US Army’s New Combat Vehicle Named After Soldiers Killed in Iraq, WWII

WASHINGTON — The U.S. military named its first new combat vehicle in nearly four decades the M10 Booker after two soldiers killed in combat, one in the Iraq War and the other in World War II.

Staff Sgt. Stevon A. Booker was killed on April 5, 2003, during the so-called thunder in Baghdad, Iraq. Pvt. Robert D. Booker was killed under heavy machine gun fire in Tunisia on April 9, 1943, during World War II.

Stevon Booker was a tanker and Robert Booker in the infantry. Robert was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor and Stevon was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

The M10, now known as the Mobile Protected Firepower vehicle, is the first combat vehicle to be named after someone who served in combat after 9/11.

The two soldiers’ stories “articulate the Army’s exact needs for the M10 Booker combat vehicle,” Chief of Service Acquisition Doug Bush said June 8. “Our soldiers will now have an infantry assault vehicle that brings a new level of lethality to our ground forces and allows our men and women in uniform to move at a faster pace under greater protection.”

Stevon, a tank commander serving under Task Force 1-64 company commander Capt. Andrew Hilmes, was killed by enemy machine gun fire during the first thunder on Highway 8 leading to Baghdad International Airport.

When both of the tank’s machine guns failed, Steven lay down on top of the tank’s turret and fired at the enemy forces with his own gun, destroying an enemy troop as it tried to pass the tank. He continued to fire his gun on a course of 8 kilometers until he was mortally wounded.

Robert was killed as he advanced through mortar and artillery fire with a machine gun, suppressing fire and destroying other machine gun emplacements before being fatally wounded, Maj. Glenn Dean, the agency’s ground combat systems program executive officer, said in June. 8.

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“This is the mission the M10 Booker is designed to accomplish on behalf of and in support of the infantry,” Dean said. “So having armor and infantry is a particularly exciting name.”

While it may seem unusual to name the vehicle after two people, Dean noted, the Stryker combat vehicle was named for two soldiers – both Medal of Honor recipients – who served in the Vietnam War and World War II.

The vehicle

The M10 Booker is “an armored vehicle intended to support infantry brigade combat teams by suppressing and destroying fortifications, gun systems, trenches and secondarily providing protection against enemy armored vehicles,” Dean added.

General Dynamics Land Systems, which won the tender to supply the M10 to the Army in June 2022, will deliver the first of the vehicles in November this year.

The system features a new frame design while drawing from other GDLS programs to reduce risk, Kevin Vernagus, the company’s program manager for the Mobile Protected Firepower system, told Defense News in October 2022.

The turret is also “largely new and with different materials than normal,” he added, but “we still maintain the internal look, feel and controls similar to an Abrams main battle tank.”

GDLS will initially deliver 26 vehicles, but the contract allows the Army to buy 70 more during low-cost initial production for a total of $1.14 billion. At least eight of the 12 prototypes used during the competitive evaluation will be retrofitted to enter the force.

The Army will raise a new battalion for the first unit of M10s – 42 vehicles – by the fourth quarter of fiscal 2025, Dean said. The Army plans to enter full production in calendar 2025.

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Before fielding, the Army will conduct initial operational testing of the vehicle in late 2024 or early 2025, Dean said.

The Army expects to spend about $6 billion on Mobile Protected Firepower vehicles during the procurement phase, including what it has already spent on research, development and prototyping efforts. The total life-cycle cost of the program, including maintenance, military construction and personnel, is estimated at $17 billion.

The Army plans to buy 504 vehicles, which are expected to be in the inventory for at least 30 years. Most of the procurement should be completed by 2035, Dean said. The cost of the supply unit is estimated to be around $12.9 million, which includes parts, training and pitches.

To win the M10 contract over competitor BAE Systems, GDLS had to deliver 12 prototypes to the service for routine evaluation as well as to soldiers at the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, now Fort Liberty. Soldiers extensively evaluated the operational qualities and features of both offerings and then provided feedback to Army decision makers.

The vehicle encountered problems in testing and evaluation, including toxic fumes generated when firing the main weapon and overheating. Dean said both of those issues have been resolved.

The company also improved the sealing around hatches and improved armor coverage, GDLS told Defense News last year.

The M10 turrets will be manufactured at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima, Ohio, where the M1 Abrams tanks are built. Hulls will be manufactured in Michigan, gun barrels at Watervliet Arsenal, New York, and vehicle assembly at Anniston Army Depot, Alabama.

Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist who covers land warfare for Defense News. He has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. He holds a master’s degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.

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