M8 Armored Gun System

M8 Armored Gun System

Infobox Weapon
name=M8 Armored Gun System

caption=The M8 Buford AGS with 105 mm gun
origin=flagcountry|United States
type=Light tank
length=8.9 m
width=2.69 m
height=2.55 m
weight=19.5 tons (Level I Armor),
23.0 tons (Level II Armor),
25.5 tons (Level III Armor)
speed=45 mph (72 km/h)
vehicle_range=280 mi (451 km)
primary_armament=Rheinmetall M35 105 mm rifled gun
secondary_armament=7.62 mm Coaxial MG,
7.62 mm / 12.7 mm MG (air defence)
engine=Detroit Diesel Corporation DDC 6V 92TIA
crew=3 (Commander, Gunner, Driver)
engine_power=550 hp at 2400 rpm (JP-8),
580 hp at 2400 rpm (diesel)
pw_ratio=29.1 hp/ton (32.1 hp/tonne) (Level I)

The United Defense M8 Armored Gun System is a small tank-like vehicle intended to replace the M551 Sheridan in the 82nd Airborne Division, as well as expected to replace TOW-equipped HMMWVs in the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment (2nd ACR). The M8 had a troubled development history and the project was eventually cancelled. Its role in the 2nd ACR was eventually taken by the Stryker.

Production History and Development

Troubled Start

In the 1980s, the United States Army began looking for a replacement for their M551 Sheridan tanks. Several attempts over the years to update or replace them proved unsuccessful. One of the concepts that came up was the Armored Gun System (AGS).

The M8 is the result of the AGS concept which originated in the early 1980s as a means of providing light forces with more powerful direct support. In 1980 the Army's 9th Infantry Division was selected as the test unit for the new High Technology Light Division (HTLD). The HTLD was designed to fight in the deserts of Southwest Asia. Due to several budget cuts and constraints, critical pieces of equipment needed to realize the division concept were never available. The Army was only able to field prototypes of some key pieces of the high technology equipment. In the case of the AGS, it could not even field prototypes.

A total of six prototypes were eventually built for the US Army under the designation of the XM8 AGS. The M8 was later type-classified by the US Army in late 1995 (reporting name Buford) and initially slated for production in 1996. There were still plans to find out the feasibility of having a 120 mm cannon on the AGS platform, along with the installation of Future Combat Systems. A demonstrator, christened "Thunderbolt", was unveiled by United Defense Industries in 2003, which used the autoloader from the M8 with a software trick to accommodate the larger rounds. The loader system was told that every third round space was empty, and the delta in volume was used to accommodate the larger 120 mm rounds.

United Defense has reportedly been seeking overseas customers, so far without success.

Possible Revival

There has still been calls to meet the outstanding requirement for a rapidly deployable AFV with the appropriate firepower. This was made even more apparent during the Iraq War, when the 82nd Airborne Division passed an "operational needs statement" to Army Forces Command outlining the still unfulfilled requirements in early 2004.

TRADOC completed its analysis on Feb. 19, and the G-3 approved the needs statement on March 8, authorizing transfer of the existing vehicles to the 82nd Airborne Division. The approval of the transfer of the four M8 Armored Gun Systems from contractor storage facilities marked the first time the vehicles will be used by the service since the program was terminated in 1996. This is however, just an attempt to meet the immediate requirement with an interim solution and allow the division to begin developing and refining tactics, techniques and procedures, not to be mistaken as support for revival of the AGS program.


The basic hull of the M8 is made of welded aluminium alloy, with a unique modular armoring system that allows the vehicle to be equipped according to requirements. The Level I (basic) armor package is designed for the rapid deployment role and can be airdropped from a C-130 Hercules and protects the vehicle against small-arms fire and shell splinters. The Level II armor package can still be carried by C-130, but must be airlanded and is designed for use by light forces in a more serious threat environment, while level III armor is designed for contingency operations and is supposed to provide protection against light handheld anti-tank weapons. Level III armor cannot be carried by C-130. All versions are air-transportable by C-5 Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster III (five and three respectively).

The M8 is armed with the M35 rifled autoloading 105 mm cannon main gun with an M240 7.62 mm machine-gun mounted co-axially. Because of the M35's autoloading capability, the M8 carries a crew of 3 instead of the usual 4 crew carried by other US tanks. The M35 has a rate of fire of approximately 12 rounds per minute, with a ready capacity of 21 rounds with 9 more in stowage. Additionally, a 0.50in M2HB machine gun is carried for anti-air duties. This can be replaced with a second 7.62 mm machine-gun. Power is provided by a Detroit Diesel 6V-92TIA diesel developing 580 hp.


;"Thunderbolt" Armored Gun System (Block II) This technology demonstrator was a test bed to bring Future Combat System technologies to the current force in the near term. Advanced technologies incorporated into this variant include hybrid electric propulsion, band track, improved ceramic/composite armor, Second Generation FLIR Night Vision technology, digitization, a XM-291 120 mm main gun along with its 120 mm auto loader. This demonstrated system upgrade retains the M8's C-130 Hercules air transport capability, as well as the AGS 3-man crew.

The Thunderbolt also has a ramp door in the rear that lowers for the Engine/Transmission power train to be rolled out for easy maintenance. With the conversion to Hybrid Electric Drive and the flexibility of positioning drive train and suspension components, significant space is freed up in the existing propulsion system compartment for increased storage and mission payload.


*Miller, D. (2000). "The Illustrated Directory of Tanks of the World". pp. 478-480. Osceola, MI: MBI Publishing
*Plummer, A. (15 March, 2004). Inside the Army. "Army To Transfer Four Armored Gun Systems To 82nd Airborne Division".
* [http://www.uniteddefense.com/pr/pr_20031006c.htm United Defense Unveils Thunderbolt 120 mm Demonstrator] . Accessed 24 September 2006.

External links

* [http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ground/m8-ags.htm M8 Buford Armored Gun System] at GlobalSecurity.org
* [http://www.janes.com/defence/land_forces/supplement/lav/lav_m8.shtml M8 LAV] at Jane's

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