Well, it’s better than nothing. The U.S. is shipping 200 Vietnam-era M113 armored personnel carriers to Ukraine as part of a larger $800 million aid package. The tracked-vehicle will help transport Ukrainian troops from the rear areas of the battlefield to the frontlines – mobility for infantry that is badly needed. The M113 is like a classic car you want in your collection, but the APCs are thinly-armored and outdated, even though they are combat-tested.
The M113 Is a Historic Vehicle
The M113 has been around since 1962 and it was soon shipped to Vietnam. So, the APCs the Ukrainians have been gifted are probably retired anyway, so why not ship them to Kyiv?
The M113 has been upgraded many times over the years (40 variants) and numerous U.S. Army National Guard units depended on the APC to supply cavalry troops in the decades after Vietnam. 80,000 were made over the years and dozens of countries use them.
Particulars of This APC
The trusty “battle taxi” is aluminum-hulled and the lightweight (only 24,000-pounds compared to 55 tons for an M1 Abrams tank) makes them easily transported by cargo planes or ships.
The M113 has a crew of two and can haul 11-soldiers into battle. The engine is a two-stroke Detroit Diesel V-6 pushing out a top speed of 40 miles per hour on roads. It has a range of 300 miles.
The APC uses the classic M2 .50 caliber machine gun and other 7.62mm machine guns such as the M60 can be added. It can be outfitted with an Mk-19 grenade launcher plus a TOW or Dragon anti-tank missile launcher. There are too many variants to cover here, but the M113 platform has been utilized as a mobile hospital, a command and control vehicle, a combat engineering vehicle, and a mobile rocket-launcher.
The driver can use several periscopes when buttoned-down inside, including an infrared scope. The Ukrainians can choose to eventually up-armor the M113 giving it better protection for the gunner and more security underneath to guard against mines.
How to Best Use Them
It will be interesting to see how the Ukrainians will use the M113. I would recommend them to be assigned the duty of staying far behind the frontlines and transporting combat support soldiers such as mechanics and engineers. They can also haul ammunition, food, water, and other supplies. If used on the frontlines, they should travel behind tanks for better survivability. Anti-tank mines the Russians have laid would be a problem for the alloy hull.
Plug Holes in Friendly Lines
The APC could also be used as part of a quick-reaction force. The QRF is necessary to backfill positions that have been penetrated and overwhelmed by Russian armor. That’s why 200 of these M113s is a good number to fill all the different roles it could be assigned.
Keep that Battle Taxi Going
Despite their age, the M113 is a welcome addition to the Ukrainian arsenal. It would be better for them to be reserved for a combat support role for treating wounded or transporting explosive ordnance disposal troops. This “taxi” job is suitable because the light armor is no match for Russian tanks, drones, and artillery.
The M113 is a classic and the Ukrainians should not look down at them.
Now serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood.