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|Type||Fire Support Team Vehicle|
|Place of origin||United States|
|Weight||12 metric tons|
|Length||4.863 m (16.0 ft)|
|Width||2.686 m (8.8 ft)|
|Height||2.940 m (9.6 ft) (targeting head stowed), 3.410 m (11.2 ft) (head extended)|
|Crew||4 (driver, commander, radio operator, turret operator)|
|480 km (300 mi)|
|Speed||64 km/h (40 mph)|
The M981 FISTV (Fire Support Team Vehicle) is a United States Army armored vehicle designed to house an artillery observer team in mechanized units. It was based on the M901 Improved TOW Vehicle (ITV) - itself based on the ubiquitous M113 Armored Personnel Carrier chassis - and outwardly closely resembles it, so as to make it less conspicuous on the battlefield.
The principal equipment on the FISTV is the Ground/Vehicular Laser Locator Designator (G/VLLD), pronounced "glid". This device obtains precise range information to a lased target. When combined with directional control from an inertial navigation system and vehicle coordinates from the Global Positioning System, the system is able to obtain precise coordinates of a designated target.
Although the M981 was supposed to be armed with a mounted M60 Machine gun, safety considerations associated with soldiers operating outside while the laser was operating resulted in crews being equipped with a detached M249 Squad Automatic Weapon instead.
The FISTV also has four SINCGARS radios to track the numerous voice and data radio nets pertinent to fire support operations.
The FISTV identifies targets and sends their description and location to the Fire Direction Center.
Each Armor or Mechanized Infantry company in the US Army had one M981. Its crew consisted of a Lieutenant, a noncommissioned officer, and two soldiers. This crew doubles as the advisors to the company commander on fire support issues.
FISTVs are also used by Combat Observation and Lasing Teams (COLTs), a Brigade asset positioned to support the Brigade fires plan.
Amongst its several advantages, the hammerhead could be raised from behind protective terrain or concealing cover. Although gyroscopes had their weaknesses, these systems were replaced or supplemented with other location & positioning systems, such as GPS. The crew could also use basic land navigation skills, like triangulating from known terrain features, should gyros or technology fail. The FISTV had several limitations, including the vehicle's poor performance compared to the M2 Bradleys and M1 Abrams tanks with which it maneuvered, forcing the other vehicles to wait while the FISTV labored to keep up. Its top-heavy design made it prone to rollovers. The lack of a heavy weapons system or enhanced armor meant that the crew depended solely on the supported element for protection. It could not move with the hammerhead deployed in the raised position and it took the gyroscopes about 10 minutes to spin up, stabilize and locate once the vehicle's crew was parked and setup.