The US Army is considered to be the most powerful army in the world and in many aspects is a formidable force. The backbone of the land forces consists of a worldwide famous M1 Abrams tanks and M2/M3 Bradley IFV/CFVs. The reputation of the invincibility was achieved by these vehicles in the conflict that took place from 1991 to 2004 as this lethal combination managed to wipe the armoured forces of Iraq and the insurgents in the Afghanistan. M2/M3 Bradley had more kills in those conflicts than any other piece of equipment and created the reputation of the best IVF/CFV in the world.
The development of the M3 Bradley has begun in the 1970’s. It was derived from the M2 Bradley IFV but differently from this model it wasn’t intended to carry the troops into the battle but to carry out the dangerous reconnaissance missions.
It has a much reduced capability to carry the infantry (only 2 men instead 6 or 7 in M2) but it can carry more ammunition for its 25 mm Bushmaster cannon and more TOW missiles.
The first version entered the service in 1981 and it was constantly upgraded over the years. The newer models have enhanced protection against the guided missiles and a fire fighting system. Also, the friend/foe identification devices have been added after the Gulf War and the communication systems are continuously upgraded to match and interlink with the communication systems on the M1 tanks and AH-64 D Apache gunships.
In the beginning the plan was to use M2/M3 Bradley vehicles as a support for the M113 APCs but over the years they replaced the latter completely and now are the main IFV/CFV option for the US armed forces.
It is expected that starting from the 2018 the M2/M3 family will be slowly replaced by the BCT family of vehicles, but it is yet to be seen.
This is a very mobile and versatile vehicle that has proven its worth in real combat situations. It has a somewhat limited radius (between 400 and 480 km on road) but it is pretty heavily armoured for its class. The armour is mostly made out of aluminium alloys to achieve the weight reduction.
The main armament consists of a 25 mm M242 chain gun with 2500 rounds and a set of 12 TOW wire guided missiles. This makes it able to tackle any ground target on the battlefield. In the First Gulf War the Bradley family of vehicles was absolutely the most successful vehicle of the conflict. They simply smashed through the ranks of the Iraqi’s T-72 tanks with the loss of only 3 Bradleys. Another 17 vehicles were destroyed in the friendly fire incidents and that caused some of the most radical improvements in the communication and identification systems.
The later conflicts, including the second campaign in Iraq and the operations in Afghanistan turned to be quite different in terms of the tactics employed so the losses were much higher.
To summarize, the M3 Bradley is still one of the best CFV/reconnaissance vehicles in the world. It is capable of inflicting some serious damage, provides a decent protection to the crew, and has the state of the art communication systems adapted to the battlefield of the 21st century.