The upgraded M2A4 infantry fighting vehicle and the updated M7A4 reconnaissance aircraft on the Bradley platform have passed the first stages of checks and made it to military trials. At the Fort Hood base in Texas, tests started in real-life conditions in the combat unit. In the near future, the testers and the military will have to determine all the technical, combat and operational characteristics of the updated armored vehicle, as well as correct the identified shortcomings.
Technique on trial
According to the Pentagon, in mid-October, two types of armored vehicles were delivered to the Fort Hood base. The conduct of military tests was entrusted to the soldiers and officers of the 1st battalion of the 12th cavalry regiment from the 3rd brigade of the “new look” of the 1st cavalry division. The activities are carried out with the participation and supervision of the Operational Test Command (OTC).
Representatives of the OTC brought the battalion personnel up to date and trained in the operation of the updated equipment. Then the tests began in the conditions of the landfill. The servicemen drove M2A4 and M7A4 vehicles, used optics and weapon controls, etc. The landing was also carried out. Some of these tests simulated real combat operations, which made it possible to fully assess the operation of the equipment.
According to Pentagon reports, the personnel are satisfied with the upgraded equipment and highly appreciate the proposed innovations. At the same time, project developers and the military department rely not only on the responses of the military. During the tests on the experimental machines, control and recording equipment was present. At the end of the military tests, the OTC will collect all the feedback from the operators and analyze the data from the recording equipment. Based on this information, ways of further refinement of the technique will be determined.
Solutions to problems
Back in the 2000s, the M2 Bradley BMP and vehicles based on it faced typical problems. The nature of modern warfare required increased protection, which led to an increase in the mass of combat. The consequence of this was an increase in the load on the power plant and chassis – with a corresponding loss of mobility and an increase in certain risks. In addition, it was required to develop a complex of weapons, communications, etc.
In the early tenths, the ECP1 (Engineering Change Proposals) project was prepared, which made it possible to solve some of the problems. It provided for the use of reinforced torsion bars and other elements of the chassis; also used lightweight tracks. These measures made it possible to improve the characteristics of the suspension and partially compensate for the existing increase in combat weight.
The ECP project of the second stage included the modernization of the power plant and transmission. New automated control systems for these units were proposed. In addition, the final ECP2 project included new protective equipment with increased characteristics, modern communications and command and control facilities, new viewing devices, etc.
The modernization of the existing equipment of the M2 family under the ECP1 project started by the middle of the last decade; in 2015, the first updated armored vehicles returned to service. In June 2018, BAE Systems was awarded a contract for the modernization of ECP2. The first vehicles of this order are now used as part of military trials. After revision according to ECP, the vehicle index is supplemented with the letters “A4”, regardless of the basic model.
List of changes
ECP projects include increased protection, replacement of the power unit, modernization of the chassis and the introduction of modern communications. They do not affect weapons or other targeted equipment. Thanks to this, according to one project, it is possible to update the M2 Bradley linear infantry fighting vehicles and the M7 B-FiST reconnaissance armored vehicles unified with them.
In the ECP / A4 projects, the vehicle’s own armor is regularly supplemented with mounted reactive armor units of the BRAT II type (Bradley Reactive Armor Tiles). With their help, the frontal and side projections of the hull, as well as the front sections of the tower, are closed. It is planned to install an Israeli-developed Iron Fist active protection complex. It is assumed that such measures will protect against all typical threats.
Diesel engine Cummins VTA-903T 600 hp replaced by a new product with a capacity of 675 hp. While maintaining the specific power at the level of M2 of the first modification, such an engine allows to increase the combat weight by 4-5 tons. The engine is complemented by an automatic transmission L3 Harris HMPT-800-3ECB, corresponding to the new loads. Reinforced torsion bars and shock absorbers compensate for the increase in combat weight, and also increase the ground clearance to 510 mm. This is expected to improve mine protection to some extent.
New electronic means provide voice communication and data transmission between infantry fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers and other equipment. Communication systems are fully integrated with reconnaissance and fire control equipment. M2A4 and M7A4 are fully integrated into the current command and control systems with all the necessary capabilities.
After modernization, the M2A4 BMP retains its previous armament in the form of a 25-mm automatic cannon, a coaxial machine gun and a launcher for TOW missiles. The troop compartment accommodates seven fighters. BRM M7A4 still carries a turret with machine gun and cannon armament and an optical reconnaissance complex. The modernization of the latter has not yet been reported.
The upgraded BMP and BRM differ from the previous modifications by a slight increase in size due to the presence of hinged protection modules. Combat weight reaches the level of 36.2-36.3 tons. At the same time, running, speed and dynamic characteristics remain the same.
According to the 2018 contract, BAE Systems must supply 164 M2A4 and M7A4 armored vehicles, rebuilt from existing equipment of old modifications. The first samples under this contract have already been handed over to the customer and are used in tests. Completion of the order will take several more years and will allow re-equipping several formations of ground forces.
Even at the stage of factory testing and development of experimental equipment, the following contract was signed. In October 2019, BAE Systems received a second order for 168 units. technology. According to various sources, this time we are talking only about infantry fighting vehicles, and it will take some time to complete this contract.
It should be noted that the existing two orders will allow the modernization of only 332 armored vehicles – only a small part of the available fleet. According to open data, in the combat units of the United States there are now more than 2500 M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles of all modifications and approx. 330 BRM M7 B-FiST, not counting a significant amount of equipment in storage. Thus, in the coming years, the army will be able to carry out only limited modernization of motorized infantry units, and the bulk of the fleet will continue to be BMP and BRM of previous modifications.
Apparently, as the serial modernization continues, new orders for tens and hundreds of armored vehicles will appear. The equipment of the Bradley family will remain in service at least until the early thirties, and by that time it will be possible to upgrade most of the BMP and BRM, if not the entire available fleet.
However, before the launch of a full-scale modernization, it is necessary to carry out all stages of testing and fine-tuning of structures. Right now, at the Fort Hood base, equipment is being tested in real-life conditions, and in the near future OTC will have to prepare the final version of the project, according to which full-scale work on armored vehicles will go. Apparently, no fundamental innovations are foreseen, and the serial M2A4 and M7A4 will not seriously differ from those tested now.