Army weapons developers will soon be firing RPGs, anti-armor missiles, and small arms fire to test the new M10 Booker Mobile Protected Firepower vehicle.
“The live fire testing will include armor coupons and ballistic hulls. We will shoot vehicle’s with a wide range of threats and achieve accuracy,” Maj. Gen. Glenn Dean, program executive officer for Ground Combat Systems, said just prior to the M10 Booker’s unveiling.
The Mobile Protected Firepower vehicle has been in development for many years. The project aims to provide a lighter-weight alternative to a 70-ton Abrams tank, one able to transit with and support maneuvering infantry brigade combat teams in high-speed, expeditionary combat operations.
Honorable Namesakes, Heroic Tasks
The MPF’s name has particular significance, as the vehicle honors two heroic American soldiers killed in combat — Pvt. Robert Booker in World War II, and Staff. Sgt. Stevon Booker during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Their stories are remarkable and align with the timeless spirit of selfless devotion known to inspire thousands of U.S. Army soldiers. Pvt. Robert Booker advanced across hundreds of yards of open territory to attack Nazi machine gun and mortar positions. After destroying a German machine gun position, Booker was fatally wounded by incoming Nazi fire, yet he continued to direct and inspire fellow soldiers to follow his attack as he took his final breaths. Booker received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest military honor.
Staff. Sgt. Stevon Booker was a non-commissioned officer in charge of an armored task force during Operation Iraqi Freedom. While leading an armor unit as the Army attacked Baghdad’s airport, Stevon Booker’s armored vehicle formation came under deadly ambush by Iraqi forces firing RPGs and small arms fire. Booker reportedly exited the vehicle and stretched out on top of the turret to direct responsive fire and protect fellow soldiers vulnerable to the Iraqi attacks.
This selfless resolve to confront danger and death in the service of others brings to mind the words spoken in 1900 by eventual U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt when he served as governor of New York. The speech, famously titled “The Strenuous Life,” was delivered in Chicago at a men’s club on April 10 of that year, as the Spanish-American War raged on. Roosevelt was, among other things, discussing U.S. commitments to the liberation of the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico from Spanish colonial rule. The text of the speech equates success with a willingness to work, sacrifice, and not shrink from danger.
“I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life, the life of toil and effort, of labor and strife,” Roosevelt said. “To preach that the highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph.”
While spoken more than 100 years before Operation Iraqi Freedom, and roughly 50 years before WWII, Roosevelt’s words speak to the intensity and service with which both Robert and Stevon booker served their country.
Heroic actions in armored warfare such as those inspiring the vehicle’s name also match up with the intended operational function of the combat vehicle. While there is unquestionably a continued place in mechanized warfare for heavy armor platforms such as the 70-ton Abrams tank, the Army developed what is now the M10 Booker to engineer a highly lethal, expeditionary, deployable armored combat vehicle able to keep pace with and support dismounted infantry brigade combat teams. While of course critical to armored warfare, the Abrams tank is extremely difficult to deploy and has mobility limitations. Due to its weight, an Abrams is unable to cross many bridges or operate in narrowly configured urban areas.
Lethal, Fast, Deployable, and Survivable
The M10 Booker brings 105mm cannon lethality to armored warfare but moves faster than the Abrams, operates at 38 tons, and is quickly deployable on a C-17. Developers sought an optimal blend of deployability, speed, lethality, and survivability to meet the changing threat landscape of future warfare.
For example, while the M10 Booker is light, fast, and deployable, it is much more survivable than the Russian 2S25 Strut light tank. In service since 2005, the Strut is described as an amphibious tank destroyer designed to combine tank-like firepower with combat maneuverability. However, the Strut weighs only 18 tons, making it far more vulnerable than the 38-ton M10 Booker.
Its developers say that the suspension of the M10, its high horsepower-to-weight ratio, and front-mounted diesel engine make its architecture quite different from that of a standard tank. Further, while an Abrams can only fire a 120mm cannon, the MPF is built with a modular turret such that it can switch out to a heavier cannon than a 105mm if this is needed to meet mission requirements. The MPF is also built with a newly designed slip ring for added networking, data management, and information exchange between the hull and the turret.
Rushing Into Effect
The M10 Booker is being accelerated to war, in part to meet a pressing need for mobile firepower to support rapidly advancing light infantry. In recent years, Army assessments have found that infantry brigade combat teams lack the maneuverable firepower needed to destroy fortified enemy positions, bunkers, light armored vehicles and heavy machine gun positions. A Congressional Research Report from October of 2018 reached a similar conclusion, explaining that infantry lacks the requisite attack and mobility requirements.
“The IBCT lacks the ability to decisively close with and destroy the enemy under restricted terrains such as mountains, littorals, jungles, subterranean areas, and urban areas,” the CRS report states.
The vision for the M10 Booker lines up with concepts articulated in an essay by West Point’s Modern War Institute titled “Light, Mobile and Many: Rethinking the Future of Armor.” The essay suggests that heavily armed yet faster, lighter-weight vehicles might take center stage in future combat strategies.
“If smaller, more dispersed platforms, with more sister platforms covering each vehicle’s flanks, is more capable of surviving the battlefield of tomorrow than the gigantic Abrams of today, again the solution is straightforward,” the Institute states. War planners repeatedly emphasize that future war will be more disaggregated, driven by long-range sensors, unmanned systems, and precision weapons with much farther reach.
This is not to say there will not be a continued place for heavy armor in future Army warfare. The Abrams tank may remain a vital part of the Army’s arsenal for decades to come. Yet modern threat environments, coupled with advances in weapons and sensor ranges, AI-enabled multi-domain networking, and the need for expeditionary, high-tempo operations all drive the Army’s need for the M10 Booker.
Kris Osborn is the Military Affairs Editor of 19FortyFive and President of Warrior Maven – Center for Military Modernization. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.