Our nation cannot afford to allow the armored multi-purpose vehicle program to become the next Army acquisition casualty, thereby leaving America’s only heavy ground combat force hamstrung with the M113 armored personnel carrier. The venerable M113 has outlived its usefulness, and its demonstrated vulnerability makes it a liability on today’s lethal, nonlinear battlefield. Its replacement is long overdue. The Army must accelerate the procurement and fielding of the armored multipurpose vehicle and divest itself of the M113 family of vehicles.The armored brigade combat team (ABCT) provides our nation’s leaders with a unique set of capabilities that ensure dominance over a broad range of threats in the entire range of military operations. Yet it remains constrained when one-third of its armored vehicles are M113s, an antiquated platform unsuitable for combat in the 21st century.Fielded more than 55 years ago, the M113 became an Army icon. Today, those glory days are a distant memory. The M113 lacks the force protection (crew) and survivability (system) required for modern operations. Yet it remains in our formations as a general personnel carrier, ambulance, medical treatment vehicle, mortar carrier and mobile command post. The combination of these specialized roles and minimal protection makes it a lucrative target, the loss of which disproportionately degrades the formation’s performance and places soldiers at risk.‘Battlefield Taxi’The M113 emerged from efforts to field a reliable, fully tracked armored personnel carrier following World War II. It was conceived as a battlefield taxi, similar to today’s wheeled Stryker, transporting soldiers to the combat area where they dismounted. Unfortunately, this design philosophy contradicted battlefield realities. In Cold War-era Central Europe, the realities of combat necessitated unloading passengers directly on their objective. However, the M113 lacked the survivability necessary for tactical infantry maneuver, necessitating the development of the Bradley fighting vehicle.This inconsistency also appeared in Southeast Asia, where mechanized infantry of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam employed M113s in counterinsurgency operations against the Viet Cong. Dismounting from their carriers and moving forward on foot, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam soldiers found the Viet Cong simply withdrew before they could be engaged. The Vietnamese army switched tactics and conducted mounted assaults without stopping to dismount passengers.In 1965, the arrival of U.S. combat forces brought more M113s to Vietnam. Many of these vehicles adopted Vietnamese army modifications, transforming the carrier into an armored cavalry assault vehicle. Similarly, U.S. forces adopted the practice of mounted assaults.However, the M113 was vulnerable to a variety of weapons, including mines and rocket-propelled grenades. Rocket-propelled grenade hits tended to create a path of destruction through the vehicle, causing casualties without necessarily destroying the vehicle. Mines generally destroyed the vehicle and killed its passengers. These became the preferred weapon of choice against American armored combat organizations. Between November 1967 and March 1970, mines accounted for three-quarters of all vehicle losses.Aluminum Box on TracksNo simple solution existed. Essentially an aluminum box on tracks, the M113 was not designed to deflect explosive blasts away from the vehicle. When filled with soldiers and their kits, it was little more than a cramped, claustrophobic box. By the latter stages of the war, soldiers frequently preferred to ride atop the vehicle behind the dubious protection of sandbag castles rather than await an uncertain fate inside.The marginalization of the M113 bore a certain irony. It played a central role in counterinsurgency operations in Vietnam, where it became the symbol of American ground combat power, but 40 years later, increasingly complex and lethal counterinsurgency made it a liability. Its restriction to forward operating bases in Iraq underscored its obsolescence. If it could not operate outside a secure haven in Iraq, how could it support the ABCT across the spectrum of conflict? How would an ABCT’s command and control, combat support, and combat service support functions associated with the M113 be performed?The Israelis faced similar problems. They began equipping units with the M113 in the 1970s and employed them in most subsequent military operations. Within maneuver brigades, Israeli M113s performed functions similar to their American counterparts. However, while the Israelis improved the vehicle’s survivability through several upgrade programs that targeted the threats posed by heavy machine guns, chemical weapons, antitank missiles and IEDs, they saw the need for additional protection. They modified a number of captured T-54/55 main battle tanks into infantry fighting vehicles through removal of the turret and hull modifications. The resultant Achzarit entered production in 1988.Namer a Preferred SolutionThey also began development of the Namer, a new vehicle better suited to the threats facing Israel in the Gaza Strip and Golan Heights. Based on a Merkava hull, the Namer offered mobility equivalent to the tanks, improved armor protection (including an active defense system) and a networked capability. The highest level of armor protection was expanded from the traditional frontal arc to include the sides and rear. Special belly armor further improved survivability against mines. For the Israelis, it was the preferred solution to the M113.Our ABCT combat support and combat service support echelons still equipped with the M113 were not so fortunate. The M113 family of vehicles as a whole had reached the end of its effective service life, lacking protection and mobility comparable with the combat vehicles within the formation. The Army terminated the M113 program in 2007 but failed to identify a path ahead to maintain the capability within the ABCT formations.The armored multipurpose vehicle (AMPV) offers that capability. It provides a vehicle possessing requisite survivability, the capacity to accommodate upgrades, mobility comparable with the Abrams/Bradley team, and the ability to accept important new digital systems. The AMPV program plans for a one-for-one replacement of the M113 family of vehicles serving in the ABCT, specifically addressing known capability gaps. The AMPV was designed at the outset as a collection of variants to support general purpose transport, medical evacuation, medical treatment, mortar carrier and Mission Command.AMPV is on track for prototype development and extensive testing between now and 2017, followed by low-rate initial production in 2018. Full-rate production starts in 2020, with the first unit equipped in 2021.No. 1 Combat Vehicle ProgramThe AMPV program offers a significant increase in capabilities over the M113, and the ability to continue to upgrade the platform to meet future unknowns. Like all military programs, it remains vulnerable to sudden funding reductions and political caprice. Yet the AMPV addresses both known and anticipated capability gaps and is crucial to getting soldiers out of a 55-year-old design that unnecessarily risks their lives. Indeed, with the death of the ground combat vehicle, the AMPV is now the Army’s No. 1 combat vehicle program.For soldiers currently operating M113s, this history lesson means little. They serve in an obsolete platform with no planned upgrades and with vulnerabilities and deficiencies that have been well-documented over the decades. Vulnerable to most threats on current and future battlefields, the M113’s replacement is long overdue. The AMPV is the most reasonable solution, but the program must be accelerated. Until the ABCT is completely purged of the M113, this vehicle will continue to constitute an avoidable risk, endangering soldiers and degrading ABCT operations.