Bradley track shortage continues, spreads to Korea

2nd ID tries to keep Bradleys on ‘track’

Phil Carter at Intel Dump points out this Pacific Stars & Stripes article about the ongoing spare parts shortages. In particular, there is a shortage of track for M2 Bradley fighting vehicles. If North Korea attacked today, not all the Bradley’s in Korea would be able to move due to track shortages.

All 58 Bradleys operated by 2nd Infantry Division’s 2nd Battalion are running on worn-out track, said Capt. Robert Richardson, maintenance officer for the 2nd Infantry Division’s 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment.

Each Bradley has 166 blocks of track. The blocks, which cost $140 each to replace, are made of steel and rubber. Dozens of pins link them together to form the tracks. When the rubber on the blocks wears out, they need to be replaced, just like bald tires.

“Our track is getting worn out by all the driving we do on concrete and roads. I have got one over there with no rubber on the left side,” Richardson said, pointing to a disabled Bradley languishing in a corner of the maintenance bay at Rodriguez Range.

Normally, the mechanics would replace worn out blocks with new track. However, the need to supply track to vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan means there is not enough for vehicles in South Korea, he said.

This issue is not a new one. Back in December I posted that the Army was finally catching up on Bradley track. A track supplier was quoted in National Defense Magazine about the effort to catch up with demand, and he said a lot of things like “trends are positive” and “based on lead times”. I wrote

That sounds an awful lot like corporate-speak for “we’re scrambling to cover our asses.”

I realize that demand can’t be predicted reliably even in peacetime, so I’m not faulting the manufacturers. But I think the shortage of tracks for Bradleys and Abrams is just more evidence that the military was taken by surprise by the amount of post-invasion fighting in Iraq.

It’s very troubling that we’re still seeing shortages six months later. The spike in demand is long past. In the same post I also wrote

There is no reason for the military to have been blind-sided by this. In fact, I doubt that it was. I’m sure that there was a fair amount of discussion about this at some levels, but, like the Interceptor body armor that the Army is short of, no one (important enough) thought stockpiling more tracks was worth the expense when there are so many cool things to buy.

In his post, Phil Carter writes

Ideally, our military should retain some amount of excess capacity at any given time with which to respond to immediate crises. This capacity shouldn’t just mean tanks and planes and soldiers, but spare parts to fix the force and bombs to arm it. The military spent some of this capacity for Operation Desert Fox in 1998, and for Kosovo in 1999, but it rebuilt those shortages with funding in 2000 and 2001. Unfortunately, the military expended nearly all of its surplus capacity to fight the war in Iraq, with the result that we are now less ready to respond to threats abroad if/when they should arise.