Key point: The Bradley vehicle served decently despite a very controversial development history. Could it soon be getting a firepower upgrade?
Jane’s Information Group, an open source intelligence company, reported that Northrop Grumman delivered several prototype guns to the U.S. Army for their Bradley replacement vehicle—and what they delivered looks like a beast.
Previous photos released by Northrop Grumman show the XM913 50mm cannon outdoors, silhouetted against the sky. The massive 50mm main gun is said to have two types of ammunition, a fin-stabilized armor piercing sabot round, as well as a high explosive tracer round. To offset some of the no doubt massive recoil the massive gun would generate, the XM913’s barrel features a prominent four-baffle muzzle brake—though a quick google search shows that the main gun still has lots of recoil.
While the current Bradley vehicle’s 25mm cannon can hit targets at ranges of up to two kilometers, or about 1.2 miles, Northrop Grumman maintains that their XM913 has double the range of a 25mm gun—and can hit targets up to four kilometers away.
A Northrop Grumman spokesman told Jane’s that the 50mm cannon “combines Bushmaster chain gun reliability with [a] next-generation effective range that will provide the warfighter with increased stand-off against near peer adversaries,” though what platform the massive main gun will be mated to remained slightly ambiguous.
Jane’s reported that the 50mm cannon is being developed to support the Army’s Next-Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV) program, one of several projects that the Army says are intended to replace the Bradley family of vehicles. But the main gun could also be used to increase other platform’s lethality as well.
The Army is in the middle of a modernization push and is introducing several new armored platforms into service. One of these, the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle manufactured by BAE systems, recently entered serial production.
Though it does offer increased protection when compared to the M113 and Bradley vehicles, it appears to be rather modestly armed with a single .50 caliber heavy machine gun. It remains unclear if the XM913 would be able to be mated to the AMPV platform, though the Army would likely want a firepower upgrade for the platform.
Northrop Grumman estimates that by the end of 2021, the Army will have ordered a total of seventeen XM913 cannons for testing and evaluation. Still, the Army has not yet decided what caliber the NGCV program will choose. So for now, all we can do is wait and see what happens. Watch this topic for new details about both the NGCV program—and the XM913—in the future.
Caleb Larson is a defense writer with The National Interest. He holds a Master of Public Policy and covers U.S. and Russian security, European defense issues, and German politics and culture. This first appeared earlier this year and is being reposted due to reader interest.