Can a Bradley Survive an IED? A Soldier‘s Perspective

Hey there – as someone who served on a Bradley crew, I know firsthand how vulnerable, yet how surprisingly survivable these vehicles can be against improvised explosive devices (IEDs). In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll share my experience and expertise on the Bradley‘s armor, weapons, survivability and replacement plans.

A Fighting Vehicle Built for Battle

Before we discuss survivability, let‘s quickly overview the Bradley‘s design and role on the battlefield. Since entering service in 1981, over 6,000 Bradley Fighting Vehicles have been produced and deployed worldwide. Here are some key stats:

  • Crew: 3 (Commander, Gunner, Driver) + 6 infantry passengers
  • Weight: Around 25 tons when fully loaded
  • Dimensions: 21 feet long, 9.5 feet wide, 8 feet tall
  • Armor: Aluminum and steel construction, sloped for deflection
  • Main Armament: 25mm autocannon, TOW anti-tank missiles
M2A3 Bradley Production Over 2,300
Deployment History Gulf War, Iraq War, War in Afghanistan
Built for Armored infantry transport and fire support

Compared to heavy tanks, the Bradley trades sheer armor for increased speed and mobility – it‘s not made to directly engage enemy armor. Instead, it allows infantry squads to quickly move around the battlefield while protected from light fire. When enemy vehicles appear, its weapons also pack a lethal punch.

Now let‘s move on to discussing how it survives IED and rocket attacks.

Surviving IEDs and RPGs – A Delicate Balance

When I deployed to Iraq, our Bradley unit faced the constant threat of IEDs and RPG ambushes. While our vehicles provided security, they were never impervious to these weapons. Let‘s look at a few factors that influence the Bradley‘s survivability:

Armor Protection

  • Front arc withstands 14.5mm armor piercing rounds
  • All-round protection against 7.62mm ball ammunition
  • Aluminum and steel construction with sloped angles

This armor stops small arms fire and fragmentation, but can be penetrated by larger IED explosions or RPG direct hits. Still, it provides moderate protection against insurgent threats.

Crew Protection Design

  • Low profile vehicle makes it harder to target accurately
  • Shock-absorbing seats protect from blasts
  • Crew separated into blow-out compartments
  • Fire suppression systems increase survivability

Even if penetrated, these safety features give the crew a fighting chance of escaping the wreckage alive.

Evasion Tactics

  • Add-on slat/reactive armor defeats RPGs
  • Motion and smoke makes vehicle harder to hit
  • Identification of likely ambush spots
  • Constant vigilance and threat awareness

Good training and tactics significantly improve survivability against ambushes.

While armor and safety systems are crucial, situation awareness ultimately gives crews the edge against IEDs and RPGs. During my deployments, we survived several near misses thanks to spotting threats first and taking evasive action. However, compromised armor or a direct hit usually results in a mobility kill, forcing crews to bail out.

Firepower – A Bradley‘s Bite

Though not a tank, the Bradley still packs impressive offensive punch:

  • 25mm Autocannon: Effective against infantry, trucks, light armor
  • TOW Missiles: Heavy anti-tank firepower, can destroy tanks
  • 7.62mm Coaxial MG: Supplemental machine gun

In the Gulf War, Bradleys destroyed more Iraqi armor than Abrams tanks, using their autocannon and missiles to overwhelm outdated Soviet vehicles. Even modern vehicles have to respect the threat posed by a Bradley in ambush.

Weaknesses and Replacement Timeline

Despite upgrades, the Bradley has some inherent weaknesses:

  • Armor remains light compared to tanks
  • Interior ammo storage risks catastrophic detonation
  • Older models lack full IED protection
  • 25mm gun underpowered versus modern tanks

Various upgrades like add-on armor, slat cages, and electronics partially mitigate these issues. But after 40+ years of service, the Army has initiated the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV) program to replace Bradleys by 2035.

The OMFV aims for enhanced firepower and survivability. It may even remove human crews entirely in favor of full autonomy. While technical details remain classified, the vehicle promises to be a huge leap forward. As an old Bradley guy, I can‘t wait to see what this next generation of infantry fighting vehicles can do! But Bradleys still have a lot of fight left in them.

Final Thoughts from the Front Lines

So based on my firsthand experience, here‘s the bottom line – yes, a Bradley can absolutely survive an IED attack. While not impervious, its armor, safety systems and tactics make crew survival likely unless hit by a catastrophic blast. Bradleys are designed to take a hit and keep fighting. I‘ve seen them limp back to base after sustaining heavy damage. They provide security, mobility and firepower.

That said, IEDs and RPGs remain serious threats that must be respected. As improvements enhance survivability, insurgents respond with more lethal blasts. It‘s a constant back-and-forth. There‘s no such thing as an invulnerable vehicle – only vigilant crews, sound tactics and effective training.

I hope this guide gave you useful perspective on the Bradley‘s capabilities and limits from a soldier‘s viewpoint. Let me know if you have any other questions! I‘m happy to provide more insider knowledge. Stay safe out there.

Sgt. Jason Striegel
U.S. Army (Ret.)

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