in the Army was in the 4th Infantry Division, rising to the position of a section leader for a section of two Bradleys. In garrison, we were responsible for the crews, training, and maintenance of both vehicles. In the field, the Platoon Leader took command of the other Bradley, and we worked as his wingman.  Here’s a good look at some of the firepower and mobility of a Bradley. Lots of nice shots of the 25mm and the TOW missile system.


There’s some obvious Iraq footage, and some from operational units, but a lot of the footage seems to come from the 29th Infantry at Ft. Benning. The 29th is the demonstration unit at the Infantry School. They provide the vehicles for basic training for infantrymen, and troops for young infantry officers at school to practice with. They also periodically provide firepower demonstrations to VIPs to show what the taxpayers are getting for their money.

Knock! Knock!

People sometimes ask me what my favorite job in the Army was. By far the best was being a Bradley Commander. Why? Well, here’s a little taste of what a BC does for a living.

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more about “Knock! Knock!“, posted with vodpod
No, this isn’t me.
H/T: The Jawa Report, with thanks to Vmaximus for giving me the heads up.

Rules are written in blood…

Did I ever tell you about the time I killed 97 American soldiers?

I’m not going to write all the doctrinal manuals here for you. Just trust me when I say that there’s a lot of them. Doctrinal manuals spell out how the Army conducts its operations. And every rule in them is written in blood. These are the lessons learned in 233 years of American soldiers fighting. One of the rules talks about crossing into and out of friendly lines. As in, you should coordinate with people before you do it.

We were in the Pinion Canyon Maneuver Training Center in Southern Colorado. The company was set in the defense. In the morning, we expected a battalion to come crashing down on us, trying to break through our lines. We figured that before the onslaught of tanks and Bradleys came, the enemy would try to infiltrate some dismounted infantry into our position. They would be tasked to pinpoint our defense and possibly to attrit a few vehicles at the start of the battle. That meant we stayed up all night, scanning the area with the thermal sights on the Bradleys (our own dismounts had moved forward towards the enemy position in an attempt to locate the main effort of their attack and give us early warning. Once they spotted them, they could call in artillery missions on them).

So it comes to pass that while my driver is sleeping in his seat, and my gunner is in the back of the vehicle catching some much needed rest, I look through the thermal sights and see quite a large number of dismounted infantrymen approaching. They are about 2 kilometers away. They are in a column formation, which isn’t the best way to disperse a crowd of grunts, but it is the easiest way to navigate at night. No sense getting everyone lost! I didn’t count noses, but I could tell this was quite a crowd. I knew our company had only put about two dozen grunts forward, and this was  a lot more than that.

I called the CO on the radio and told him what we had. I mentioned that they didn’t seem to be taking any particular efforts to hide or conceal themselves.

The CO called back, “Kill ’em.” So I fired up the 25mm (hooked up to MILES gear, of course) and lit them up. You could see them jump around and reach for the keys to turn of the squealing of their MILES harnesses. I zapped every one of them. Easy as pie.

Pretty soon, the radio net started heating up. There were some very unhappy people out there. It turns out, we had been augmented by a National Guard light infantry company. They had gone forward to perform a raid on the enemy and to strip away his dismounts. The only problem was, they didn’t bother to tell anyone what they were up to. Nor did they tell us that they would be coming back through our lines. My CO had a pretty good idea it was them when I called him, but had me fire them up anyway. The lesson they learned was one the parents of any teenager has taught- be sure to let us know where you’re going and when you’ll be home!