US Army: Vietnam-Era M113 Won't be Replaced until the 2020s


U.S. Army generals suggested the M113 will remain in the inventory -- and inside the wire -- for another decade until the Vietnam-era tracked vehicle is retired.

The question of the M113 and its planned replacement, known as the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle, or AMPV, was on the minds of soldiers this week in Huntsville, Alabama, where the Association of the United States Army, an Arlington, Virginia-based advocacy group, held its annual winter conference.

One participant asked a panel of generals, “What vehicle will be providing the troop transport, mission command, and medical evacuation treatment missions that were the M113 missions, given that the AMVP won’t come online until the late 2020s?”

Lt. Gen. Anthony Ierardi, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for finance and contracts at the Pentagon, didn’t respond by naming a specific vehicle, such as the mine-resistant ambush protected, or MRAP, family of trucks, used in lieu of the M113 during the recent war in Iraq.

He said, “Commanders will obviously task organize and use the most appropriate sets for the missions that they have, 113s are obviously still in units, but it is the intent of the Army to eventually divest those 113s and transition to the AMPV for the protective mobility of our soldiers in the theater of wherever the missions are occurring.”

The aging armored personnel carrier was developed in the late 1950s and used heavily during the war in Vietnam. While upgraded versions of the vehicle remain in service, they’re no longer used outside the wire due to their vulnerability to roadside bombs. Commanders won’t allow them to leave forward operating bases without significant mission protection and route clearance.

The Army plans to spend $10 billion to buy 2,907 AMVPs to replace its remaining fleet of M113s, according to a recent Congressional Research Service report. In December, the service awarded a research and development contract to the U.S. subsidiary of British defense giant BAE Systems Plc, which also makes the M2/M3 Bradley tracked vehicle that began replacing M113s in the 1980s.

The initial phase of the agreement is valued at $382 million over four years to build 29 prototypes. Once the vehicles are tested, the company would be eligible for an option to build 289 production models under low-rate production for a total contract value of $1.2 billion. The remainder would be built under full-rate production deals.

General Dynamics Corp. backed out of the competition after concluding the requirements were biased toward a Bradley-style vehicle. The company had instead pushed for the Army to pursue a mixed fleet that includes medical evacuation versions of its Stryker wheeled vehicle. The ambulance platforms were tested in Iraq in 2010 with 3rd Infantry Division units.

Ironically, in his response to the M113 question, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army Europe, touted the benefits of modified wheeled platforms, specifically for medical evacuation.

When the head of the Ukrainian army, Lt. Gen. Anatoliy Pushnyakov, visited U.S. Army Europe’s headquarters in Wiesbaden last week, Hodges said he asked him what equipment lessons he learned in the recent fighting.

“One of the interesting things he talked about was the modifications they had made to the BTR,” Hodges said, referring to the eight-wheeled vehicle the Ukrainian army has used for decades. “They were not prepared for the casualties that they were receiving. They’ve had hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers die of wounds.”

Hodges said, “What he described that they have now looks almost identical to what the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps and most Western armies enjoy, which is pushing medical capability well forward. And one of the specific things he talked about was taking a BTR and turning it into an armored ambulance because they used to just try and drag out all the way back to the hospital somewhere, but instead they adapted to the equipment that they have and it’s making a huge difference.”

Most of the remaining M113s are used by armored brigade combat teams for support roles, including medical evacuation and treatment, mission command and general purpose. The Army hasn’t yet decided how it will replace the carriers located in higher-echelon units.

Like Ierardi, Hodges didn’t specify a potential M113 alternative and instead joked about his experience in one of the vehicles decades ago at U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels in Germany.

“American soldiers have forever made the best use of the equipment we've been given and the 113 is a great example of that,” he said. “I skillfully rolled one at Hohenfels 34 years ago and lived to tell about it -- which proves were not a zero-defect Army.” Later, he added, “We’ll continue to make great use of the 113 as long as that’s part of the equipment set. And then whatever the Army provides us, great soldiers will make the best out of them.”

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