While the M2/M3 and M2A1/M3A1 were fairly well protected, advances in Soviet weapons technology soon outclassed their armor. Under new guidelines for increased protection against heavier caliber weapons, the Army and IMC began designing a new variant of the Bradley to withstand hits from these new Soviet weapons under the designations M2A2 and M3A2.
"The original spaced laminated armor was replaced by two plates of one and one quartermch steel armor that ran the length of the hull on both sides of the Bradley. While classified, observers believe this armor is sufficient to withstand hits up to 30mm cannon fire. In addition, reactive armor can also be fitted to increase survivability against shaped charge weapons. Armor plates have also been added to the front of the hull, eliminating the trim vane carried on the M2/M3 and M2A1/M3Al.The addition of this armor also led to a repositioning of the headlights on the hull front.
Armor plates were also added lo the turret for increased protection. Additionally, the gun shroud around the 7.62 coaxial machine gun was deleted and a pair of smoke grenade stowage boxes were installed on the turret under the gun mantlet. These boxes were smaller and narrower than the stowage boxes used on the earlier MZ'M3.
Internally, ammunition, mines and flares have been relocated to the lower and rear portions of the hull to reduce their exposure to enemy fire. Rigid Kevlar blankets, called spall liners, have also been fitted to the inside to stop armor spall, bullets and fragments from flying around the interior with devastating effects.
These armor and internal improvements have resulted in an increase in weight for the Bradley from 25 to 33 tons.To handle this thirty-two percent increase in weight, a new-upgraded 600 horsepower Cummins engine was installed replacing the earlier 500 hp unit. The M2A2/M3A2 also has a regeared stronger transmission. Along with the new-power plant and transmission, stronger torsion bars were added to the suspension to handle the increased weight. As a result of these modifications, the vehicles^ performance has been somewhat decreased, although only slightly.
Production of the M2A2 and M3A2 began during the Spring of 1988. with the Army taking delivery of their first units that Fall. In 1989. Saudi Arabia placed an order for both variants of the Bradley, following an earlier demonstration of the Bradley in 1983. This was the first foreign order of the Bradley and as a result of the Gulf War. Saudi Arabia has increased their order.
While production of the M2A2/M3A2 continues, the Army has also planned lo retrofit earlier M2Als and M3A1s to the A2 standard. They will not modify the earlier M2s and M3s since the Army feels that such a move would not be cost effective, given the age and condition of the earlier vehicles.