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M113 Armored Personnel Carrier
M113A3 side.gif
Type Armored personnel carrier
Place of origin  United States
Service history
In service 1960–present
Used by See Operators
Wars Vietnam War, Operation Just Cause,(Panama), iran-iraq war(iran), 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 67.6 km/h (42.0 mph), 5.8 km/h (3.6 mph) swimming

The M113 is a fully tracked armored personnel carrier that formed the backbone of the U.S. Army's mobile infantry units from the time of its introduction in the 1960s. The M113 was the most widely used armored vehicle of the U.S. Army in the Vietnam War, earning the nickname 'Green Dragon' among the Viet Cong, and known as an APC 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. Though partially supplanted as a front-line infantry fighting vehicle by the M2 Bradley, the majority of the Army's Heavy Brigade Combat Teams are equipped with 6,000 M113s compared to 4,000 Bradleys. The M113's versatility spawned a wide variety of adaptations that live on worldwide, and in US service. These variants together represent about half of U.S. 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 being transported by air. 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 U.S. 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]

In 1994, FMC transferred the M113's production over to its newly formed defense subsidiary, United Defense. Then in 2005, United Defense was acquired by BAE.

U.S. 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 a survivable and reliable light tracked vehicle able to be air-lifted and air-dropped, 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 U.S. 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.

Even with the ACAV version of the vehicle, the mounted troops had reduced ability to add to the fight, and were left closed-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.


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 M5 Crowd Control Munitions.
U.S. 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, 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division (Light).
ARVN M113 during the Vietnam War

Modified versions of the Vietnam War ACAV sets have been deployed to Iraq (formerly referred to as Southwest Asia within the US military) to equip the standard M113s still in service. The circular .50 caliber gun shields have been modified, however the rear port and starboard gun stations have been deleted for service in that region. Some of these modified vehicles have been utilized for convoy escort duties.

The M113 has relatively light armor, but it can be augmented with add-on plates steel plates for improved ballistic protection. Also, reactive armor and slat armor can be added for protection against RPGs. Windowed gunshields developed by an armorer in Iraq are reminiscent of ACAV vehicle modifications so effective in Southeast Asia (Vietnam War). Band tracks are in use by Canadian and other forces to enable stealthy operation, less vibration and rolling resistance.[12]

Most of the 13,000 M113s which are still in U.S. Army service have been upgraded to the A3 variant.

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 U.S. 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


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)."[13]

The U.S. 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 in conducting RIFs (Reconnaissance In Force), Search and Destroy missions, and large invasions (incursions) such as during the U.S. invasion of Cambodia on 1 May 1970 under President Richard Nixon, and later Laos (Operation Lam Son 719) in 1971; all of which utilized the M113 as the primary work horse for moving the ground armies. While operating with US Cavalry and Armor units, the M113s often worked in conjunction with US M48 Patton and M551 Sheridan tanks. 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.

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 76 mm 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 76 mm 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 Sheriff" was used in the 2008 raid of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints compound.

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 M113 has never received an official name, but has received a variety of nicknames over the years. The ARVN 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.[14][15] U.S. troops tended to refer to the M113 simply as a "track"[16] or an ACAV. 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 76 mm 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", while Greek Soldiers call it "Papaki" meaning "The young duck". The Spanish army called it the official name TOA (Transporte Oruga Acorazado). Another nickname, "Zippo", is actually reserved for the M132 Armored Flamethrower, which is based on the M113. The Norwegians usually calls this as "Jævla møkka vogn" or "The fridge" referring to how cold it can get in arctic warfare.

One individual began an online proposal to get the U.S. Army to assign the M113 the official name "Gavin," after Gen James M. Gavin, started in 1995.[17] The proposal has never gained traction. The current U.S. manufacturer of the vehicle, BAE, refers to the vehicle only as the M113 on their website promoting it.[18]


It is the U.S Army's intention that the BCT Ground Combat Vehicle Program replace the M113 by 2018 with the GCV Infantry Fighting Vehicle meanwhile displacing the other vehicles into task specific roles of the M113. Vehicles displaced into specific roles of the M113 are then to be replaced entirely by future variants of the GCV.[19][20]



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 40 mm Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher. A number of anti-tank weapons could be fitted to the standard variant: the U.S. Army 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.


The 10.5-ton M113 is built of 5083 aircraft-quality aluminum alloy 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 an 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.

Basic variants

A U.S. Army M113 personnel carrier finds shelter in a Panama City laundromat. The use of heavy forces mounted in M113s were key to success in combat during Operation Just Cause.
M113 ACAV in Vietnam, 1966.
  • Starting in 1964, the gasoline engine was replaced with a diesel engine, to take advantage of the better fuel economy and reduced fire hazard of the diesel engine. The suffix A1 was used on all variants to denote a diesel engine, i.e. an M106A1 was an M106 mortar carrier equipped with a diesel engine.
  • In 1979 further upgrades were introduced, including cooling and suspension improvements and smoke grenade launchers on the glacis plate. The suffix A2 is used on all variants to denote upgrade to A2 standard.
  • In 1987, further improvements for "enhanced (battlefield) survival" were introduced. This included a yoke for steering instead of laterals, a more powerful engine, external fuel tanks and internal spall liners for improved protection. The suffix A3 is used on all variants to denote upgrade to A3 standard.
M113 Armored Cavalry Assault Vehicle (ACAV)
  • 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 7.62 mm 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.


U.S. Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, fire the M120 Mortar system out of a M113 Armored Personal Carrier (APC) on Forward Operating Base Taji, Baghdad, Iraq, April 25, 2009.
M58 Wolf system
  • A smoke screen generator vehicle.
  • A mortar carrier armed with an M30 mortar mounted on a turntable in the rear troop compartment. On this variant, the single hatch over the rear troop compartment was exchanged for a three-part circular hatch. The mortar could be fired from the vehicle, but could also be fired dismounted. Today, the US Army mortar carrier is the M1064A3, an M106 upgraded to A3 standard armed with an M121 120 mm mortar, a variant of the M120 mortar.
  • Another mortar carrier, basically an M106 armed with an M29 81 mm mortar.
  • Flamethrower variant equipped with a turret armed with a flamethrower and a .50cal machine gun. These vehicles are no longer used by the US Army. Vehicles upgraded to A1 standard were known as M132A1.
  • Anti-aircraft variant equipped with a turret armed with a 20 mm Vulcan cannon.
M48 Chaparral
  • Unarmoured cargo carrier equipped with a rear cargo bed.
  • Command variant, the roof over the rear troop compartment is higher. The vehicle also carries additional radios and a generator. A variant of this is the M1068 Standard Integrated Command Post System Carrier, equipped with the newest US Army automated command and control system.
  • A fitter and repair vehicle equipped with a crane. This vehicle was not taken into US Army service.
  • Repair and recovery vehicle equipped with an internal winch and two earth anchors mounted on the rear hull.
M901 ITV (Improved TOW Vehicle)

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


  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. ^ "Band-Track website from the M113's manufacturer, BAE". Retrieved 2009-10-17. 
  13. ^ Starry p. 227-237
  14. ^ "M113 Armored Personnel Carrier". Retrieved 2007-02-26. 
  15. ^ "Nicknames of army vehicles in your country". MilitaryPhotos. Retrieved 2007-02-26. 
  16. ^ Dunstan/Vietnam Tracks/p. 92 footnote
  17. ^ Sparks, Mike (January-February 1995). "M113s Maximize Mechanized Infantry Mobility and Firepower in Contingency Ops". Armor magazine. US Army. Retrieved 2009-10-10. The start of the "Gavin" proposal.
  18. ^ "Manufacturer's website for the M113". Retrieved 2007-03-05. 
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ DEFENCE BALANCE IN WESTERN BALKANS Research Institute for European and American Studies
  22. ^ "Equipment - Canadian Army - M113A3". Department of National Defence. 
  23. ^ Neue DINGO-Variante für die Bundeswehr (German) - Published 17 November 2005, Checked 23 May 2007
  24. ^ Neue Waffensysteme (German) - Checked 23 May 2007
  25. ^ Index of military equipment Lebanese Army of Lebanon Index des équipements militaires armée libanaise du Liban
  26. ^ List of armaments of the Polish Army as of June 2005
  27. ^ ROC Army Equipment
  28. ^


  • Dunstan, Simon. The M113 Series London, UK: Osprey Publishing, 1983. ISBN 0-85045-495-6.
  • Nolan, Keith W. Into Laos: Dewey Canyon II/Lam Son 719. Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1986. ISBN 0-89141-247-6.
  • Tunbridge, Stephen. M113 in Action. Carrollton, TX: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc, 1978. ISBN 0-89747-050-8.
  • Zumbro, Ralph. The Iron Cavalry. 1998, New York, New York, Pocket Books. ISBN 0-671-01390-4
  • Dunstan, Simon. Vietnam Tracks-Armor In Battle 1945-1975. (1982 edition Osprey Books); ISBN 0-89141-171-2.
  • Starry, Donn A., General. "Mounted Combat In Vietnam" Vietnam Studies; Department of the Army. First printed 1978-CMH Pub 90-17.

External links

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