M8 Armored Gun System

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M8 Armored Gun System
The M8 Armored Gun System with 105 mm gun
Type Light tank
Place of origin United States
Weight 19.25 tons (Level I Armor)
22.25 tons (Level II Armor)
24.75 tons (Level III Armor)
Length 8.9 m (hull + gun) 6.2 m (hull only)
Width 2.69 m
Height 2.55 m
Crew 3 (Commander, Gunner, Driver)

Armor Welded Aluminium Alloy
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)
Suspension Hydropneumatic
Fuel capacity 150 gal.
280 mi (451 km)
Speed Road: 45 mph (72 km/h)
Off road: 30 mph (48 km/h)

The United Defense M8 Armored Gun System is an American 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 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment (2nd ACR). The M8 project was eventually canceled. Its role in the 2nd ACR was eventually taken by the M1128 Mobile Gun System.


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 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment.

In 1994 United Defense expressed an interest in marketing the tank to NATO allies of the United States.[1] In 1994 Taiwan expressed interest in acquiring as many as 700 AGS.[2]

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 approved for low-rate initial production of 26 vehicles in 1996. The Army planned to acquire a total of 237 AGS through 2004 at a program cost estimated at $1.3 billion.[3]

Cancellation and resurrection[edit]

Amid questions about the vehicle's versatility, the M8 project was canceled in March 1997 to free up money for other programs.[4]

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."[5] The M8's role in the 2nd ACR was eventually taken by the Stryker. All six prototypes still exist in varying conditions.[6]

In late 1997 United Defense they parted with FNSS Defence Systems to offer the M8 AGS to the Turkish Land Forces.

In 1999 the U.S. Army was mulling the feasibility of purchasing between 50 and 800 improved AGS for deployment around 2004–2005.[7] In 2000 United Defense offered the AGS as it's entrant in the Interim Armored Vehicle (IAV) Mobile Gun System program.[8]

In October 2003 United Defense presented an 20-ton hybrid-electric variant of the M8 AGS called the "Thunderbolt" at Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting.[9]

Technologies incorporated into this variant include hybrid electric propulsion, band track, improved ceramic/composite armor, Second Generation FLIR Night Vision technology, digitization, a XM-291 120 mm main gun along with its 120 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.

Mobile protected firepower[edit]

In late 2013, the U.S. regained interest in the M8 AGS when they began looking to procure a mobile airborne protected firepower platform for forced-entry style missions to provide fire support for air assault forces like the 82nd Airborne. The plan is to provide the XVIII Airborne Corps with a light tank which can be airdropped into a combat zone by C-130 cargo planes with a base armor package capable of defending against 14.5 mm ammunition, able to bolt on additional armor packages after follow-on forces arrive. Unlike the previous Future Combat Systems program, which sought to create light transportable vehicles for the entire service and was cancelled in 2009 from cost overruns and other factors, the mobile protected firepower effort is meant specifically to support the airborne mission with armored capabilities. The M8 was originally planned to replace the M551 Sheridan and take up the role, and Fort Benning officials say it meets the requirements like it did in 1996, described as "old technology that kills T-72 tanks."[10][11] Searching for an MPF is part of an Army effort to develop three lightweight, highly mobile ground vehicles for a light infantry brigade; the other parts include the Ultra Light Combat Vehicle and a light reconnaissance vehicle (LRV). The MPF would target bunkers, armored vehicles, and targets behind walls with base armor able to protect against 152 mm artillery shrapnel, be able to add underbelly blast protection in a one-hour conversion to full combat mode, and carry enough fuel and ammunition to operate for 24 hours before being resupplied. The MPF is to enter service by 2024.[12]

BAE Systems displayed the M8 AGS at the 2015 AUSA Annual Meeting in October 2015 as a potential candidate for the MPF requirement. It is the same vehicle that was built in the 1990s, but modern electronics, sensors, and an engine would modernize it and decrease weight.[6]


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.


  1. ^ "United Defense and Rheinmetall/Mak to market AGS to NATO allies". Defense Daily. 22 June 1994. Retrieved 12 April 2017. 
  2. ^ "U.S. and Taiwan move closer on sale of Armored Gun System". Defense Daily. 27 June 1994. Retrieved 12 April 2017. 
  3. ^ Foote, Sheila (31 October 1995). "Army okays initial production of Armored Gun System". Defense Daily. Retrieved 12 April 2017. 
  4. ^ Arenstein, Seth (4 March 1996). "AGS killed as Army budget rises". Defense Daily. Retrieved 12 April 2017. 
  5. ^ Nathan Hodge (4 June 2004). "Seeking `Options,' Army Plans Stryker Gun Airdrop". Defense Daily. Retrieved 22 September 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Weisgerber, Marcus (13 October 2015). "With Russia in Mind, BAE Revives Light Tank from the '90s". Defense One. Retrieved 13 October 2015. The intent of what we have out here is a conversation starter,” said Deepak Bazaz, BAE Systems’ director of New and Amphibious Vehicles, standing by his company’s M8 Armored Gun System. 
  7. ^ "Home » Publications » Industry magazines » Military magazines » Defense Daily » October 1999 » Recently viewed: Article: United Defense Unveils Thunderbolt Demonstrator Vehicle. Save Export Email Print Cite ARMY STUDYING OPTIONS FOR NEAR-TERM 20-TON COMBAT VEHICLES". Defense Daily. 8 October 1999. Retrieved 13 April 2017. 
  8. ^ "GANSLER BACKS IAV ACQUISITION STRATEGY". Defense Daily. 17 March 2000. Retrieved 13 April 2017. 
  9. ^ "United Defense Unveils Thunderbolt Demonstrator Vehicle". Defense Daily. 7 October 2003. Retrieved 13 April 2017. 
  10. ^ Matthew Cox (20 September 2013). "Army Looks to Mount 30mm Cannons on Strykers". Military.com. Retrieved 22 September 2013. 
  11. ^ U.S. Army in the Market for ‘Light’ Tanks - Nationaldefensemagazine.org, 7 October 2013
  12. ^ US Army considers three new light vehicles designs - Armyrecognition.com, 17 September 2014
  • 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". United Defense. [dead link]
  • Shirley A. Kan, "Taiwan: Major U.S. Arms Sales Since 1990", November 29, 2012, RL30957, Congressional Research Service, 7-5700, www.crs.gov

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