For the first time in decades, the Army is fielding a new capability to support infantry units: the M10 Booker Combat Vehicle.
The service unveiled the vehicle this week at the Pentagon in a briefing to reporters. The M10, which took four years to select and procure, resembles something between a Soviet BMP-2 amphibious infantry fighting vehicle and a small Abrams tank.
Named for two soldiers who died in combat but might have survived with heavier support, the M10 will deploy to help infantry brigades start or finish fights on the battlefields of the 21st century. It is part of a larger push to update how the Army travels to combat, and fights when there.
"The M10 Booker is an armored vehicle that is intended to support our Infantry Brigade Combat Teams by suppressing and destroying fortifications, gun systems and trench routes, and then secondarily providing protection against enemy armored vehicles," said Maj. Gen. Glenn Dean, program executive officer of Army Ground Combat Systems.
On Thursday, Dean and Doug Bush, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, talked with reporters at the Pentagon about the new vehicle and how it came to be named.
While not the first Army vehicle to be named for two people -- the Army's Stryker bears that distinction -- the Booker is the first to be named for a post-9/11 veteran, Staff Sgt. Stevon Booker, who was killed in action in Iraq on April 5, 2003, during the Thunder Run in Baghdad.
Booker, who was with an Abrams tank, was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
The Booker Combat Vehicle is also named for Robert Booker, who was awarded the Medal of Honor after being killed in action while under heavy machine-gun fire in Tunisia on April 9, 1943, during World War II.
The nature of both soldiers' valor -- killed during violent infantry combat, one alongside an Abrams, one as a dismount -- underscores the need for a vehicle like the Booker. With a 105mm main gun and an armored chassis reminiscent of the Soviet BMP-2, famed for being nearly impregnable from the front, the Booker is designed to give infantry hung up on fortifications the punch needed to break through any obstacle or position.
It wasn't without developmental issues, though Bush assured reporters that the worst issues have been resolved. A problem in which toxic gas would fill the turret after the main gun was fired "is an issue that is behind us," and another where the vehicle would overheat under hot performance conditions was resolved after engineers fixed an air flow problem at the rear of the M10.
Bush dispelled another rumor: That a shortage of 105mm shells was the result of ammunition being sent to Ukraine. "The amount of ammunition provided to Ukraine has not had any effect on this program," he said.
The turret will be manufactured in Ohio and the hulls in Michigan, and it will be assembled in Alabama. Once production is at full capacity, the Army expects to produce three new M10s per month. Vehicle production began early in 2023, and the Army expects the first delivery in 2024. Planners expect a full battalion of 42 Booker Combat Vehicles by late 2025, and hope to ultimately field more than 500 M10s.
At a time when the Army is fielding a new squad vehicle to increase mobility, the addition of a battalion of heavily armed and armored vehicles that brigades can draw on for extra power will be welcome. And the new battalion of M10s will accompany a new infantry unit being stood up, though the details of where and when have yet to be decided.
Meanwhile, while the Booker Combat Vehicle may resemble something between a BMP and a smaller Abrams, Dean wanted to be clear about a question he felt certain would receive ample airtime online and in person.
"This is a combat vehicle," he said, answering a question from a reporter during the briefing. "The historic task of light tanks has been to perform reconnaissance functions. [The M10] isn't a mission match, even though [it] sort of looks like, smells like, feels like [a light tank]."
Editor's note: This story has been corrected. Staff Sgt. Stevon Booker was killed while on an Abrams tank.
-- Steve Beynon contributed reporting.
-- Adrian Bonenberger, an Army veteran and graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, reports for Military.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.