Index Home About Blog
Newsgroups: sci.military.moderated
From: (W. Blair Haworth Jr.)
Subject: Re: Bradley Fighting Vehicle
Date: Wed, 8 Apr 1998 17:42:22 GMT

In article <>,
Greg Dean  <> wrote:

>I just saw "The Pentagon Wars" on HBO and had several questions.

>1) How accurate was the movie?

Not at all.  I was driven to take notes after the first few minutes and
got over sixty substantive errors.  The producers took Col. Burton's
simplistic but compelling memoir, dumbed it down, took dramatic licence
with a lot of things that didn't need it, goofed around with the
chronology, and apparently had a head-on collision with an office full of
libel lawyers who demanded even more blurring than there already was.  The
result is a mockery both of the very real issues surrounding the Bradley
and of Burton's very genuine display of moral courage.

I'd say it was also a piss-poor excuse for a comedy, but I'm a military
historian, not a movie critic.

>2) What were the actual problems with the Bradley and how were they

Most of the actual problems with the Bradley - aside from mechanical
teething problems that any armored vehicle has - arose from the fact that
no one really had a clear idea of what an infantry fighting vehicle was
supposed to do at the time the project was started in 1964 - it wasn't
even called that at the time; all that was really clear was that current
armored personnel carriers and armored infantry doctrine weren't going to
be well-suited to the armor-rich, artillery-rich, and likely nuclear/
biological/chemical battlefield environment expected in a putative
European war versus the Warsaw Pact.

This uncertainty led to incredible amounts of bureaucratic muddle and
intraservice chest-thumping within the Army - the movie version of _The
Pentagon Wars_ at least manages to get a little of that across, in spirit,
anyway - and kept the project on the back burner all through Vietnam, when
the Army wasn't paying a lot of attention to mechanized infantry issues
anyway.  This problem was exacerbated by a parallel muddle on the armor
side of the service, which had repeatedly failed to field a satisfactory
vehicle for its armored cavalry units.

By this time (~1975) both branches were faced with block obsolescence of
their existing vehicles, so they had to meld their requirements into what
was essentially a single vehicle, which became the Bradley.  Incorporating
all the necessary capabilities into a single chassis that had originally
been built to tight dimensional limits due to rather questionable
airportability concerns and an equally questionable requirement for
amphibious capability required a lot of tradeoffs that didn't satisfy
purists very much.

How were these problems dealt with?  A number of ways.  Some of them were
doctrinal: the Army looked for ways to exploit the capabilities of the
vehicle and nurse its limitations.  Some were technological: in
particular, various survivability enhancements were added at a cost in
weight and money.  Some were simply bureaucratically defined out of
existence.  How successful these measures has been is still the
subject of debate, some of it in this very newsgroup; see Deja News for

For that matter <ahem> you can also see W. Blair Haworth, Jr., _The Bradley
and how it got that way: mechanized infantry organization and equipment
in the U.S. Army_ (unpub diss, Duke University, 1995; available through UMI)
- or cross your fingers and wait for the book, Real Soon Now.

>3) Did any Bradley's sustain hits from enemy fire in the Gulf war and
>how did they and the crew survive those hits?

It's a hard question to answer meaningfully; BFVs of various marks served
in the theater, and a good number were hit in combat, often by weapons
and at aspects that wouldn't be survivable by main battle tanks -
Bradleys took more friendly fire than any other vehicle type.  In
general, they stood up to what they were designed to stand up to; the
debate is still whether the design requirements were appropriate.

>4) How is the Bradley perceived by U.S. Military personnel and by the
>militaries of other countries?

It depends on who you talk to.  Generalizing grossly - extremely
grossly - from my research and conversations:

	--Infantrymen who embrace light infantry paradigms think it's a
lot of foolishness.

	--Mechanized infantrymen like it because they aren't fighting from
M113s.  Whether and how it's desirable for mechanized infantry to be
_fighting_ from anything is one of those ur-questions that make
dissertations or long running-sore arguments in military fora.

	--All infantrymen worry about limited dismount strength and the
distortions the vehicle throws on infantry training.

	--Armored cavalrymen have reservations about the stealth and
survivability of the vehicle.

	--Foreigners (relatively speaking) aren't that impressed with the
Bradley, on the whole;  details will doubtless come from some of the ones
frequenting this newsgroup.


Index Home About Blog