Marines of 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division, convoy from Rota, Spain to Almeria, Spain on Oct. 26, 2015. The Marines traveled to their training site for Trident Juncture 2015 to participate in live-fire ranges and conduct field operations with NATO allied forces.
The U.S. has, for the past 53 years, used the M242 Bushmaster 25mm auto-cannon, and it has done its job well.
Whether defeating hundreds of T-55s and BMP’s in Iraq, or decimating hardened terrorist positions in the Middle East, the Bushmaster is a reliable weapon that has been given new life as its ammunition has been upgraded to defeat modern armor.
Unfortunately, its long service should have ended five years ago. The saying goes “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” In this case it’s not broken, but it needs to be replaced. The Bushmaster auto-cannon is now underperforming in penetration, caliber, and range compared to the auto cannons of America’s allies and potential adversaries.
The Bushmaster, a versatile weapon that’s easily serviceable by its operating crew, has been the mainstay weapon of use for the U.S. Army’s Bradley. It has seen a large amount of combat with the Marines’ LAV, and it has more recently been adopted by the Navy to defeat the threat of small boat swarms posed by Iran and China. Rather than retire the auto-cannon, a feasible idea would be to mount a few thousand on the Army and Marines’ new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle with remote turrets, maximizing mobility and firepower.
The Marines and Army need to design a new auto-cannon, with a large caliber, and a diverse array of ammunition to defeat different threats. The U.S. could use a few tips from its allies, most of whom utilize superior auto-cannons.
The British have completed the first production model of their new reconnaissance vehicle called the Scout SV, also known as AJAX. The AJAX and the upgraded Warrior IFVs will utilize a CTA International Case Telescope 40mm auto-cannon which outperforms the 25mm Bushmaster in every respect.
For the past 30 years, the Swedes have had the Stridsfordon 90, also called the Combat Vehicle(CV) 90 IFV. It’s armed with an impressive 40mm auto-cannon, which is a slightly modified anti-aircraft cannon made in the 1950s.
The 40mm armor piercing round can defeat any known IFV armor and can take out older model tanks. One major drawback though is that it only carries 24 rounds. While having less ammo to keep the enemy suppressed is a disadvantage, having the ability to defeat enemy vehicles with several shots, in my mind, outweighs the disadvantage of having rounds deflecting off of enemy vehicles.
The armor on the CV90 is said to be able to defeat 30mm ammunition. The IFV has seen great success in its export version to Scandinavian militaries but with a 30mm cannon.
The Russians have had the BMP-3 IFV and its variants for the past 25 years. It has an impressive armament consisting of a 100mm 2A70 main gun, capable of launching laser guided anti-tank missiles, coaxial mounted 30mm 2A272 auto-cannon with a 500 round capacity.
While the BMP-3 is a fabled IFV, a modified BMP has grabbed my attention. It has the chassis of the BMP-3, but has a remotely operated 57mm autocannon.
Following in the footsteps of the T-14 Armata MBT, the remotely operated turret gives the vehicle a slim profile for large armament. To be frank, the 57mm with armor piercing rounds would easily tear through any IVF out on the field today, and could possibly knock out a modern MBT with a rear or side shot. It is reportedly capable of piercing 130mm of steel.
The U.S. does have one impressive vehicle for fighting IFVs, the Stryker Mobile Gun System(MGS). While it’s not an IFV and is more along the lines of an infantry fire support system, it does have a radical cannon.
Utilizing a remotely operated M68A2 105mm cannon with a fast revolver autoloader, the rounds will go straight through any IFV. The only problem is that there’s not very many Stryker MGS. There were only 143 produced.
Now, in the face of Russian aggression in Ukraine, the U.S. Army wants to upgrade its base line infantry carrying variant of the Styker from the remotely operated Browning 50. caliber machine guns to 30mm auto-cannons, specifically, the 2nd Cavalry Regiment based in Europe has asked for the upgrade and will be receiving them shortly.
They would likely be one of the first U.S. forces to face a Russian invasion. While the 2nd Cavalry requires an upgrade, they should be getting a bigger cannon. The striker could accommodate a 40 to 50mm auto-cannon, giving them the fire power they deserve and need.
If the U.S. is going to spend money improving these systems, they might as well make them viable for the next two decades or more, instead of always playing catchup.