The M113 is a fully tracked armored personnel carrier that has formed the backbone of the United States Army's mechanized infantry units from the time of its first fielding in Vietnam in April 1962
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The M113 was the most widely used armored vehicle of the U.S. Army in the Vietnam War, earning the nickname 'Green Dragon' by some people, but largely known as an APC and ACAV (armored cavalry assault vehicle) by the US, as it was used to break through heavy thickets in the midst of the jungle to attack and overrun enemy positions.
The M113 introduced new aluminum armor that made the vehicle much lighter than earlier vehicles; it was thick enough to protect the crew and passengers against small arms fire but light enough that the vehicle was air transportable and moderately amphibious. In the U.S. Army, the M113 series have long been replaced as front-line combat vehicles by the M2 and M3 Bradley, but large numbers are still used in support roles such as armored ambulance, mortar carrier, engineer vehicle, command vehicle, etc.
The Vietnam War was the first combat opportunity for "mechanized" infantry, a technically new type of infantry with its roots in the armored infantry of World War II, now using the M113 Armored Personnel Carrier. U.S. Army mechanized infantry units in Vietnam were fully equipped with the M113 APC/ACAV, which consisted of one headquarters company and three line companies, normally with an authorized strength of approximately 900 men. Ten U.S. mechanized infantry battalions and one mechanized brigade were deployed to Vietnam from 1965 until their departure in 1972.
M113s were instrumental in conducting RIFs (Reconnaissance In Force), Search and Destroy missions, and large invasions such as during the U.S. invasion of Cambodia on 1 May 1970 and later Laos (Operation Lam Son 719) in 1971; all of which utilized the M113 as the primary work horse for moving the ground armies. While operating with Cavalry and Armor units, the M113s often worked in conjunction with M48 Patton and M551 Sheridan tanks.
The basic M113 armored personnel carrier can itself be fitted with a number of weapon systems. The most common weapon fit is a single .50 caliber M2 machine gun. However, the mount can also be fitted with a 40 mm Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher. A number of anti-tank weapons could be fitted to the standard variant: the U.S. Army developed kits that allowed the M47 Dragon and BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missile systems to be mounted.
The 10.5-ton M113 is built of 5083 aircraft-quality aluminum alloy which gives it some of the same strength as steel at a slightly reduced weight, as the greater thickness allows structural stiffness.
The M113 has a maximum carrying capacity of 11 passengers and two crew members.
Its weight allows the use of a relatively small engine to power the vehicle, a 6V53 Detroit 2-stroke six cylinder diesel, with an Allison tx100-1 3 speed automatic transmission, and allows the vehicle to carry a large payload cross-country and to be transported by fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft. The M113 can swim without deploying flotation curtains, and is propelled in the water by its tracks.
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