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GlobalSecurity.org In the News

Newsday (New York) March 25, 2003

How an Armored Column is Arrayed; Rolling Thunder (stand alone charts)

How an Armored Column is Arrayed

Mechanized infantry divisions consisting of a mix of heavily armored tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles move in distinct formation in a gigantic wave to battle sites. The convoy is flanked by security vehicles for protection against the enemy and trailed by support vehicles. How the armored column is arrayed depends on the mission. What makes up a typical formation:

Main combat formation moves along at 35-40 mph spread out in a wedge shape about 9-12 miles wide and almost a mile long.

Humvewws or helicopters travel ahead of the convoy to detect enemeis, radio back to personnel in convoy.

In the lead because they have the longest range, greatest firepower and most armor to deflect enemy hits. Able to fire reliably when speeding over rough terrain. Thermal sights improve visibility at night and through dust and smoke.

Have wide tracks and 600-horsepower engines to allow them to keep up with tanks. Are adequately armored to protect soldiers. Troops riding in Bradleys can dismount to fire at enemy.

High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV) are versatile four-wheel drive tactical vehicles that transport officers and scouts for command and control.

Accurate, mobile weapon system that can fire up to four rounds per minute for more than 18 miles. If convoy is attacked, they will stay in place or move out of formation into shooting position.

Heavy-equipment trailers provide refueling, food and other supplies, shuttling between convoy and supply points.


Because the side, or flank, of the formation is particularly vulnerable, Humvees or Bradleys ride 3-4 miles away from each side of main formation for protection.

Information fed to convoy from JSTARS air-to-ground surveillance system, satellites or drones. Convoy members communicate by radio and all are equipped with GPS.


M1A1 Abrams Tank
Length: 32.25 feet
Width: 12 feet
Top speed: 45 mph
Armament: 120-millimeter main gun, two 7.62-mm machine guns, .50-caliber machine gun.
Weight: 67 tons
Crew: 4
Range: 300 miles

M2A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle
Length: 21 feet
Width: 10 feet, 6 inches
Speed: 45 mph
Armament: Infantry configuration armed with a 25-mm cannon, TOW missile launcher, 7.62-mm machine gun.
Weight: 33 tons
Crew: 5
Range: 300 miles

M998 HMMWV (Humvee)
Length: 15 feet
Width: 7 feet
Top speed: 70 mph
Weight: 5,900 lbs. for troop/cargo version (without payload)
Crew: 1 driver, 3 soldiers
Range: 300 miles (highway)

M109A6 Howitzer
Length: 22 feet, 4 inches
Width: 10 feet, 7 inches
Top speed: 19 mph off-road, 38 mph highway
Armament: 155-mm cannon, 39-caliber rifled howitzer
Weight: 32 tons (combat-loaded)
Crew: 4
Range: 214 miles

SOURCES: Dept. of Defense, GlobalSecurity.org; Researched by Julie Sheer Los Angeles Times

Rolling Thunder
A look at the M1A2 main battle tank, the Army's top-of-the-line land combat tank.

2 3 The mission of the M1A2 is to destroy enemy forces using artillery, maneuverability and shock effect. Its features include shoot-on-the-move firepower and a high degree of battlefield agility. Beginning in 1997, the Army began to upgrade older M1 tanks to M1A2 configuration.


The M1A2 is equipped with:
120-mm main gun
7.62-mm machine gun
.50-caliber machine gun


Upgrades on earlier M1 technology give M1A2 tanks improved command and control capability and better overall fighting ability. Highlights include:
An Infrared Sighting System to replace existing thermal image system. New technology provides gunner and tank commander with improved target acquisition and engagement capability.
Added range for target identification will lessen friendly fire incidents.
A Commander's Independent Thermal Viewer (CITV), providing commander with acquisition and battlefield surveillance in all visibilities.
A Thermal Management System (TMS), designed to keep temperature in the crew compartment below 95 degrees during extreme conditions.

Who sits where

Though the crew of the M1A2 Abrams work as a team, each member hasva specific role.

Crew: 4 (commander, driver, gunner, loader) Range: 310 miles Top speed: 41.5 mph Weight: 68.7 tons
Height: 8 feet
Length: 32 1/4 feet
Width: 12 feet

SOURCES: Federation of American Scientists, www.globalsecurity.org.

GRAPHIC: Newsday Charts / Illustrations by Gustavo Pabon - 1) How an Armored Column is Arrayed 2) Rolling Thunder (see text)

Copyright 2003, Newsday, Inc.