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M113 Armored Personnel Carrier

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Type Armored personnel carrier
Place of origin United States
Service history
In service 1960–present
Used by Numerous nations, see text
Wars Vietnam War, Operation Just Cause,(Panama), Operation Desert Storm(Iraq), Kosovo War, Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq)
Production history
Number built ~80,000 (all variants)
Variants Numerous, see text
Weight 12.3 tonnes
Length 4.863 m
Width 2.686 m
Height 2.5 m
Crew 2 + 11 passengers

Armor aluminum 12-38 mm
M2 Browning machine gun
varies (see text)
Engine Detroit Diesel 6V53T, 6-cylinder diesel engine
275 hp (205 kW)
Power/weight 22.36 hp/tonne
Suspension torsion bar, 5 road wheels
~480 km (~300 miles)
Speed 66 km/h (41 mph)

The M113 is a fully tracked armored personnel carrier that formed the backbone of the US Army's mobile infantry units from the time of its introduction in the 1960s. It was partly replaced by the M2 Bradley which was one of many later vehicles designed from the outset to be more heavily armed and protected infantry fighting vehicle. Though it was never designed to serve as a light tank, the M113 was the most widely used armored vehicle of the US Army in the Vietnam War, earning the nickname 'Green Dragon' among the Viet Cong, and ACAV (armored cavalry assault vehicle) by the allied forces,[1] as it was used to break through heavy thickets in the midst of the jungle to attack and overrun enemy positions.

The M113 introduced new aluminum armor that made the vehicle much lighter and stiffer than earlier vehicles. This protected the crew and passengers against much of the small arms fire available to enemy infantry. Yet compared to heavier tanks, it had excellent cross-country performance and amphibious capabilities, while remaining airmobile. Its versatility led to it spawning a wide variety of adaptations that live on even in US service, representing about half of US Army armored vehicles today. To date, over 80,000 M113s of all types have been produced and used by over 50 countries worldwide, making it one of the most widely used armored fighting vehicles of all time.[2] The Military Channel's "Top Ten" series named the M113 the most significant infantry fighting vehicle in history.[3]




The M113 was developed by Food Machinery Corp. (FMC), who had produced the earlier M59 and M75 Armored Personnel Carriers. The M113 bore a very strong resemblance to both of these earlier vehicles. The M75 was too heavy and expensive to be useful; its weight prevented amphibious capability, and airmobility in even modern cargo aircraft. The lightened M59 addressed both of these problems, but ended up with too little armor, and was unreliable as a result of efforts to reduce its cost.

The Army was looking for a vehicle that combined the best features of both designs, the "Airborne Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle Family" (AAM-PVF).[4] of all-purpose, all-terrain armored fighting vehicles FMC had been working with Kaiser Aluminium and Chemical Co. in the late 1950s to develop a suitable aluminum armor. Use of this armor could produce a vehicle that provided the protection of the M75, and the light weight and mobility of the M59.

FMC responded with two proposals; two versions of the aluminum T113 - a thicker and a thinner armored one - along with the similar but mostly steel T117. The thicker-armored version of the T113, effectively the prototype of the M113, was chosen because it weighed less than the steel competitor, while offering the same level of protection. An improved T113 design, the T113E1, was adopted by the US Army in 1960 as the M113. A diesel prototype T113E2 was put into production in 1964 as the M113A1, and quickly supplanted the gasoline-engined M113.[5]


US Army infantrymen, from the 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized), armed with M16A1 rifles dismount from an M113 armored personnel carrier during a training exercise.

The M113 was developed to provide an air-mobile, survivable and reliable light tracked vehicle able to be air-lifted, air-dropped, and parachuted by C-130 and C-141 transport planes. The original concept was that the vehicle would be used solely for transportation, bringing the troops forward under armor and then having them dismount for combat; the M113 would then retreat to the rear. Entering service with the U.S. Army in 1960, the M113 required only two crewmen, a driver and a commander, and carried 11 passengers inside the vehicle. Its main armament was a single .50-caliber (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine gun operated by the commander.

On 30 March 1962, the first batch of 32 M113s arrived in Vietnam, and were sent to two ARVN mechanized rifle companies, each equipped with 15 of the APCs (M113s).[6] On 11 June 1962, the two mechanized units were fielded for the first time.[7] During the Battle of Ap Bac in January 1963, at least fourteen of the exposed .50 caliber gunners aboard the M113s were killed in action, necessitating modifications to improve crew survivability.[8] Soon, makeshift shields formed from metal salvaged from the hull(s) of sunken ships were fitted to the carriers, which afforded better protection. But, finding that this material could be penetrated by small arms fire, subsequent shields were constructed from scrapped armored vehicles.[9]

The ARVN 80th Ordnance Unit in South Vietnam developed the shield idea further and commenced engineering general issue gun shields for the M113.[10] These shields became the predecessor to the standardized Armored Cavalry Assault Vehicle (or ACAV) variant and were issued to all ARVN mechanized units Army of the Republic of Vietnam during the early 1960s. The ARVNs had modified the M113s to function as "amphibious light tanks"[11] and not as battle taxis as US designers had intended. Instead of an armored personnel carrier, the ARVN used the carried infantry as extra "dismountable soldiers" in an "an over-sized tank crew."[11] These "ACAV" sets were eventually adapted to U.S. Army M113s with the arrival of the Army's conventional forces in 1965. The vehicles continued to operate in the role of a light tank and reconnaissance vehicle, and did not operate as designed in theatre. Still, the M113 could carry 11 infantrymen inside, with two crewmen operating the M113.

Interior of an M113 at the American Armored Foundation Museum in Danville, Virginia, July 2006.

The US Army, after berating the Vietnamese for flouting battle doctrine, came out with their own ACAV version. This more or less standardized ACAV kit included shields and a circular turret for the .50-caliber M2 machine gun in the Track Commander (TC) position, two M60 machine guns with shields for the left and right rear positions, and "belly armor" - steel armor bolted from the front bottom extending 1/2 to 2/3 of the way towards the bottom rear of the M113. The two rear machine gunners could fire their weapons while standing inside the rectangular open cargo hatch. This transformed the M113 into a fighting vehicle, but the vehicle still suffered from its lightly armored configuration, having never been designed for such a role.

Modified versions of the Vietnam War ACAV sets have been deployed to Iraq (formally referred to as Southwest Asia within the US military) for installation on the current M113 series vehicles in use. An improved circular shield turret has been deployed to Iraq, and such vehicles have been utilized without the two rear stations.

Even with the ACAV version of the vehicle, the mounted troops had no ability to add to the fight, and were left buttoned-up inside. In many engagements they had no role in combat, unable to exit the vehicle while under fire.[citation needed] In order to improve the fighting ability of the mounted troops, a number of experiments were carried out in the 1960s under MICV-65 project, which aimed to develop a true "infantry fighting vehicle" rather than an "armored personnel carrier". Pacific Car and Foundry entered the steel-armored XM701, but this proved to be too slow and too heavy to be airmobile, even in the C-141. FMC entered the XM734, which was largely the ACAV M113, but whereas the M113 seated the troops facing inward on benches along the walls, the XM734 sat them facing outwards on a central bench. Four gun ports and vision blocks were added on each side to allow the seated troops to fire even while under cover. Although neither the XM701 or XM734 were deemed worthwhile to produce, FMC continued development of their version as the XM765 Advanced Infantry Fighting Vehicle (AIFV). The AIFV was sold to a number of third party-users in the 1970s, including the Netherlands, the Philippines and Belgium.

Modifications for Iraq

USAF M113 at the Theater Internment Facility at Camp Bucca, Iraq, 10 Feb 2008. The vehicle is assigned to the 886th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron's quick response force and equipped with claymore mines.

The M113 has relatively light armor, but is being augmented with reactive armor, add-on plates, and RPG standoff cages or slat armor. Windowed gunshields developed by an armorer in Iraq are reminiscent of ACAV vehicle modifications so effective in Southeast Asia (Vietnam War). Band tracks to replace the high maintenance, road damaging steel tracks are in use by Canadian and other forces.

Most of the M113s which are still in service have been upgraded. However, they are still lightly protected compared to modern APCs or IFVs such as the M2 Bradley or IDF Achzarit. Those larger vehicles cannot be transported in a C-130 plane so it may be argued that their capability to be air-deployed provides an advantage over more heavily armored vehicles. A fervent pro-M113 community has developed due to the versatility of the platform.

US Army soldiers stage for a reconnaissance mission on Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq, March 19, 2007, next to an M113. The Soldiers are from C Company, 3-509th Infantry, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division (Light).

The M113 has also been adopted to replace the aging fleet of visually modified (vismod) M551s being used to simulate Russian-made combat vehicles at the US Army's National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California. These M113s, like the M551s they replace, have also been modified to resemble enemy tanks and APCs, such as the T-80 and BMP-2. One of the advantages of the M113 being used to simulate the latter is that the infantry squad can now ride inside the simulated BMP instead of in a truck accompanying a tank masquerading as one, as was often the case with the M551s.

Combat history

ARVN M113 during the Vietnam War


The Vietnam War was the first combat opportunity for "mechanized" infantry, a technically new type of infantry with its roots in the armored infantry of World War II, now using the M113 Armored Personnel Carrier. In addition, Armored Cavalry squadrons in Vietnam consisted largely of M113s, after replacing the intended M114 in a variety of roles, and Armor battalions contained M113s within their headquarters companies, such as the maintenance section, medical section, vehicle recovery section, mortar section, and the scout (reconnaissance) section. U.S. Army mechanized infantry units in Vietnam were fully equipped with the M113 APC/ACAV, which consisted of one headquarters company and three line companies, normally with an authorized strength of approximately 900 men. Ten U.S. mechanized infantry battalions and one mechanized brigade were deployed to Vietnam from 1965 until their departure in 1972: 2/2nd Mechanized Infantry, 1/5th Mechanized Infantry, 2/8th Mechanized Infantry, 1/16th Mechanized Infantry, 2/22nd Mechanized Infantry, 4/23rd Mechanized Infantry, 2/47th Mechanized Infantry, 1/50th Mechanized Infantry, 5/60th Mechanized Infantry, 1/61st Mechanized Infantry, and the 1st Brigade, 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized)."[12]

The US Army 1st Brigade, 5th (Mech) Infantry Division in Vietnam was not composed of strictly mechanized infantry battalions. The 5th (M) ID (1st Bde), consisted of: the 5/4th Field Artillery, 1/11th Light Infantry (straight leg-no armored vehicles), 1/77th Armor (M48 Patton tanks), 1/61st Mechanized Infantry, "A" Troop" 4/12th Armored Cavalry (only one Troop of Cavalry), and the 3/5th Armored Cavalry OPCON (Operationally Controlled)/Attached from the 9th Infantry Division. The one troop of the 12th Armored Cavalry and the full squadron of the 5th Armored Cavalry were M551 Sheridan and M113 ACAV equipped.

M113s were instrumental for escorting convoys through contested territory in Vietnam, and are commonly seen in combat photos, sometimes with M48 or M551 tanks for added firepower. During the Vietnam War, U.S. Army gun trucks modified 2 1/2-ton and 5-ton cargo trucks, along with V-100 armored cars, conducted convoy escorts for military traffic. Some M113s with improved/modified main gun shields similar to or directly modified from existing ACAV equipment have been deployed to Iraq for similar duties.

The USAF used M113 and M113A1 ACAV vehicles in USAF Security Police Squadrons, which provided air base ground defense support in Vietnam. M113s were also supplied to the South Vietnam ARVN forces. They were also supplied to the Cambodian government army, equipped with a turret for the machine gun and a recoilless rifle mounted on the roof.

Australian forces used the M113 in Vietnam. After initial experience showed the crew commander was too vulnerable to fire, the Australians tried a number of different guns shields and turrets, eventually standardizing with the Cadillac-Cage T-50 turret fitted with two .30 cal Browning machine guns, or a single .30/single .50 combination. Other turrets were tried as were various gun shields, the main design of which was similar to the gun shield used on the U.S. M113 ACAV version.

In addition, Australians operated an M113 variant fitted with a Saladin armored car turret, with a 76mm gun as a fire support vehicle, or FSV, for infantry fire support. This has now also been removed from service.

Subsequent to Vietnam all Australian M113 troop carriers were fitted with the T50 turret. The FSV was eventually phased out and replaced with a modernized version known as the MRV (medium reconnaissance vehicle). The MRV featured a Scorpion turret with 76mm gun, improved fire control, and passive night vision equipment.

Law Enforcement

M113s have been adopted by some law enforcement agencies. Photos show an M113 marked "Midland County Sherrif" was used in the 2008 raid of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints compound.


The M113 has never received an official name, but has received a variety of nicknames over the years. The NLF called it the "Green Dragon"; the Swiss referred to it as the "Elefantenrollschuh" or elephants' roller-skate; the Germans called it the "Schweinewürfel" or pig cube.[13][14] U.S. troops tended to refer to the M113 simply as a "track"[15]. The Israeli official name for the M113 is "Bardelas" (Cheetah) but the troops call it "Zelda". The Australian Army refers to its M113A1s as "Buckets," and the modified M113A1 fitted with 76mm turrets as "Beasts". In the Norwegian army it is commonly referred to as the "Vietnam Dumpster". Among Danish soldiers it is often called "Dåsen" meaning "The (tin)Can". Spanish army called TOA (transporte oruga acorazado) as official name. Another nickname, "Zippo", is actually reserved for the M132 Armored Flamethrower, which is based on the M113.

Recent history

Today’s M113 fleet includes a mix of M113A2 and A3 variants and other derivatives equipped with the most recent RISE (Reliability Improvements for Selected Equipment) package. The standard RISE package includes an upgraded propulsion system (turbocharged engine and new transmission), greatly improved driver controls (new power brakes and conventional steering controls), external fuel tanks, and 200-amp alternator with four batteries. Additional A3 improvements include incorporation of spall liners and provisions for mounting external armor.

The future M113A3 fleet will include a number of vehicles that will have high speed digital networks and data transfer systems. The M113A3 digitization program includes applying appliqué hardware, software, and installation kits and hosting them in the M113 FOV.


The 10.5-ton M113 is built of aircraft-quality aluminum which gives it some of the same strength as steel at a slightly reduced weight, as the greater thickness allows structural stiffness. Its weight allows the use of a relatively small engine to power the vehicle, a 6V53 Detroit 2-stroke six cylinder diesel, with a Allison tx100-1 3 speed automatic transmission, and allows the vehicle to carry a large payload cross-country and to be transported by fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft. The M113 can swim without deploying flotation curtains, powered in the water by its tracks.


The basic M113 armored personnel carrier can itself be fitted with a number of weapon systems. The most common weapon fit is a single .50 caliber M2 machine gun. However, the mount can also be fitted with a 40mm Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher. A number of anti-tank weapons could be fitted to the standard variant. Mechanized Infantry and Cavalry units in Vietnam often removed jeep mounted M40 106mm recoilless rifles fitting them to their M113s instead. The US Army also developed kits that allowed the M47 Dragon and BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missile systems to be mounted. In the case of the M47, the system mated to the existing machine gun mount, without having to remove the machine gun. This allowed the commander to use the weapon, as well as the machine gun.

Basic variants

A U.S. Army M113 personnel carrier finds shelter in a Panama City laundramat. The use of heavy forces mounted in M113's were key to success in combat during Operation Just Cause.
  • 1979, cooling and suspension improvements
  • 1987, further improvements for "enhanced (battlefield) survival"

Yoke for steering instead of laterals. More powerful engine. External fuel tanks.

M113 Armored Cavalry Assault Vehicle (ACAV)
M113 ACAV in Vietnam, 1966.

The "Armored Cavalry Assault Vehicle" or "ACAV", was introduced in the Vietnam war after it was found that the commander and cargo hatch positions were extremely exposed and the vehicle's armament was in many ways lacking. Initially field expedient shields and mounts were used, then a kit was produced on Okinawa for the .50 cal. machine gun. Finally, the full ACAV kit, manufactured in the U.S., was introduced. The kit included shields and circular turret armor for the commander's Browning M-2 .50 caliber machine gun, and two additional 7.62mm M60 machine guns, again with shields, fitted on either side of the top cargo hatch. This kit could be retrofitted to any M113. ACAV kits were also sometimes fitted to the M106 mortar carrier, but the different rear hatch found on this vehicle required the left M60 machine gun to be fitted to the extreme rear instead of the side. Many kits were added in the field, but at least in the case of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, the vehicles were modified in the U.S. before the unit left Ft. Meade, Maryland for Vietnam. Additional armor in the form of a mine protective kit under the hull was also frequently fitted.


A huge number of M113 Armored Personnel Carrier variants have been created, ranging from infantry carriers to nuclear missile carriers. The M113 Armored Personnel Carrier has become one of the most prolific armored vehicles of the second half of the 20th century, and continues to serve with armies around the world into the 21st century. Not without its faults, the otherwise versatile chassis of the M113 has been used to create almost every type of vehicle imaginable. Few vehicles ever created can claim the application to such a wide range of roles.


A column of M-113 armored personnel carriers and other military vehicles of the Royal Saudi Land Force

See also

  • MICV-65 - a failed project to introduce an improved APC
  • AIFV - FMC's "Product Improved M113A1" from MICV-65, which saw private sales
  • FV432 - a contemporary British vehicle
  • Pbv 302 - Swedish APC
  • Boxer MRAV - Germany's replacement for the M113


  1. ^ Starry p. 73/Dunstan p. 107
  2. ^ "M113A3 FAMILY OF VEHICLES", BAE Systems
  3. ^ The 10 Greatest Infantry Fighting Vehicles in Military History. The Military Channel. Web page: Top Ten Infantry Fighting Vehicles Retrieved 26 November 2008.
  4. ^ Simon Dunstan, The M113 Series, page 5, Osprey Publishing, London, 1983
  5. ^ Tunbridge, 1978. p. 4
  6. ^ Dunstan p. 36
  7. ^ Dunstan p. 37
  8. ^ Dunstan p. 48
  9. ^ Dunstan p. 52
  10. ^ Dunstan p. 52
  11. ^ a b Zumbro, 1998. p. 470
  12. ^ Starry p. 227-237
  13. ^ "M113 Armored Personnel Carrier". GlobalSecurity.org. 
  14. ^ "Nicknames of army vehicles in your country". MilitaryPhotos. 
  15. ^ Dunstan/Vietnam Tracks/p. 92 footnote
  16. ^ DEFENCE BALANCE IN WESTERN BALKANS Research Institute for European and American Studies
  17. ^ kmweg.de: Neue DINGO-Variante für die Bundeswehr (German) - Published 17 November 2005, Checked 23 May 2007
  18. ^ bundeswehr.de: Neue Waffensysteme (German) - Checked 23 May 2007
  19. ^ Index of military equipment Lebanese Army of Lebanon Index des équipements militaires armée libanaise du Liban
  20. ^ http://timawa.net/forum/index.php?PHPSESSID=8e0cb81af01ecd6e36ffa52863da800b&topic=6053.msg53902#msg53902
  21. ^ List of armaments of the Polish Army as of June 2005
  22. ^ ROC Army Equipment


External links

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