M8 Armored Gun System
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|M8 Armored Gun System|
The M8 Armored Gun System with 105 mm gun
|Place of origin||United States|
|Weight||19.25 tons (Level I Armor)
22.25 tons (Level II Armor)
24.75 tons (Level III Armor)
|Crew||3 (Commander, Gunner, Driver)|
|XM35 105 mm rifled gun (30 rounds)|
|7.62 mm Coaxial MG (4500 rounds)
Commander: 12.7 mm M2 Browning (210 rounds)
|Engine||Detroit Diesel Corporation DDC 6V 92TIA
550 hp at 2400 rpm (JP-8),
580 hp at 2400 rpm (diesel)
|Power/weight||29.1 hp/ton (32.1 hp/tonne) (Level I)|
|Fuel capacity||150 gal.|
|280 mi (451 km)|
|Speed||Road: 45 mph (72 km/h)
Off road: 30 mph (48 km/h)
||This article or section contains close paraphrasing of a non-free copyrighted source, http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/blog/lists/posts/post.aspx?ID=1294 (Duplicate Detector report). Ideas in this article should be expressed in an original manner. (October 2013)|
The United Defense M8 Armored Gun System was a light tank that was intended to replace the M551 Sheridan in the 82nd Airborne Division, as well as being expected to replace TOW-equipped Humvees in the 2d Armored Cavalry Regiment (2nd ACR). The M8 project was eventually canceled. Its role in the 2nd ACR was eventually taken by the Stryker.
In the 1980s, the United States Army began looking for a replacement for their M551 Sheridan light tanks. Several attempts over the years to update or replace the Sheridan had proved unsuccessful. The Armored Gun System (AGS) competition was initiated and in 1992 FMC/United Defense's vehicle was selected. In addition to being expected to replace the Sheridan in the 82nd Airborne Division, it was expected to replace TOW-equipped Humvees in the 2d Armored Cavalry Regiment.
A total of six prototypes were eventually built for the U.S. Army under the designation of the XM8 AGS. The M8 was later type-classified by the U.S. Army in late 1995 and initially slated for production in 1996. The M8 project was canceled in 1997 to free up money for other fledgling programs. In March 2004 at the 82nd Airborne Division's request, the Army approved the transfer of four production vehicles from United Defense's facility in York, Pennsylvania to the 82nd at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. However as of June 2004, this transfer was on hold pending an "ongoing analysis." The M8's role in the 2nd ACR was eventually taken by the Stryker.
United Defense had reportedly sought overseas customers, without success. In late 1997 they parted with FNSS Defence Systems to offer the M8 AGS to the Turkish Land Forces Command. As of 2006, Taiwan at one point expressed interest as a replacement for its fleet of M24 Chaffee/M41 Walker Bulldog light tanks but would not commit following cancellation by the U.S.
Airborne light tank re-interest
In early 2013, Army leaders began to say lightly armed brigades needed mobile protected firepower for forced-entry style missions. After operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, they realized infantry brigades had a capability gap, with forcible entry forces lacking a sufficient protected firepower platform. Air assault forces, specifically the 82nd Airborne Division, relied on fire support from strike fighters. This risked civilian casualties and was not effective at destroying concealed or covered positions. The widespread use of improvised explosive devices also turned attention away from creating a C-130 transportable vehicle balancing speed, protection, off-road mobility, and lethality to focus on protection. Faced with a future conflict where airborne forces might have to combat heavily armed enemies while only equipped with light weapons, the Army revealed in September 2013 that they were looking for a light tank to support lightly armed Infantry Brigade Combat Teams. The plan is to provide the XVIII Airborne Corps with a light tank which can be flown by C-130 cargo planes and airdropped into a combat zone. The idea is similar to the M551 Sheridan Armored Reconnaissance Airborne Assault Vehicle, which was removed from service in 1997. The vehicle must have a base armor package capable of defeating 14.5 mm ammunition, be able to bolt on additional armor packages after follow-on forces arrive, and be able to drive off road. Both tracked and wheeled vehicles are being considered, and no specific caliber gun has been chosen. The Army does not plan to spend money creating a new design and will choose an available vehicle. Due to budget constraints, the selection process has a relatively tight deadline of 24 months. Out of up to 140 candidates under evaluation, 10 potential vehicles will be narrowed down. Army officials will evaluate them to prepare to write requirements to inform interested vendors of a future solicitation. After a light tank is selected, they will buy some for testing and give them to the XVIII Airborne Corps for trials. The Airborne Corps will be equipped with a flotilla of vehicles with 44 in a battalion. Four vehicles will be in each platoon and 14 will be in a company. This distribution plan is referred to as 4-14-44. The last effort to acquire light armored vehicles was the Future Combat Systems program, which was conceptualized in 1999 and ended in 2009. The vehicles it developed could not survive roadside bomb attacks, and it used immature technologies at too high a cost. Army officials deny the light tank effort is taking after FCS, as it is meant to support the airborne-specific mission with armored capabilities. One of the vehicles that could be considered is the Armored Gun System, which was being considered to replace the Sheridan in the late 1990s. The Army was able to buy only six vehicles before the program was terminated. Fort Benning officials say it meets the requirements like it did in 1996, described as "old technology that kills T-72 tanks."
The basic hull of the M8 is made of welded aluminum alloy, with a unique modular armoring system that allows the vehicle to be equipped according to requirements. The Level I (basic) armor package is designed for the rapid deployment role and can be airdropped from a C-130 Hercules and protects the vehicle against small-arms fire and shell splinters. The Level II armor package can still be carried by C-130, but must be airlanded and is designed for use by light forces in a more serious threat environment, while level III armor is designed for contingency operations and is supposed to provide protection against light handheld anti-tank weapons. Level III armor cannot be carried by C-130. All versions are air-transportable by C-5 Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster III (five and three respectively).
The M8 is armed with the M35 rifled autoloading 105 mm cannon main gun with an M240 7.62 mm machine-gun mounted co-axially. The M35 has a rate of fire of approximately 12 rounds per minute, with a ready capacity of 21 rounds with 9 more in stowage. Power is provided by a Detroit Diesel 6V-92TIA diesel developing 580 hp.
"Thunderbolt" Armored Gun System (Block II)
This technology demonstrator was a test bed to bring Future Combat System technologies to the current force in the near term. Advanced technologies incorporated into this variant include hybrid electric propulsion, band track, improved ceramic/composite armor, Second Generation FLIR Night Vision technology, digitization, a XM-291 140 mm main gun along with its 140 mm auto loader. This demonstrated system upgrade retains the M8's C-130 Hercules air transport capability, as well as the AGS 3-man crew.
- Nathan Hodge (4 June 2004). "Seeking `Options,' Army Plans Stryker Gun Airdrop". DEfense Daily. Retrieved 22 September 2013.
- Matthew Cox (20 September 2013). "Army Looks to Mount 30mm Cannons on Strykers". Military.com. Retrieved 22 September 2013.
- U.S. Army in the Market for ‘Light’ Tanks - Nationaldefensemagazine.org, 7 October 2013
- Miller, D. (2000). The Illustrated Directory of Tanks of the World. pp. 478-480. Osceola, MI: MBI Publishing.
- Plummer, A. (15 March, 2004). Inside the Army. Army To Transfer Four Armored Gun Systems To 82nd Airborne Division.
- United Defense Unveils Thunderbolt 120 mm Demonstrator. Accessed 24 September 2006.
- Shirley A. Kan, "Taiwan: Major U.S. Arms Sales Since 1990", November 29, 2012, RL30957, Congressional Research Service, 7-5700, www.crs.gov
- M8 Armored Gun System at GlobalSecurity.org
- M8 LAV at Jane's
- Link to CRO Doc RL30957 on the USAF Air University