The Ugly Truth About U.S. Army Air-Mobile (Helicopter) Forces: could have had light tracked armored fighting vehicles in Vietnam and need them today

Thanks to super-grunt, Reed Dyer who alerted us to Hunnicutt's book, Bradley: A History of American Fighting and Support Vehicles a dark secret from the U.S. Army's past has been revealed, a problem that persists to this day.


First, there has never been ANY excuse why the Army's two Airborne Divisions, the 82nd and 101st in the 1960s did not fully mechanize themselves with the 10-ton M113 light tracked armored fighting vehicle (TAFV) since Army leaders like R&D chief General James M. Gavin created---arguably the greatest armored vehicle of all time, ever---the Airborne Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle Family (AAM/PVF) to be STOL airland and parachute airdroppable from C-130 Hercules and larger fixed-wing aircraft aircraft. Details:


However, the Army's 1st Air Cavalry Division formed from the 11th Air Assault Division would be hard-pressed to lift M113 Gavins though the CH-54 Skycrane and CH-47C Chinook heavy lift helicopters could do it for short distances.The Armored Reconnaissance Airborne Assault Vehicle (AR/AAV), a turreted light tank with 152mm gun/missile launcher grew too heavy to fly by helicopters and became the staple of the 82nd Airborne which used it with great success to include combat parachute drops in Panama and C-130 STOL airland operations in Saudia Arabia/Iraq during Desert Shield/Storm. They needed a lighter TAFV. The way to do it is first by creating a TURRETLESS armored personnel chassis with machine guns and autocannon to suppress the enemy's firing (female tank) and THEN creating a German STUG-type assault gun with a big HE-effect weapon to blast enemy positions (male tank) or a demolition gun "Sapper tank".

The turretless M56 Scorpion (see above with a CH-54 Skycrane heavy lift helicopter) was an exposed 90mm gun and the turretless M50 Ontos was a 6 x 106mm recoilless rifles carrier, both assault gun platforms were helicopter transportable for fire support, but how would the infantry move? Hunnicutt reveals the Ontos came from the 1954 T55 6-man and T56 10-man infantry carriers that bear an eerie resemblance to today's German Wiesel 1 and Wiesel 2 helicopter-transportable TAFVs except being gas-powered. In 1954 there were no helicopters capable of lighting T55/T56s but there were fixed-wing aircraft that could...why were they not obtained for the Airborne and when helicopter lift improved they would be available? Doesn't anyone think AHEAD in the Army?

A Helicopter-Transportable Turretless Light TAFV Existed in the 1960s but the Army ignored it

The shocking truth is that helicopter-transportable infantry-carrying TAFVs existed at the time. Hunnicutt in his book on pages to 128-139 reveal that a 5-ton very wide tracked M116 cargo carrier with a ground pressure of only 2 PSI (the highly-mobile in Vietnam, M113 had a PSI of 8) was modified with enclosed armor and a dual machine gun turret called the XM729 and an open-topped XM733 could carry 10 infantrymen in back after being delivered by CH-47s either roll-on/off internally or externally by sling-load. Both vehicles could go 37 mph on roads and swim at 3.5 mph. The experts at Aberdeen Proving Ground stated that the XM729/XM733 combination would be very effective in South East Asia, yet in 1966 the Army cancelled the program. The USMC bought over 100 and used them in Vietnam.

Armored Assault Vehicle Test-Rig


Armored M116

Final Army XM733 Version

XM733 in Vietnam Combat

In light of the heavy casualties our foot troops suffered compared to the lesser casualties and greater successes our Armored Cavalry and Mechanized Infantry had in "vanilla" and ACAV gunshielded M113 Gavins, this decision by the Army borders on criminal negligence. One only has to read almost any Vietnam battle account or talk to any veterans to see the constant pattern: U.S. grunts on foot with rifles in their hands and very heavy rucksacks on their back are dropped off into a landing zone (LZ) and proceed to move sluggishly since they have to carry all their ammunition, food, water---they have no vehicles. Why did they have no ground vehicles? No carts? No bikes? No mules like even Merrill's Marauders had in Burma in WW2? (The M274 mechanical "Mule" a 4x4 gas-powered platform vehicle could carry cargo but it was never used widely in the field en masse following in the trace of the foot Soldiers. It did not have the break-brush capability of a TAFV to forge ahead.) If you read the naked hubris of the 1962 Howze Board Report and the proclamations of the early Air Assault proponents they sold Secretary of Defense MacNamara on helicopters as replacing ALL ground vehicles; helicopters would provide 100 mph mobility and resupply the troops, too. So the 1st Cavalry Division oversold helicopters to get more of them in a politically savvy move but in the process lost sight of the fact that a helicopter cannot STAY IN THE BATTLE WITH YOU like a TAFV can. It can render fire support only as long as its got fuel to stay moving and in the air, and it can give you supplies but after they are kicked out its on YOUR BACK FROM THAT POINT ON. Any aircraft that has to take flight in the air is going to be limited compared to a ground vehicle whose weight is supported by the earth itself. A light armored tracks could carry several thousands of pounds of ammo, food and water that an aircraft would be hard-pressed to carry in the magnitude of hundreds of pounds. Again, to the Sky Soldier's shame they did not admit that a TAFV as an armored box on the ground offers you protected mobility from enemy fire so you are not pinned down and desperately trying to dig in in order to survive. And when you study Vietnam, American foot troops after they bump into the enemy or get ambushed are soon pinned down by the more numerous VC/NVA who also have cached tremendous amounts of AKM/RPK light, RPD medium and Dshka heavy machine gun ammo, mortars and RPGs to bleed us. The Americans bandage their wounded, form a perimeter and call for desperate air strikes and artillery to prevent from being over-run and annihilated. This pattern of war did not take place in the Armored Cavalry that if taken under enemy fire did not have to fight or die (decisive engagement) they could shrug off the fire and keep going or engage and outflank the VC/NVA and turn the tables on them with superior amounts of firepower carried on board their TAFVs as their armored hulls keep them from being hurt by the enemy's fire.

Refighting the LZ X-Ray Fight: Airborne/Air Assault Light Mech Needed

Air Assault delivers dismounted infantry which then fight on foot, exposed with only the supplies they carry on their backs

Photographic Proof:

1st Tactical Studies Group (Airborne) Director Mike Sparks writes: "When researching for our book, Air-Mech-Strike, General Moore told us that he wished he had a light tracked armored fighting vehicle during the LZ X-Ray battle to offer protection to his men and superior firepower. The AR/AAV program had went over in weight to 17 tons to later become the M551 Sheridan light tank and was no longer helicopter air assault transportable by CH-47 Chinooks. Why the Army did not shrink a M113 Gavin APC to make a 4-roadwheel "Mini-Gavin" that would fit inside a Chinook or at least be light enough to sling-load remains a mystery, and is still urgently needed today."

How LZ X-Ray should have been fought with light tracked AFVs, body armor and gunshields

Photographic Re-Think

* Armored hull protects as mobile shield from enemy automatic weapons fire; especially important when moving like to LZ Albany---Mini-Gavins would have saved hundreds of men's lives by breaking up enemy ambushes

* Automatic cannon or heavy machine guns with enormous amounts of ammunition to suppress and dominate enemy encountered as ACAVs did in Vietnam

* Mini-Gavins can carry superior amounts of ammo, water, food to sustain troops in the fight and not have them run the risk of running out

* Troops could hitch a ride in/on top of Mini-Gavins to rapidly move 10-60 mph around battlefield beyond a 1 mph foot slog--to include swimming across lakes, rivers and even oceans if fitted with waterjets

* Gunshields on end of rifles, machine guns plus hard body armor would have saved even more lives and improved our combat power to overwhelm the enemy

* Tracks fitted with a bulldozer blade can create instant dirt berms and help infantry scoop out fighting positions faster and with less fatigue to repel enemies in the defense; to include OVERHEAD COVER.

With the XM729 or "M113 1/2" autocannon/machine gun "tankita" (re: Carlton Meyer and Phil West) and XM733 infantry carrier with multiple machine guns and open-top like the WW2 Bren Gun carrier, the Army's 1st Cavalry Division could have landed by helicopters and fought with mechanized armored mobility/firepower instead of the vulnerable foot slog. The argument that these TAFVs would be noisy and alert the enemy is absurd, what the hell does all the Huey and Hueycobra helicopters (in the wrong color camouflage) do for the enemy, provide a convenient air show? As the enemy learned to equate vegetation openings as potential LZs, they began to emplace Dshka HMGs and RPG teams to knock down our resupply helicopters. If the Sky Soldiers carried a lot of supplies in their XM729/XM733/Mini-M113 TAFVs they wouldn't be so dependant upon LZs and helicopter resupply which the enemy could interdict.

The Foot-Slog Continues...

This ugly stain on Army technotactical professionalism does not sadly stop at Vietnam. Since then, the technology of helicopters has advanced so M113 Gavins can be carried by CH-47D/F Chinooks and a fantastic, shoot-on-the-move M8 Buford/Thunderbolt AGS light tank with 105mm-120mm main gun could be carried if we up-engined either some CH-54 Skycranes now made commercial by Erickson as the S-64 Aircrane or used USMC CH-53E Super Stallions. In fact, a M116 like vehicle, the armored Bv206S version of the M973 Small Unit Support Vehicle (SUSV) weighs 7 tons and could roll-on/off from inside our Chinooks easily. The Bv206S carries up to 12 men and is amphibious across lakes/rivers and protects against bullets and bomb/shell blasts. Details:



(To paraphrase, retired USMC Gunnery Gergeant Lee Ermey) What's the major malfunction here?

Its our belief after years of experience dealing with the light infantry in both the USMC and Army that the problem is EGO. The light infantry are primarily composed of weak ego people who join to ease concerns of their masculinity lacking and to be seen as "tough" to pick up women. Its this macho and childish ethos that permeates these outfits, and its allowed to persist because its good for recruiting and there is no high explosives "reality check" in our absurd garrison training to wake them up to get TAFVs. Details:


Writing an entire book with factual, sound logic, "Air-Mech-Strike: Asymmetric Maneuver Warfare for the 21st Century" has not had enough impact on people who are driven by deep psychological weakness instead of being secure in themselves so they can admit to problems and solve them so the unit can adapt to external battlefield demands. Details:


In fact, even when Air Assault and other light units take heavy casualties playing MILES laser tag, they use this as yet more ego-fodder to beat their chests how "tough they are". An adult would take even what the flawed MILES "garden hose of simulated bullets" experiences prove and conclude that light TAFVs are needed to replace the foot and road/trail-bound wheeled trucks movement the light infantry uses---but fails to even admit the latter makes them defacto "motorized" infantry, all because it would bother their weak egos. Even when outsiders like the Germans show up to places like JRTC at Fort Polk, Louisiana with Wiesel light TAFVs with autocannon and proceed to wipe out American light infantry (see Army officer's comments on bottom of the web page) the narcissists still refuse to admit they have problems and get their own light TAFVs so they can be the ones "kicking butt". If the light infantry egomaniacs are so "tough" as they say they are, why don't they get rid of their personally owned vehicles (POVs) and WALK wherever they go when off-duty? These folks are completely out of touch with time-distance realities on planet earth and are still unready for combats in Iraq as they get blown up in the default Humvee trucks on predictable roads since they didn't give a damn before the war to light mechanizing and mobilizing themselves to have armored, unpredictable cross-country mobility. Funny, when walking light infantry says: "Stay off the roads and trails, you will get ambushed by the enemy". However, when it comes to doing the same in a ground vehicle, it now suddenly "AOK" to be on roads/trails because they are in a wheeled truck so they don't look like a "mech pussy" in an armored track which could be moving cross-country and avoiding ambushes and kicking the enemy's butt with surprise maneuver. "Nope. Can't do that...we are so much better than the slobs in the heavy units" goes their sick, demented mentality. All because they lack the HUMILITY to admit they are not bullet or roadside bomb (land mine) proof. So they continue to die in droves in Iraq/Afghanistan.

Our ego-driven and immobile light infantry's weakness has had disastrous strategic consequences for the U.S.:

1. In Desert Storm, the 101st's deep air assault was for naught as on foot and in Humvee trucks they could not stop the Republican Guard from bypassing them to safety to prop up the Saddam regime and make the current Iraq/U.S. war necessary

2. In Afghanistan, what few light infantry we did put on the ground was unable to move rapidly on foot and block Al Quaeda and leader Bin Laden from escaping and being able to fuel an anti-western social movement that could end up with an American city of millions of people wiped out in a WMD attack by wannabe sub-national terrorists.

3. In the current Iraq war, the 101st packed in trucks like sardines and on foot ended up mopping up Iraqi remnants in the wake of the mostly TAFV-equipped 3rd ID that thunder runned into Baghdad. There was no bold helicopter air assaults to the north of Baghdad to deny Saddam and subordinates from escaping and starting the guerrilla war which has to date cost us over 4, 200 dead, 24, 000 wounded---with numbers growing daily. The 173rd Airborne Brigade which slowly airlanded TAFVs one planeload-at-a-time and failed to parachute in their own TAFVs to block Saddam's escape is also subject to justifiable scorn.

Simply put, the lack of Air-Mech-Strike capabilities is not just a "nice-to-have"; its a shameful disgrace that decades after air-transportable TAFVs were created by the U.S. that other countries (Britain, Israel, Germany) to include our former enemies like the www.reocities.com/armorhistory

Our Troops Deserve Better TAFVs not wheeled trucks

Its high time adults intervene into the adolescent world of Army Rangers, Special Forces, Light, Airborne and Air Assault infantry and take away their sexy dune buggies, Humvees, Strykers and other wheeled trucks which prop up an illusion of walking everywhere and make them properly adapt to the non-linear battlefield (NLB) dominated by high explosives and bullets with light air-transportable and amphibious TAFVs. In our light infantry battalions, replacing Delta Weapons company Humvee trucks with M113 Gavin guntracks with space in back for a 9-man rifle squad would as needed give Alpha, Bravo and Charlie companies armored mobility and shock action without changing the organizational structure and manning of the Army. What are we waiting for?

Air Assault Tanks: Raise the Bridge or Lower the River?

Most published 3D maneuver theorists (Grange, Macgregor, Jarnot, Sparks, Huber, Crist, Zumbro, Meyer) by the force of logic concerning cost, time and mentality (CTM) and mobility, firepower and protection (MFP) parameters have come generally to the same conclusions about how to air-mechanize the U.S. Army's light units to get their infantry armored mobility.

Cost, Time, Mentality = Air-Mechanize Light Infantry

Right now money, time and will power to do 3D maneuver warfare in the U.S. Army is lacking even though the need has become critical: non-existent or weak air-maneuver has resulted in terrorist leader Bin Laden escaping from us in Afghanistan, the Iraqi Republican Guard escaping in 1991 resulting in the on-going second Gulf War where Saddam and subordinates escaped and started a rebellion that continues to the present---costing us so far 2, 500 dead and 21, 000 wounded. Frankly, America's mentality is that we are consumers not producers such that our defense industrial base is dying--only two companies can now mass-produce tanks, GDLS and UDLP (BAE). GDLS is a viciously corrupt company that foists the quasi-armored Stryker wheeled 19-21 ton truck non-sense (made in Canada) upon the Army, a siren's song that if continued spells the death of decisive, armored maneuver for the U.S. Army and puts the entire security of the American nation-state at risk. When the Future Combat System (FCS) "science fair" is cancelled, the current corrupt Army generals bought off by GDLS will try to splice these mental RMA "mother may I?" top-down micro-management gadgets onto the Stryker truck and call it "transformation" more akin to a sex change operation that combat effectiveness progress. This leaves us with just BAE Land Systems (formerly UDLP and before that FMC) which makes great TAFVs but is very timid about telling the world about them. The good news is that 50% of an Army heavy division is composed of the greatest tank of all time, ever--the M113 Gavin---a 10.5 ton light tracked armored fighting vehicle (TAFV) that is amphibious, fixed and rotary-wing aircraft transportable, can be adapted to be "medium" in armor protection and carry heavy firepower. Even better, thousands of Gavins are in storage and could be quickly supplied to the Army's light infantry Delta Weapons companies to give A, B, C companies armored mobility without disrupting the personnel manning arrangement of the Army. Others can have cut-down rear areas for PLS flat racks and ECDS airdrop pallets to armor all our resupply means, HIMARS 227mm rockets, combat engineer devices and just about any firefighting or special module we can think of. Waterjets fitted to M113s make them "amphigavins" that can swim from sealift ships-to-shore. If we proceed to unwisely turn 1/3 of every brigade into a RSTA squadron with gadgets, we should at least have them in Gavin light TAFVs backed by a platoon or troop of M8 Buford/Thunderbolt AGS light tanks for shoot-on-the-move tank-killing and building/bunker busting direct fire support on a rapidly urbanizing, non-linear battlefield (NLB).

The problem here is with the 101st Airborne (Air Assault) Division which can only sling-load lightened by band tracks M113 Gavins a short 50 mile radius with CH-47D/F Chinook helicopters because the M113 at 10 tons is right on the edge of where "Light" begins and "Ultra-Light" ends for our current helicopters to lift. The "Screaming Eagles" need a TAFV that can fit inside their helicopters so they can fly faster/farther without aerodynamic drag and to avoid enemy air defenses threats.

Raise the Bridge: Get the 101st AASLT Division Heavy Lift Helicopters (HLHs)


Here is the best pic we have to date of the Mi-26 Halo's huge rear opening with a 7-ton Bv206S ready to load...the Bv206S is a "Chinook stuffer" so a little bit higher and wider is the rough outline of the CH-47's interior for way of comparison.


The Mi-26 routinely lifts 20 tons and the new "M" model is supoosed to have even greater payload capability. Cost is just $10M each. Bottom line is the current U.S. Army and USMC brass are not serious about doing their job which includes Air-Mech 3D maneuver so we can get the Bin Ladens and Saddams of this world before they can do a nuclear 9/11 attack on America and the former are playing with $30M paper studies for fantasy JHLs that will never be built. We know for a fact we can air-mech now with existing M113 Gavins and M8 Buford/Thunderbolt AGS light tanks from C-130s by supplying them to our light infantry units. We can and should enlarge the CH-53X to fit M113 Gavins and M8 Buford/Thunderbolt light tanks inside. Another here & now option would be to buy a handful of Erickson AirCrane S-64s with CH-47F engines. Instead of taking that $30M and buying actual heavy lift helicopters we are wasting it on non-sense studies and power point demonstrations.

The elegant solution is to get a Very Heavy Lift Helicopter (VHLH) as William Schneck and Ralph Zumbro propose that could vertically take off and land (V/TOL) even with a 70-ton M1 Abrams heavy tank. The Army brass are even funding half-hearted "studies" now for a "Joint Heavy Lift" (JHL) helicopter to lift the fantasy Future Combat System" (FCS) medium tank in 2025. The problem is such a VHLH does not exist and CTM will not allow it as only Boeing and Sikorsky mass-produce military helicopters in the U.S.A. We can ill afford another $10B/10 year development like RAH-66 and V-22 that in the end yields us nothing. Another proposal is to make USAF C-130s able to lift 15-ton payloads vertically by supplying them with rotordyne main rotors, but this approach would have to overcome the CTM obstacles of an Air Force that only wants to operate from air bases with runways. The realistic here-and-now HLH solution would be to buy new 50-100 x Erickson AirCrane S-64 (Skycranes) with CH-47F engines but without the payload loss of an internal volume fuselage---that could easily lift the fully up-armored Gavin as well as a band tracked, lightened M8 Buford 105mm AGS light tank snug-up against its skeletal crane body. A S-64 with three CH-53E engines and 7-bladed rotors could easily transport the M8 Thunderbolt 120mm armored gun system. The S-64s can even winch up and winch down light TAFVs from a hover to gain the not-need-to-touch-down benefits of sling-loading but without the aerodynamic drawbacks. Thus, the 101st AASLT brigades would have the exact same M113 Gavin/M8 Buford/Thunderbolt light TAFVs as the other Army light units.

The problem again is CTM; even though DoD's seabasing initiative needs a 20-ton lifter--a mission that the S-64 Sky/Speedcrane could also solve resulting in a joint service buy--it will cost approximiately $100M to build the first up-engined S-64 Skycrane and an even greater sum to make the first prototype of the 200+ mph/2,000 mile "Speedcrane" with Piasecki-designed VTDP and wings, perhaps $200M. Each production S-64 would cost around $20M each, for a total of $1-2B depending on whether 50 or 100 aircraft are built. The new USMC CH-53X HLR helicopter will have a new, wider fuselage (that still robs us of 6 tons of lift) and will be able to carry an as-is M113 Gavin inside, but this means though the Army would save on development costs over re-engining the S-64, the Army would still have to buy the CH-53X at $20M each to "raise the bridge". The M8 Buford/Thunderbolt could be externally slung under the CH-53X for short distances but could not fit inside so the viability of an air-mech operation in the face of enemy air defenses would be a question mark. However, there may simply not be any money for even this.

Lower the River: get the 101st AASLT Division an ULTRA-light TAFV: Mini-Gavin Light Tracked Tanks: "Mother" Stealthy, Armored Cross-country Mobile Platforms for Non-Linear Battlefields


U.S. Army Experimental Combat Unit Commander and Center for Lessons Learned Call for the Mini-Gavin Reconnaissance Vehicle

U.S. Army ARMOR magazine, November-December 2008 pages 38-39, Major Jaren K. Price writes in "The Battlefield Surveillance Brigade: the Future of Division-Level Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance":

Recommendations for Consideration

As with any new organization, many strengths and weaknesses are not evident until the unit is deployed to perform its actual mission. The 525th BFSB, in conjunction with the U.S. Army Center for Army Lessons Learned [CALL], has begun to identify some of these shortfalls. However, if a unit is not resourced or employed as it was designed, the unit and concept cannot clearly be evaluated. Currently, the 525th BFSB is neither resourced nor being deployed as designed. However, based on lessons learned from the deployment of various BCTs, the deployment of the 525th BFSB, and simulations and exercises involving the BFSB, I recommend several items for immediate consideration.

Develop Light Reconnaissance Vehicles

A fourth recommendation is for the Armor Center to reevaluate the needs of the Army for light reconnaissance vehicles and design and procure new vehicles. One critique that has resurfaced repeatedly in the BFSB design is using the HMMWV [wheeled truck] as a reconnaissance vehicle in both the recon troops and, LRS companies.

For the recon troops, critics point out that the HMMWV [wheeled truck] lacks the protection, firepower, and the essential suite of cameras, sensors, and lasers required of a reconnaissance vehicle. While the standard [unarmored] 1025/26 HMMWV [wheeled truck] has advantages, such as [limited] off-road mobility and could be sling-loaded by Army helicopters, the needed change to up-armored vehicles negates these advantages. The ideal vehicle for the BFSB and the infantry BCT (IBCT) recon troops would include the following options: be sling-loadable by helicopter (also internally loaded on a CH-47); provide armor protection from small arms, up to 12.7mm [heavy machine guns] and mines/IEDs; have an organic suite of sensors that could be used on the move; have a mast antenna for employment while stationary; be capable of mounting a variety of weapons (M2, Mk19, M240); have high off-road mobility; carry a minimum of six Soldiers (crew of two and four dismounts) and equipment; have a range of 350+ miles; and have the ability to run various electronic equipment from an internal power source.

The LRS company does not have a vehicle to support its teams and the recon troop vehicle would not meet the needs of the LRS company, which establishes the need for another type of light recon vehicle. The LRS company requires a light, all-terrain vehicle that would extend the range and speed of the LRS teams. Ideally, a six-man LRS team and its vehicles could be internally loaded in a CH-47 for insertion missions. At a minimum, it must be lightweight and small, sling-loadable, and able to carry LRS Soldiers and their equipment without resupply for 5 to 7 days. The vehicle must be highly mobile and nearly silent, and would serve primarily as transportation to increase the LRS teams' mobility and not as a fighting or reconnaissance platform. The vehicle would carry between 1 to 3 people; the key is that the entire LRS team and vehicles are CH-47 transportable. They must also be transportable by medium tactical vehicles, either internally or on standard Army trailers.


1. U.S. Army Combined Arms Center, "Operational and Organizational Concept for the Battlefield Surveillance Brigade," Fort Leavenworth, KS, I May 2007.

2. Headquarters, Department of the Army, U.S. Army Field Manual (FM) 3-0, Operations, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, February 2008.

3. "Operational and Organization Concept for the Battlefield Surveillance Brigade," Figures 1 through 6, 1 May 2007.

Major Jaren K. Price is currently the S2, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Korea. He received a B.A. from Webber State University and an MA from American Military University. His military education includes the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Military Intelligence Captains Career Course, Scout Platoon Leaders Course, and Armor Officer Basic Course. He has served in various command and staff positions, to include chief, Special Doctrine and Doctrine Author, Combined Arms Doctrine Directorate (CADD), Fort Leavenworth, KS; commander, Headquarters and Headquarters Support Company, 311th Military Intelligence (MI) Battalion, 101st Airborne (ABN) Division (DIV), Fort Campbell, KY; assistant S3, 311th MI Battalion, 101st ABN DIV, Fort Campbell; S2, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry, 101st ABN DIV, Fort Campbell, and Kosovo; and tank platoon leader and company XO, 1st Battalion, 77th Armor Battalion, Schweinfurt, Germany, and Bosnia.

The easiest solution is to provide the "Screaming Eagles" with an ULTRA-light TAFV that is lighter and can fit inside the Chinook so it can fly faster/farther without aerodynamic drag and to avoid enemy air defenses threats. Unfortunately, in the 1950s/60s the Army had rejected the T55/T56 and XM733 ultra-light TAFVs for helicopter mobile units even as Vietnam was raging, and was well along with the failed 9-ton M114 tracked recon vehicle before the larger but highly successful M113 Gavin TAFV and CH-47 Chinook or CH-54 Skycrane helicopters came along. Had we been thinking ahead, we would have cancelled the M114 because it had a failed gas-powered propulsion and hull forward overhang that jammed into the far banks of Vietnam rice paddies and shrunk the proven M113 Gavin's width and height to fit into the Chinook fuselage or made the Chinook fuselage a bit bigger. If the engines of that time period were not powerful enough, in the future they would be. However, because we did not have a CAVALRY branch to insure air/ground vehicles could integrate this was not done. FMC later developed the Lynx "M113 1/2" recon vehicle which was highly successful in NATO use even if the Army stuck with the M114 until General Abrams retired these lemons in 1973. The Lynx should have been our scout vehicle all along and could have prevented the Bradley from morphing into the oversized mess it is today. The point today is that the M113 Gavin could and should be reduced in width and height to fit inside a CH-47D/F and the result will be an effective combat vehicle as the Lynx proves. Reducing the M113 Gavin to have it roll-on/off the CH-47 would get the 101st in synch with the rest of the Army but would against run up against CTM.


"Mini-Gavin" = the Lynx Recon/Scout Vehicle

The thing we should do certainly is shrink a M113 into a "Mini-Gavin" infantry carrier so it fits inside a Chinook and equip all of the 101st with them at $200K each. The "M113 1/2" Lynx recon/scout vehicle will just squeeze in and out of the 90-inch wide CH-47 fuselage, so all we need to do is reduce the Mini-Gavin's width to be a more comfortable 86 inches wide from the current 98 inches.

Armored Bv206S rolling onto a CH-47D Chinook in U.S. Army tests

Bv206S option would be $650 each. A detachable light ASP-30mm autocannon on either the Mini-Gavin or the Bv206S, makes them "female" tanks as well as armored personnel carriers/infantry fighting vehicles.

If there simply is no industrial base or money or willpower, then we must accept the fact that the 101st AASLT is different from the rest of the Army and lower its vehicle weight limit "bar" to 8 tons or less to interface better with existing helicopters and use an ultra-light TAFV like the Wiesel 2 or Bv206S instead of M113 Gavins/M8 Buford/Thunderbolt AGS light tanks. You cannot fit two 4-ton Wiesel 2s in a Chinook, so the maximum "CH-47 stuffer" is the 7-ton Bv206S which can transport an entire 9-man infantry squad which is really two tracked vehicles linked together. The two "cars" can be separated so even plentiful UH-60L Blackhawk helicopters can each sling-load a half of the Bv206S we dub, the "Ridgway" fighting vehicle. The German Wiesels don't swim while Bv206S can go across lakes/rivers. As a very wide over-snow tracked vehicle, the Bv206S Ridgway is nothing more than an armored version of the 1, 000+ M973 SUSVs the Army has used in the past for winter snow regions. The Bv206S is made in Sweden for $650K each which is a real bargain compared to the pathetic Stryker truck from Canada at $4M each. Using the same re-equipping of the Delta weapons company formula as the other Army light units should do, the costs to equip 40 Bv206S Ridgways per the two infantry battalions in the 101st would be just $240M, but they could be flown by existing CH-47D/F and UH-60L helicopters. Buying Bv206S may not be good for America's industrial base, but it may or may not be cheaper than R&Ding a new M113 "Mini-Gavin" type and gearing up to build it, saving tax payers money and Soldier's lives who need TAFV capabilities NOW. If the reduced size M113 Gavin CMT factors are less than B206S, then we should go with that option.

Suppressing and piercing enemy bunkers and light armor: the autocannon equipped Air Assault "Female" Tank

ASP-30mm Gas-operated Autocannon for multiple applications


First video shows excellent speedy cross-country mobility of M113 Gavin light tracked AFV and how it can plow through water and swim. 30mm autocannon HEI round explosive effects shown.


One of the benefits of being gas-operated instead of electrically fired like the M231 version on the AH-64 Apache is ASP-30mm can be removed from the air/sea/ground vehicle and fired from a ground mount


The following unarmored wheeled trucks and dune buggy mounting of ASP-30 are not protected, mobile or stable enough but included to show it is possible and the shaking and rolling of the entire vehicle when firing indicates the recoil forces involved:


To show a little of the autocannon firepower now possible, we have this video gun camera footage from Iraq of a 224th Attack Aviation Battalion AH-64 Apache lighting up some Iraqi terrorists in soft-skin trucks using the M230 30mm autocannon. This cannon can also be mounted on M113 Gavin light tracked AFVs in an AV30 turret or a gas-operated ASP-30 version can be mounted on the existing .50 caliber heavy machine gun cupola. We could have such things if we didn't waste $BILLIONS on Stryker trucks.

30mm Chain Gun in action (MPA) file

U.S. Army Center for Lessons Learned (CALL) reports in CHAPTER II: Universal and Enduring Techniques and Procedures to Support Tactical Operations in Afghanistan (Desert Environment) that during Desert Storm:

"The 30mm gun systems were very lethal and destroyed targets at ranges out to 4 kilometers when accurate. One T-72 turret (rear portion) was penetrated by 30mm HEDP rounds."

A big advantage of the 30mm HEDP -is not only will the one round do virtually everything you want, but effect is not that dimished by range. Adding programable priming (PP) would even further increase versitility and penetration. Imagine a company of ASP-30mm armed M113A3 Gavins or BV-206S (M973A2 Ridgway armored SUSVs) hosing down a formation of T-72s, each gun firing 7-8 rounds per second.

McDonnell Douglas was bought out by Boeing Phantom Works which has recently been bought out by Alliant Technosystems (ATK) in Minnesota. We tracked down the ASP-30mm developers and got this info from them:

Mr. Cal Calvert
ATK Phantom Works
(480) 324-8621
FAX: 8759

Cal writes:

"The ASP-30 worked well, and it does fire the 30x113mm 30mm round which is what is most often called the 'lightweight 30'.

This has a lower time-of-flight than the 30 x 173mm A-10 Warthog round which is called the 'GAU-8' round.

The big advantage of the lightweight 30 is the M789 HEDP round which is a shaped-charge dual-purpose round.

I know I'm giving you info that you know, but others may not.

The secret is that if the 789 round drops out of the air at any range (taking a little liberty here) that it will be just as effective. In other words, it is not dependent on velocity to do its job, (again with some liberty, as its optimum effectiveness is 1200-1500 meters as best I can recall, this is due to the spin rate of the projectile and the fluting of the shaped charge liner).

We have trialed the ASP-30 a lot over the years. It worked well, but never found a home. It was viewed by some as too big, when in reality for a 30mm gun it was quite small, but not to the users. So, we put it onto the shelf. It would take in my opinion the govt to get behind it and put the little remaining funding to the program to get it type-classified. We always ran into the costs, (everyone wanted 10 units) and you know what happens, it gets expensive, and then people couldn't afford this. MCD never wanted to invest to get into the market (had to recover all costs in the first 10 units, you know the type of thinking).

The weapon works well and would do the job, we shall see, perhaps we should think about getting the govt interested again, since we have two 30mm shooters in the program now, our electrically-fired 30mm M230 (Apache gun) and our Mk44 USMC/USN 30mm x 173mm gun."

Our reply:

We need a lightweight GAS-OPERATED 30mm autocannon that can be rapidly removed and attached so a BV-206S can roll-on/roll-off inside a CH-47D helicopter. Ditto that for a M113A3 Gavin rolling on/off a C-130 Hercules STOL fixed-wing aircraft to include parachute airdrop procedures. The ASP-30mm can be dismounted and fired on a tripod, an important capability for light Air-Mechanized Infantry to get the best defensive and ambush positions possible. The electrically-operated 30mm weapons ATK makes will NOT DO for the helicopter-transportable light tracked AFV.

However, the AV30 turret with the M230 will work on M113 Gavins that are transported primarily by fixed-wing aircraft parachute airdrop and airland:

M113 Gavins in combat!:

Essentially, CH-47s are too noisy to direct deliver troops safely and these foot troops lack mobility to get fleeting enemies. Since CH-47s are noisy the enemy can easily chose to be long gone by the time they land. Foot troops lack the mobility to catch up with enemies forewarned and more mobile on foot via terrain familiarity and light personal loads via caching supplies, horses and in pick-up trucks.

What ground vehicles can go inside the CH-47?

One of the "mysteries" of the CH-47 Chinook is whether it CAN carry a 85-inch wide Humvee truck inside or not? General Maxwell Taylor's Army officer son, Tom Taylor wrote a book on the 101st in Desert Storm, called Lightning on the Storm detailing how they HAD TO carry TWO unarmored Humvee trucks inside if they were going to conserve fuel to make it to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Cobra, deep in Iraq. Dangling a pair of Humvees underneath the Chinook would cause a lot of aerodynamic drag and reduce speed and increase fuel burn/reduce range. The problem is that the Humvee drivers would have to be INSIDE their trucks and couldn't take a safer-for-egress-in-case-of-crash-landing bench seat position and get into their trucks shortly before landing. It was "war" so the Fort Rucker and Lee "Safety Nazis" could be over-ruled. The photos below from Fred Pushies' excellent book, Night Stalkers: 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment clearly prove a Humvee can be loaded into a CH-47, we gather with SEATS REMOVED.

Out to the west according to Pushies, Delta Force and the Rangers were flying in Chenowth unarmored Fast Attack Vehicles (high RPM, tire floatation "dune buggies") by CH-47s to hunt for SCUD surface-to-surface missiles.

However, after Desert Storm was over, the 101st reverted back to external sling-loading at Fort Campbell once again and knuckling under to the safety nazis for a dubious end-state. YES, tying down and untying vehicles is more work and causes the Chinook to be on the ground longer than picking-up and dropping off an external sling-load. However, as many people have written in to us after reading our AMS book where we show a M113 Gavin being sling-loaded by a CH-47D have stated; this slows the helicopter down and prevents it from using evasive flight profiles to get terrain masking, making it vulnerable to enemy small arms fire, autocannon and surface-to-air missiles. Certainly, some of the people writing in to us have a hidden agenda to justify continuing the feel-good lightfighter narcissists-walking-from-the-helicopter-dismounted-assault-close-to-or-on-top-of-the-objective non-sense. Funny, how when faced with desert distances that cannot be walked, both Delta, Rangers and the 101st can find a way to internally load vehicles inside CH-47s---and C-130s and C-17s despite their "we-don't-need-vehicles" bravado. What is professionally negligent and dangerous is that after these operations are over, at least the 101st refuses to learn from them and permanently change themselves to have a "mounted" (I know its a curse word--you are now a fat, out-of-shape, "mech pussy" in the current corrupt, narcissistic U.S. military culture) Air Assault capability that comes from inside a CH-47 to keep 3D maneuvers viable in light of enemy air defenses and to improve their combat power on the ground to not get caught into LZ X-Ray type situations or be relegated to mopping up in the wake of more mobile ground units like the 3rd Infantry Division with tracked armored fighting vehicles (AFVs). The 101st, in occupation duty in Iraq, after many casualties driving around in road-bound, unarmored and quasi-armored Humvee trucks is now using cross-country capable M113 Gavin light tracked AFVs and while before they wouldn't even be caught "dead" in one, now they demand they only ride in RPG-proof up-armored "Super Gavins". Details:


The truth the nay-sayers don't want you to know is that INTERNALLY LOADING GROUND VEHICLES into CH-47s to get more mobility and firepower after the Air Assault is not only possible, but was once commonly done in the U.S. Army. The drawing below from TM-55-1000-205-20-1 "AIR TRANSPORTABILITY PROCEDURES FOR M38A1C AND M151A1C 1/4-TON WITH MOUNTED 106-MM RECOILLESS RIFLES IN CH-47 HELICOPTER" [www.tpub.com/content/chhelicopters/TM-55-1000-205-20-1/] shows how TWO small 4x4 jeep with 106mm recoilless rifles could easily loaded into a CH-47 with a mere 8 tie-downs per vehicle.

The jeep is a far smaller truck than the Humvee and you can easily walk by it in flight and take up a bench seat until required to drive it off...how do we know this? Well, because we own a CH-47 and a jeep and do it all the time for static tests.

The point we are making is if there is a WILL to improve Air Assault capabilities with tracked armored fighting vehicles---that has not been ruined by narrow-minded, light infantry foot narcissism---THERE IS A WAY. We can reduce the width of the standard M113 Gavin which the Army has over 14, 655 in service---modifying some of the thousands sitting unused in storage--to be 85 inches wide like the Humvee truck---to fit inside CH-47s for improved 3D maneuvers. We suggest eliminating 1 road wheel of length to reduce weight, too so the CH-47 can carry more fuel for greater range.

The truth is that there is more width inside the CH-47 than the light narcissists will let you know than the 90 inches published. If you take a tape measure you will see that the ramp is indeed 90 inches wide. However, at the ramp hinge width increases to 91 inches. With seats removed, you will see that the actual floor of the CH-47 extends out beyond the CARGO FLOOR'S 90 INCHES to 92 inches where the aircraft ribs join to the actual bottom. If you roll in an 85 inch wide ground vehicle onto the Chinook's CARGO FLOOR, you actually have 3.5 inches of clearance on each side of "wiggle room" for vehicle overhang or a Soldier to squeeze by. If you are not too chubby and are not wearing LBE, you can squeeze by and take off the vehicle tie-downs before landing and get into the driver's seat to drive off. If you are carrying ONLY ONE M113 Mini-Gavin, and the infantry/spec ops troops are behind it on bench seats, the driver can climb in from the back troop door in the rear ramp to take up his driver's position. If you don't want a Soldier or two squeezing past to undo the forward tie-downs, you can have them sit IN FRONT OF the Mini-Gavin and do it upon landing or God forbid! someone has to hussle---have 1 or 2 Soldiers jump out from the front crew chief hatch and run around to the back of the CH-47 to undo the front tie-downs. All of this anal-retentivity-to-find-an-excuse-not-to-do something-necessary-because-its-not-ego-gratifying, notwithstanding is absurd...this is not launching a space shuttle. Certainly, an electrically released tie down strap could be developed for the front of a Mini-Gavin to put an end to any of these concerns. The point is it can be done and we are just not trying because we want to do the lightfighter egomaniac BS we want to do---instead of the job America needs us to do--which is to get Bin Ladens (sub-national terrorists) which requires tracked AFV ground mobility beyond a foot slog with 100 pounds of "lightweight" equipment on your back.

SOLUTION: Shrink a M113 Gavin to roll-on/off from inside a CH-47 like the Lynx "M113 and a half" used by the Canadian and Belgan armies (see photo above). Propel by stealthy hybrid-electric drive and band tracks for 60 mph speeds and 600 mile range on one tank of fuel. Instead of packing in 44+ foot sloggers per Chinook, carry 1 "Mini-Gavin" with 7 troops inside (Driver, Track Commander + 5 troops) that roll-off into a COVERT landing zone outside of enemy hearing/sight combat-ready with superior armored mobility and firepower to then close in rapidly and when contact is made with the enemy, overwhelms him not pinned down in a M16 versus AK47 evenly matched duel. Mini-Gavins should replace the inadequate Humvee trucks in Delta weapons companies and Scout, mortar, S&T platoons in HHC to render armored mobility for A, B and C company infantrymen as needed.

Mobility Firepower and Protection: Where's the "Male" Tank Version of the Bv206S Ridgway or M113 "Mini-Gavin"?

Assuming we can overcome CTM and get the 101st's infantry air-mechanized with Bv206S Ridgways or M113 Mini-Gavins with fold-down gunshields and firing ports we now have part of a 3D "thunder run" force that can spray small-arms fire in all directions. What's missing is the shoot-on-the-move, tank meeting engagement killer and building/bunker blaster--the fatal flaw that doomed the 9th HTTB division in the 1980s/90s. The M8 Buford/Thunderbolt has a stabilized gun with a recoiling mass to achieve 4km+, shoot-on-move accuracy and range with 105mm to 120mm high explosive and armor piercing firepower. The weight of this in a turret is around 5 tons--far too much weight for integration on the as-is Bv206S Ridgway even if it could fit into a CH-47D/F. Cutting the Bv206S infantry carrying volume off to just chassis and mounting an exposed gun has been done before---it was the M56 Scorpion with a 90mm gun and shield that nobody liked because Soldiers could be easily killed by enemy bullets and exploding shells. To make a "male tank" with a big gun that fits inside a CH-47D/F or existing CH-53E is difficult--but not impossible. In fact, its already almost been done except it was too wide and a bit too heavy (needs to be under 12 tons): the AAI "RDF Light tank" from the 1980s:

Retired Army Colonel Charles Lehner writes:

"Mike, when I was chief of the Land System Division at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), I started a project called Armored Combat Vehicle Technology. ACVT was soon embraced by GEN Bernard Rogers, C/S Army, and BG Al Gray, Director of Combat Developments at Quantico. Our primary objective was the development of a helicopter-transportable light tank. I contracted with Gene Stoner at Ares for the development of a 75mm High Velocity Automatic Cannon, and with Win Barr at AAI Corp for the development of the 75mm telescoped ammunition (a depleted uranium Armor Piercing Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot round and a High Explosive Air Defense round with Navy Mark-404 IR proximity fuze).

AAI also built a 14.5 ton light tank using a cut down M113A3 chassis. We put on a demo at the Boeing Plant in Philadelphia carrying the light tank under a CH-47D helicopter on a short sling flying nap-of-the earth at 110 knots. The gun fired at a rate of 1 shot per second. A burst of 4 shots was enough to bring down a jet fighter flying evasively at about 4000 meters range and kill a Hind or Havoc Helicopter at about 4000 meters range (both with a probability of a kill of about 90%. A 3-shot burst with APFSDS rounds would kill a T-72 Tank head-on at about 2000 meters range with a probability of kill at about 90%. I believe that the light tank is in a combat vehicle museum in Manassas, VA. I also believe that Ares still has a 75mm cannon at Port Clinton, Ohio, along with a number of rounds of ammunition. TRASANA at White Sands ran a Force-on-Force Carmonette simulation that showed the Light tank performing better than the M-1 tank in a delaying action scenario in the Fulda Gap in Germany.

I contacted the Asst. Commandant at the Air Defense School at Fort Bliss who was very much interested in the 75mm gun, but the missile advocates picked the Martin Air Defense Anti-tank (ADATS) system which turned out to be too expensive; so the Air Defense guys wound up with a Stinger mounted HMMWV instead. The multi-purpose 75mm gun is by far the most cost-effective anti-tank/assault/anti-aircraft weapon system!"

Very Respectfully,

Charlie Lehner

This took place during a very troubling time period in the Army's history where the heavy invincible tank duelers ran the Army and they hated the light infantry and anything that would help them. Now the pendulum has swung the other way with light egomaniacs running HQDA who don't want to do anything that smacks of the heavy tracked tankers!

Phil West on his "Tankita" web pages describes in excellent detail the many options we have to create "male" tanks that would indeed be helicopter air-transportable:


Shock Action: German Infantry Had It, We Had it, then Lost It

Studying the German and American armies in WW2 you will note that the former had DIRECT-FIRE high explosive fire support "embedded" into its infantry formations thanks to General Manstein creating turretless light tanks that would be organic to the infantry operated by field artillery units. American infantry got clobbered in WW2 because it never had anything armored and mobile like the German turretless STUGs and had to hope turreted tanks and tank destroyers from other units would provide fire support for them and not go off on killing enemy tank sprees in tank duels. In the Pacific, there were few Jap tanks, tankers in Sherman medium tanks were very successful with few losses having adequate mobility if they were carefully driven and protected from close-range enemy infantry attacks as war researcher Emery Nelson has noted. In Europe, when not fire supporting for infantry, the Shermans as exploitation tanks suffered heavy losses against German STUGs, and medium to heavy tanks when acting as a breakthrough tank. America lacked a breakthrough heavy tank to combat other enemy tanks and this Tiger tank terror obsession has resulted in the 70-ton M1 Abrams heavy tank suitable only for combats in firm soil open terrains and our light infantry without its own STUG equivalent.

American artillery with the M107 "Priest" self-propelled howitzer with a 105mm gun could provide direct fire support STUG-style but had an open top and high silhouette making it very vulnerable. Thus, the tendency of American field artillery was to pulverize generalized areas using INDIRECT FIRE directed by organic STOL "grasshopper" observation planes that they owned & operated co-located at positions back to the rear of the front lines where maneuver units were making contact with the enemy. To help American light infantry that had to deploy by aircraft for 3D maneuver or mules in closed terrain, 75mm pack howitzers (short barrel, low-velocity) and 57mm anti-tank guns (long barrel, high-velocity) were fielded and these projectors of high explosives saved the day on Sicily, D-Day, Holland and at the Battle of the Bulge. However, the question arises why didn't 57mm and 75mm guns get attached to some Bren gun ultra-light tankettes "mini-STUGs" deployed by gliders to punch through German resistance to reinforce the German paras at Arnhem bridge? Stopping to unlimber a towed 57mm/75mm gun to fire is not the shock action of a STUG.


Here a 25-pounder AT gun on a Bren could clearly have blasted through even German medium and heavy tanks blocking the way to Arnhem bridge...

Smaller 2-pounder AT guns on Brens could have blasted the way through lesser vehicles, dug-in and barricaded Germans to Arnhem...

Why didn't the 1st British Airborne glider-deliver these "Mini-STUG" Bren tankettes with AT guns so they could have punched through German opposition to consolidate and hold Arnhem bridge?

It wasn't "a bridge too far" it was a case of the Airborne NOT GOING FAR ENOUGH in its force structure and tactics to have their own mini-STUGs.

Today, several futurists are calling for STUGs but to save weight advocate using RECOILLESS rifles, rockets and missiles. This is a proven concept as the German paras at Crete overcame their lack of firepower by hand-towing LG40 75mm recoilless guns to blast through allied positions leading to a rout. Americans fitted M40 106mm recoilless rifles to the M113 Gavin defacto STUG chassis in Vietnam. Before the backblast whiners start their hypocritical rants against RRs but go silent when ATGMs kick back huge backblasts, essentially the problem of ANY recoilless weapon to date is a lack of loading faster than 1 shot-at-a-time. This is how turreted tanks are mostly loaded, so I don't see what the whine is about, its the EXPOSED nature of this reloading that is what is at fault---not the backblast---because ANY gun is going to have huge FRONT BLAST so let's not be hypocritical here. Blast is blast seen by the enemy. American light infantry units today fire TOW ATGMs from exposed positions on top of unarmored, vulnerable, road/trail-bound Humvee wheeled trucks. Replacing these with M113 Gavins would be a quantum leap in capabilities providing armored, cross-country and amphibious mobility.

Recoilless Rifle STUGs

So let's return to the very premise of recoilless weapons to save weight. Many have long advocated 106mm RRs because a $100 shell can be actually afforded to be trained on and shot again and again. If the 106mm ammo is black-listed by the bureaucracy as too-hard to find in our vast ammo dumps or buy new from Bofors, then certainly the smaller 84mm Carl Gustav RR family of rounds in use by dozens of countries and our own Rangers could be developed into a simple M113 Gavin STUG pedestal launcher, as suggested by Stan Crist. Emery Nelson pointed out the Pakistanis have a twin-tube 106mm RR mount on an M113. And with the new fire control systems, the maximum effective range could be over 2km, at least, instead of 1100m, the .50 cal tracer burn-out range.

Rocket STUGs

Another idea is to already have a lot of 2.75" rockets in pods on top of your STUG as suggested by retired LTC Larry Altersitz. The beauty of the Hydra 70mm rockets is that they are cheap and now have a laser-guided version, too. Carlton and I have suggested to both the Army and USMC air defenders with Avenger Humvee trucks to exploit their ability to fire Hydra 70mm rockets to no avail. Current air defenders' unwillingness to contribute to the ground fight is shameful compared to their WW2 predecessors who in some cases (discarded/exchanged their)

AA weapons and employed 57mm AT guns to be useful. Another beauty of the Hydra 70mm rocket is its small sized, at least 100 could fit inside a M113 Gavin rocket STUG and give us direct fire as well as indirect barrage fire capabilities we lost when we retired our 4.5" rocket launchers.

Missile STUGs

Former USMC Captain Carlton Meyer for his HELLCAT would like to shoot dumb Hellfire missiles, Phil West's "Tankita" with Starstreak SAM/AT missiles, retired Army LTC Chuck Jarnot and war futurist Victor O'Reilly propose LOSAT-Juniors called C-KEMs the concern being to save weight for helicopter air transportability because the missiles launch themselves and don't need a heavy metal tube to "spit" them out and a recoilling mechanism. Both concepts would work great with the M113 Gavin STUG each having about 20 killing rounds on-board though exposed reloading is a problem that can be solved in varying degrees of cost/capability. The simplest and cheapest is a "TOW CAP" a kevlar dome over the gunner/reloader good to just KE bullets and small blast effects to the side, front and rear are still exposed. Having the launcher on a retracting pedestal that sinks down into the hull when empty for reloading there seems the best but will require some costly engineering. Another alternative might be to have the launcher pivot to a vertical or near-vertical position via the elevation mechanism and lower itself via a hydraulic electric or pneumatic piston to a loading position, with flip-up armored panels that cover the loaders from small arms fire. This does away with the retracting pedestal mount engineering problem for both a dumb/smart ATGM or 70mm rockets and actually has been employed by the Euro HOT ATGM. Phil West writes:

My idea was more concerned with the mounting of multi-use pylons on AFVs rather than specifically for Starstreak. These could mount TOW, Dumb-TOW, Hellfire, Starstreak, FFAR or any other weapon system that might be needed, such as podded grenade launchers.


I've suggested this modification for everything from M113s to MBTs. A related idea was what was effectively a "one shot assault gun" www.angelfire.com/art/enchanter/infan.html Recoilless weapons.

"Established wisdom" is that the backblast of a RCLR will give away its position. Ralph has argued that this is not a significant factor given the muzzle blast of the weapons and that a shot from a RCLR is no more noticable than that from a conventional gun of similar calibre. Watching the videos of RCLRs firing on youtube confirms this. As a side note flash is mainly caused by partially burnt propellant being exposed to oxygen and some formulaes of powder seem to be more prone to this than others. I have an article in my possession discussing the phenomon that certain pistol and rifle ammo brands produce virtually no flash when the same loadings from other manufacturers produce a lot. If I recall Israeli Samson brand was noted for being virtually flashless, as was wartime japanese rifle ammo (combined with the relatively long barrel of the service rifle). Calibration of powder volume might also contribute here. See here for old article on pop-up mounts for RCLRs www.angelfire.com/art/enchanter/rr.html and mention of the Japanese type 60 vehicle that actually had something like this

Probably closest idea I had to a STUG was


The crucial element of the German Assault Gun concept was not the actual configuration of the vehicle (L/24 75mm Pz1Vs were sometimes used by PzGr Divisions instead) but the organisational innovation of placing these vehicles under infantry control


...which helped preserve their distinct role. It is with that in mind I've suggested that the AGM be placed in the Mortar platoon of Armoured Infantry battalions

Our nagging concern with the dumb/smart ATGM approach is the sad reality that if things are too costly you will NEVER GET TO TRAIN ON THEM. The $4, 000 TOW ATGM is so rare that we drew lots in my NG unit to see who got to go to Florida and shoot the handfuls allocated for our ENTIRE BN to shoot. If you cannot shoot your weapons you cannot get very good at using them.

Gun or Howitzer STUGs

Why not just place a 105mm tank gun or a 105mm light howitzer tube into a turretless M113 Gavin STUG-style and live with the weight/recoil as retired LTC Larry Altersitz has suggested? Is this extra weight going to make a reduced size "Mini-Gavin" unable to be flyable inside a CH-47? Wouldn't the 9-man squad's absence in weight (2700 pounds) pay for most of the 105mm gun weight? "Spitting" out shells through metal tubes is far cheaper than any ATGM dumb or "smart". Less propellent is needed to shoot the shells through a tube so they are smaller than rockets and missiles so you might be able to get 100 shells in a M113 Gavin STUG compared to at most 20 ATGMs.

We can certainly have a lighter gun turret than the RDF's 75mm ARES autocannon to be much lighter than its 14 tons on either a cut-down M113 Gavin or Bv206S hull (see UDES-XX-20 pics further down on the AMS web page: www.reocities.com/air_mech_strike). The problem is again, CTM.

Phil West adds:

In case you didn't follow.the german vehicle I was refering to was this -possibly one of the most unlikely looking combat vehicles ever


...but very useful. These were held at Infantry regiment level in the Infantry gun company.

Continuing on a germanic note


half track with L24 75mm gun -also mounted on armoured cars, larger half tracks and infantry support tanks and assault guns.

What you may not know is that if the war had continued it is likely these guns would have been replaced by PAW 81mm guns -the ancestor of the M79 and essentially a higher velocity version of our current gun-mortars. I could easily see a similar mounting on the top of a M113/6

For the 101st, a RECOILLESS firepower means will be required to save precious weight and cost--this means either rockets, missiles or recoilless rifles

However, the simplest and easiest solution is to attach a M40A1 106mm recoilless rifle (RR) with a TAGS-type shield to the top of a designated Bv206S Ridgway after it rolls off the CH-47D/F helicopter, and using the troop volume to carry lots of new 106mm rounds obtained from Bofors or Israel if our 250,000 rounds of old ammo will not suffice. Stan Crist has proposed the smaller Carl Gustav 84mm RR be used on a vehicle mount. This solves the building/bunker blasting problem but at a cost of gunners dying from exposure to enemy fires. It doesn't shoot on move to kill enemy tanks or buttoned up. Spain makes a TC7 turret with a twin 106mm RR firing arrangement that can be fired under armor but the rifles have to be reloaded TOW-style with someone popping a hatch and exposing himself. There are myriad mounting options of 106mm RRs to M113A3s; the dual 106mm RR TC turret that keeps the gunner under armor protection is available from CETME in Spain. The TC-7/106 turret means only one crew member has to briefly expose his upper body to reload the weapons. The gunner aims the rifles within the vehicle with the reloading carried out through the troop hatch. Both traverse and elevation are hydraulic with the gunner's handle having fast target search at 15 degrees a second. The turret also has a .50 caliber Heavy Machine Gun and the .50 cal spotting rifle on the right hand RR.

Empressa Nacional Santa Barbera
Julian Camarillo 3
28037 Madird, Spain
Telephone: (91) 585-0100
Telex: 44466 ENSB E
Fax: (91) 585-0268

Pakistan has a twin 106mm RR mount on their M113s with a laser range-finder that extends effective range out to 1500 meters using old ammunition.

Wah Cantonnement, Pakistan
Telex: 5840 POPAC PK.

Its clear that the best solution is to design a 106mm autoloader turret that interestingly enough the Army had in 1954 called the T114 and place it on a cut-down Bv206S or M113 Mini-Gavin hull with stabilization. The R&D for the Bv206S Mini-106mm RR Assault Gun autoloader turret variant would probably cost around $1M and cost $1M per modified Bv206S Ridgway for a $2M total price tag. Depending on how many M8 Bufords/Thunderbolts the other light infantry RSTA squadrons got (either a 4 vehicle platoon or 14 vehicle troop) the 101st would need either 12 or 42 total at a cost of either $24-84M.

Another option would be to have 2 x 19-rocket 2.75 inch (Hydra 70mm) rocket pods in an armored turntable on a Bv206S or Mini-Gavin and firing them since 38 shots is almost the 42 shots of a M8 Buford/Thunderbolt AGS light tank. It would be sort of like the M50 Ontos which compensated for not having under-armor reloading by having 6 x 106mm recoilless rifles on the outside of the hull and turning the whole vehicle to fire. In both cases, when a resupply vehicle comes, someone has to get out and reload the entire vehicle one time before heading back to the battle area. During battle, no one would have to get out of the vehicle to reload--certainly not with 38 x Hydra 70mm rockets available. A laser guided warhead on the Hydra 70mm makes it a guided missile that can fly to where a laser designator "paints" the target.

Together, the Bv206S or Mini-Gavin infantry carriers and American STUG 106mm RR assault guns or Hydra 70mm rocket launchers would form a 3D maneuver element that could fight its way through to city centers of gravity like the M113 Gavin/M8 Buford light-to-medium fixed-wing aircraft delivered force could except it would do so with less MFP because they had to fit inside CH-47D/F helicopters, but they could overcome enemies with RPGs, their own RRs, small arms, barricades and even some medium/heavy tanks.


Our recommendation is to develop a 84mm Carl Gustav or 106mm RR depressing pedestal reload under-armor launcher, or Hydra 70mm rocket launcher for recoilless weaponry for a M113 Gavin-based STUG because these are affordable rounds we can shoot and the Hydra 70mms can be guided if they need to be.

Sub-Optimize All Army Light Units to ULTRA Light tracked AFVs?

There are some 3D maneuver theorists (Jarnot, Heitmann) that say we should sub-optimize ALL of the Army's light units with Bv206S Ridgways or Mini-Gavins so all can inter-changeably fly by fixed or rotary-wing aircraft. I disagree first for CTM reasons, because upgrading surplus Gavins at $100-400K buys us important, new capabilities like band tracks, infared camouflage, hybrid-electric drive and 30mm autocannons when roughly the same money on new purchase Bv206Ss only gets us an armored box-on-tracks that is lower, narrower and separable into two cars--features important enough to get for the 101st but not needed anywhere else. The CMT obstacles for Bv206S re-equipping all the Army light infantry Delta companies with essentially $1M each vehicles would result in total force transformation not taking place. We have to get out of this bad habit of changing/fixing only small parts of the Army and learn to change ALL of the Army through small batches at a time of new vehicles, actually "operational prototypes". That's how the cash-strapped IDF gets innovative TAFVs into actual combat use. "Good enough" that gets fielded beats "perfect" that never arrives.

Earlier, I said the Bv206S Ridgway 3D maneuver force could "thunder run" with less MFP capabilities than the heavier M113 Mini- or full-size Gavin/M8 Buford/Thunderbolt AGS light tank force. All Army maneuver forces need better combat engineers organic to perhaps the newly air-mechanized Delta Weapons companies renamed as Engineer Cavalry (ECAV) troops with dozer blades, rocket line charges, bangalore torpedoes etc. to overcome obstacles. All maneuver forces should have airborne AY-65 Vigilante and Hydra 70mm rocket projected smoke screen capabilities. Having said this, there are still some issues of scale-up that are important when it comes to "taking a hit" in a light and ultra light TAFV. Being heavier, helps in that you might not get turned over in a M113 Gavin/M8 Buford/Thunderbolt which with extra armor are defacto "medium" weight TAFVs of about 20 tons. Get hit by high explosives in an Ultra-Light TAFV and you are going to be turned over if not thrown into the air, killing Soldiers even if the vehicle hull is not penetrated. UL-TAFVs will also have a difficult time carrying the extra armor layers to defeat the first warhead of a tandem warhead RPG, another layer to pre-det the shaped charge, a ceramic layer to stop heavy machine gun bullets, the weight of hull armor and a spall liner to stop what gets through. Thus from a MFP perspective, its a bad idea to sub-optimize the light infantry units not wed to lesser payload helicopters like the 101st is when USAF fixed-wing aircraft with prodding (create Attack Pathfinder units in every RSTA Squadron) can parachute drop and STOL airland the more capable Gavins/Buford/Thunderbolts.

Got Cavalry? LRDSG/SAS in North Africa

LESSON #1: Use Light Armored tracks and have your own Organic Aircraft

Ralph Zumbroesque independent operations would be better done today if a LRDG/SAS/Cavalry used light tracked Mini-Gavin AFVs with HED, band tracks for 600 mile range without constantly getting stuck and needing all sorts of desperation measures visible in the video. Most importantly light tracks would enable armor protection to have less mission failures, key leaders killed when encountering enemy fires. Imagine if they had organic JCA (C-27J or C-295) STOL transport or CH-47 VTOL aircraft could have infiltrated them in and drive out or drive in/fly out etc. to increase optempo and long-range flexibility/reach. Imagine these escorted and supported by observation/attack fixed-wing aircraft like the German Stukas supported the German paras at Eban Emael/Crete and the A-10s support the American Airborne infantry today.

The lack of fuel caused by LRDG/SAS raiding and maritime interdiction from Malta and other RAF bases severely handicapped Rommel's ability to 2D maneuver on the ground resulting in his strategic defeat.

LESSON #2: Aircraft Must be Mobile and hardened

The LRDG/SAS experience cries out for our air forces to have their aircraft ground-mobile to avoid targeting, and when static in BATTLEBOXes and hardened against all kinds of attacks.

LESSON #3: Must we be "Special" to Have a Cavalry?

The video begs us to reflect on Slim's warning about "special" feces units, is this necessary to get a cavalry more mobile than the main body? Must we set apart a group of snobs in order to get no-non-sense functionality? Must the main body be crack-the-whip assholes and an intolerable place to be to get MASS on planet earth? You set up a pecking order pyramid of narrow individualist ego and this ends up devaluing the other more vital functions that needs to be done quantitatively in a larger way to effect enough of planet earth. Must one go through a snob process to "earn" the right to have common sense and a flexibility of the mind? Didn't the Germans have a high state of initiative within their large main body? Can't we have 3D and 2D maneuver working together without the us vs. them snobfest?

PART 1 intro


PART 2: Problems keeping wheeled trucks mobile in the desert, make-shift sand channels, wheel carpets etc,. Tommy infantry backed by Mathilda medium tanks route Italians, Germans send Rommel, note ALL his tanks were LIGHT, ability to repair on vehicles in desert, Sterling goes to the top general with his idea for raiding force, Layforce and LT. Jock Lewis, SAS parachute training, railcar for PLFs, small jump tower, moving trucks to practice PLFs, training tent camp by Suez Canal, Fitzroy McClean, author, NOTE: jumping with no reserves!!, SAS jump wings, insignia, motto


PART 3: Operation Crusader airfield raids in 1941, parachutes too windy in desert, opt for LRDG transport SAS to raids, 10 x Lewis bombs each raider to take-out aircraft, Jock Lewis killed in his unarmored truck by German airplane, road watches to ascertain enemy strength/intentions, airfield raids to relieve attacks on Malta, Germans can't counter LRDG/SAS, Rommel creates German version of LRDG to get intel on Monty's 8th Army inserting spies into Egypt but ULTRA secret tipped Brits off who arrested all of them, 88mm guns in action, American Willys Jeep easy to conceal, sun compass, stronger "Jerry" fuel cans, condensors to retain engine coolant


PART 4: Communal chow concoctions, mg jeep raids on airfields, self-sufficiency in each vehicle, E&E kit if vehicle disabled, 4-man building blocks NOONE commanded it, all 4 took turns co-operating, some raids ended in disaster in the vulnerable wheeled trucks, they had their own STOL liaison aircraft!


PART 5: using captured allied trucks painted in German markings, 200 raids, one patrol out at all times, LRDG/SAS destroyed more German aircraft on ground than RAF did in air and on ground!




A veteran writes:

"Just looked at them this morning. I love it -- a jet age 'Bren Carrier', capable of carrying a full squad (and at least getting their rucks off their backs and their weight off their feet). Even the open topped variant would be a Godsend today -- erect an "RPG/grenade" awning of chickenwire above it (add a sheet of ballistic cloth below it). Even a grenade that hung up in the wire and detonated would be less catastrophic afterwards than if it detonated inside.

So, why did we not buy them?

Simple -- at the time there were two modes of warfare being considered for the Army.

1. "Pentatomic", a high-intensity conflict involving full tactical use of nuclear and chemical weapons (surprisingly enough, "mid-weight" forces suiffer wosts, while the two extremes - heavy armor and light fighter - have the highest survivability in such conditions). Light , open topped armor would be almost useless for protection under NBC fire (although, unnoticed at the time, far better equipped to CROSS contaminated areas AFTER the attack).

2. Vietnam style engagements, where airmobility was supposed to fix our problems, and armor wouldn't do any good as it alleged to be road bound. The logistic requirements of the "Air Cavalry" were barely sufficient to move a brigade of dismounted infantry at a time ("Divisional" movements were a fantasy --if you can't move it in ONE lift, it ain't a single movement!). Adding the requirement to move light armor (even these really neat Super-Bren Carriers) would have reduced useful combat lift to a battalion or two at a time. The Huey was ALWAYS a light-lifter, and when used as the prime mover for infantry, really sucks up resources. (At least we don't man our cockpits like the Air Force, Navy, and Marines -- then a "Helicopter Transport Company" 1st Air Cav style would require a LTC instead of a CPT or MAJ as CO, simply because half his pilots would be CPTs! But WOs as your primary pilots aren't sexy enough for the USMC, USN, and USAF, even though it would increase pilot retention, since the WOs-as-pilots, being "specialists", would NEVER have to leave their beloved cockpits for "career enhancing assignments" like commanding a K-9 squadron. A lot of aviators hang up the OD flight suit when they are told they have to take a desk job unrelated to flying -- and they can instead join the Air Guard, fly fighters on weekends, and STILL make $150K at United.)

(Sorry about the rambling off on the pilot issue -- as far as I'm concerned ALL 'specialist officer' billets should be WOs, unless they are actually in a chain of command. I understand that there is a case to be made for certain billets to be filled by 'officers', especially those requiring advanced post-grad studies even for entry level slots, but do they need to be 'commissioned" officers'? -- how about WO doctors, WO lawyers, WO chaplains, etc. Same money, same 'respect', but it would mean that when you see a COMMISSIONED officer, you would automatically know he's in charge of SOMETHING, even if only the S1 section. And all these non-command types never have to worry about being asked to be something they're not -- only if they want to be the CO do they have to have a commission and LEAD people. Imagine, surgeons who actually spend their time working on medicine, and not cramming for C&GS at Leavenworth! While the ambitious doctor 'laterally transfers' from, say CW3 to O3, attends 'command' courses, and ends up running the hospital. 'Warrants' would be 'branch specialists' who are NOT automatically 'leaders of men', while ALL commissioned officers would be trained leaders FIRST, branch types second. Of course, de-coupling Warrant Strength from Commissioned Strength at the Congressional Budget level would be required -- that's why 'blue' services don't use warrants, and the marines use them more sparingly. . . a 'warrant' currently occupies a 'commissioned' slot in the manning level ceilings.)

Oh, no, I do not believe that the tracks would be road bound in a Vietnam type of conflict -- the success of the 11th ACR proved that.

But, conventional wisdom of the time thought that armor would be road bound and useless in a 'jungle war'. (And they were ignoring the fact that MOST of Vietnam is NOT a jungle -- the Mekong Delta was only ONE region US/RVN forces operated in. Such presumption that all of Vietnam was a jungle is like proclaiming that all of Louisiana is bayou, or all of Virginia is a tidewater region.)

It certainly influenced decision making during the equipment procurement cycles that led into Vietnam (keep in mind the lag time between testing and large-scale employement, and that Vietnam caused us to miss an entire cycle of upgrades in order to avoid a 'war economy' that would directly affect the public -- fighting it on the cheap cost us dearly). Considering that in previous conflicts with a 'front line' and advances and retreats, armor had previously been road bound, as their logistics tail was road bound -- even the addition of armored cargo vehicles merely helps, but it does not eliminate, this fact. (Armored cargo vehicles have a heavier logistical impact of their own, and so are less efficient than cargo trucks -- but armored logistics can make it all the way to the front line battalions. The key is determining what mix and when to switch to tracked prime movers -- perhaps shifting to armored cargo at the Brigade Support Area, and leaving soft skins for runs between Brigade and higher?. . . sounds like a good staff study for a combined Armor/Infantry/Transportation Corps project.)

But, a Low Intensity [sub-national, non-linear ] Conflict doesn't involve massive corps-level advances for a hundred miles, and so the "Patton's Red Ball Express" [linear nation-state war] paradigm was hopelessly flawed when applied to Vietnam. Most forces were operating in their own local region, and did not have a near-continuous movement continually farther from loggy bases. While they might need logistical support on patrol, they weren't always moving away from the Normandy beachheads."

An Army officer writes about how a band-tracked M113 Mini-Gavin with autocannon would do organic to light infantry units...it'd be an American version of the German Wiesel...

"At the JRTC, I distinctly remember the Wiesels killing everything in their path. It went nearly everywhere the dismounts did. They were shuttled all around the battlefield in CH-47s. When one broke down, it was hauled off in a HEMTT wrecker. Easy to transport, easy to maintain, killed everything with its 20mm cannon.

Interesting though, the Bundeswehr special operations forces uses the Wiesel 2 as a networked, decentralized, command and control platform. It is even equipped with a hybrid-electric drive. Looks like they already have proven technologies that Stryker is still trying to prove."

Music from "Batman Begins" by Hans Zimmer

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