The US M8 Buford Light Tank Background
The 82nd Airborne Division is an active airborne infantry division of the United States Army specializing in parachute landing operations. Their role is to deploy worldwide within 18 hours of notification to conduct Forced Entry parachute assault, Airfield seizure, Airborne & air assault operations, which means they have a need for Armoured Fighting Vehicles capable of providing fire support.
These vehicles have to be air-transportable/deploy, which means they have to be small and light, which rules out a Main Battle Tank. The M551 Sheridan was a light tank designed in the 1960’s and had proved troublesome, so in the 1980’s the US Army held the Armored Gun System competition.
Cadillac Gage offered its Stingray light tank with the traditional four-man crew. FMC offered the Close combat Vehicle Light (CCVL) with a three-man configuration. Teledyne offered its Expeditionary tank which had a two-man layout with an experimental unmanned turret. In 1992, FMC’s design was selected and type classified as the M8 Armored Gun System aka M8 Buford.
Sadly the Army cancelled the Armored Gun System programme in 1996. Instead it now uses the 8×8 wheeled Stryker M1128, which is a hybrid using the standard Stryker APC with the Expeditionary Tanks turret.
Development The US M8 Buford Light Tank
The first prototype of the XM8 was built in 1985. This tank was selected as a winner in the Armored Gun System programme and was re-designated as the M8 in 1996. With the cancellation of the Armored Gun System programme, the M8 Buford did not enter US Army service.
About the vehicle
The M8 is constructed of a welded aluminium alloy and can be airdropped from a C-130 Hercules offering protection against Machine Gun fire and artillery shell splinters. This level of protection was called Level I.
Level II used add-on modular armour with a Titanium ceramic insert. M8’s with Level II could still be carried by C-130, but had to be air-landed and is designed for use by light forces in a more serious threat environments.
level III armour is designed for contingency operations and is supposed to provide protection against light handheld anti-tank weapons. Level III armour cannot be carried by C-130.
The M8 is armed with the M35 rifled 105mm main gun with a coaxial M240 7.62mm Machine Gun. The M35 has a rate of fire of approximately 12 rounds per minute thanks to its autoloader, which had a capacity for 21 rounds with 9 more in stowage.
The US M8 Buford Light Tank Spec’s
Crew: 3 men
Dimensions: Length (gun forward) 9.37m / Hull length 6.2m / Width 2.7m / Height 2.35m
Weight: 23.58 tonne
Armament: Rifled 105mm Main Gun & x1 7.62mm Machine Gun
Engine: 550hp Detroit Diesel 6V-921A
Top Road Speed: 72.4km/h
Operational Range: 483km