*Source: DTN News / Defense Media (NSI News Source Info) - October 6, 2009: The U.S. Army is in the early phases of planning a bigger, more-survivable and more mobile 35-ton Block II Bradley Fighting Vehicle. The aim of the Block II Bradley is to preserve and build upon the survivability enhancements added to the vehicle over the years. ( Staff Sgt. Suzanne M. Day / U.S. Air Force) The Block II Bradley will be designed to possibly add greater ground-clearance for blast protection, a stronger 800-horsepower engine and include a host of additional upgrades built into the vehicle, service and industry officials said. "The original Bradley was fast and maneuverable," said Roy Perkins, Heavy Brigade Combat Team director, BAE Systems. "It could swim. As part of the survivability packages we put belly armor underneath it. We put all of these additional armor packages on it and we did the hot box [Kevlar protective lining for 25mm ammo stored in the floor of the vehicle]. All the extra weight made the Bradley a little bit slower, a little bit less maneuverable. The Block II is designed to buy that back. "As part of the Block II program they are looking at a bigger engine, a bigger chassis and externally storing the fuel tanks. Right now the fuel tanks are stored internally. We might possibly modify the chassis." Decisions on a bigger engine or larger chassis have not officially been made. A bigger hull would enable the Bradley to ride higher off the ground, Perkins said. "The new chassis will raise the Bradley back up. Bradley's magic number is about 18 inches [off the ground]. We are about 11 right now but if we can get up to 18 we will have the same or better mine protections than MRAP," said Perkins. While seeking to add greater mobility and ground clearance, the aim of the Block II will be to preserve and build upon the survivability enhancements added to the vehicle over the years. The Bradley Urban Survivability Kit (BUSK) III expands on earlier versions which included underbelly armor, reactive armor tiles, transparent armor ballistic gunners kit, the hot box and blast attenuated seats. It would add armor protection to the turret floor, a manual release lever for the back ramp, and fuel cell technology aimed at preventing secondary fires in the case of an attack. The Army plans to blast-test new fuel cell casings for the fuel tanks at Aberdeen Proving Grounds later this month. "We've tapped into the aviation community and are using the same fuel cell technology, which includes self-sealing bladders. Before, they were plastic and they were cracking," said Army Lt. Col. Bill Sheehy, Bradley program manager. "At Aberdeen we will use real fuel and see how it reacts under the stress of an event." The BUSK and Block II Bradley programs are aimed at upgrading the vehicle to serve for several more decades. "We're looking at maintaining the Bradley family for the next 20 years - the Army is looking to optimize the size, weight and power," said Mike Hogan, director of business development, vice president of business development, BAE's U.S. Combat Systems.
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