A Brief History of the M6 ‘Linebacker’

The M6 linebacker is an air defense variant of the M2A2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle. It retains the 25mm cannon and 7.62mm machine gun of the unmodified M2 but replaces the TOW missile launcher with a launcher that fires the stinger missile. Designed to counter the threat posed by low flying aircraft (attack jets, helicopters and in some cases cruise missiles and unmanned aircraft). Initially an order for 99 Linebackers was placed and the system entered service in 1997. However, the system was phased out of service in 2005-2006. This appeared to be the end of the M6 platform until BAe displayed an updated M6 Linebacker system labeled ‘M-SHORAD’. This featured several upgrades over the original system. For example, the M-SHORAD were equipped with a top turret pHMR search radar, a fire control radar, a jammer to defeat drones, an upgraded 30mm chain gun and the ability to mount AIM-9X in the erectable launcher. While the US army did proceed with the M-SHORAD platform, they elected to mount the system on the Stryker platform instead of the Bradley.

The M-SHORAD Bradley chassis proposal – note the directional jammer on the mast for use against drone

The System

The gun

160310 A IF479 252A
A Bradley engaging a target with the 25mm on the range.

Unlike previous SAMs we have covered in this series of articles, the M6 is unique in the way that we have to separate the missile system and its related FCS for anti air engagements with the multi purpose weapon systems – namely the 25mm and 7.62mm guns.

The M6’s primary multi-purpose weapon system is the 25mm M242 Bushmaster chain gun. This weapon is a single barreled chain gun featuring a dual feed system and remote feed selection (the gunner can select the type of ammunition fired on the fly). The cannon has 300 rounds of ammunition in two ‘ready boxes’. One box carries 70 rounds the other carries the remaining 230. The vehicle also carries 1,200 rounds in storage to be loaded into the feeding ready boxes. The types of ammunition fired are M791 APDS-T and M792 HEI-T. In the 1991 Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm) the APDS-T is credited with several successful engagements of Iraqi armour and vehicles – most notably several T55’s were knocked out by the APDS-T fired by bradley.

Subsequent developments in ammunition have resulted in the M919 APFDS-T round being developed for and fielded by the M242 gun. This round is essentially a smaller version of the armour piercing rounds fired by main battle tanks. The M919 also featured a depleted uranium core to defeat heavier armour. 

An M6 in the field

The M6 also retains the M240C general purpose machine gun from the M2 Bradley. The M240C is chambered in 7.62mm and is used to engage infantry and soft skinned targets such as trucks.

The Missile

Not much remains to be said about the FIM-92 ‘Stinger’ missile system on the M6 as it is identical to the FIM-92 discussed in the previous TOTW article. However the Bradley incorporates a fire control system that allows the gunner to track and launch on fast low flying threats. The fire and forget nature of the stinger missile along with the fact that 4 missiles are carried on the M6 means that multiple targets can be engaged in quick succession. 

The Overall System

Finally the M6 features a modified fire control system which allows both the M242 and M240C to track and engage low flying threats (along with aligning the missile launcher). A digital compass and gyro-stabilised turret allow automatic slew-to-target acquisition on the move. This automatic slew control allows for rapid acquisition and engagement of a given target. The shoot on the move capability was demonstrated at speeds up to 40km/h. Target acquisition is provided by the AN/MPQ-64 Sentinel phased array radar which operates in the 3D/J band and sends target information to the Bradley through a data link. The link that integrates the M6 into the SHORAD Command and Control network is a hand held unit that is enhanced with an Enhanced Position Locating Reporting System and SINCGARS (Single Channel Guarded Radio System).     

An AN/MPQ-64 Sentinel phased array radar.

How To Defeat the M6 Linebacker in BMS

The M6 linebacker is an exceptionally dangerous system in BMS. The increased mobility can put the FIM-92 stinger systems into the frontline much quicker than a traditional MANPAD team as the MANPAD team has to dismount to engage – the M6 has the FIM-92 integrated. Additionally the M242 25mm gun combined with the FCS of the M6 provides a lethal close range punch.

How to Destroy M6 Linebacker in BMS

The M6 is based on the M2 Bradley IFV – thus it has more armour than a classical SHORAD system. However in practice the same weapons still apply – just be aware it can absorb more punishment than you’d expect. Cluster bombs of an armour piercing variety such as MK-20D are excellent ways to destroy M6 and the supporting vehicles around it. Alternatively if you seek to only destroy the M6 system to provide a window for another attacking flight of aircraft then AGM-65D and LGBs work very well, especially the AGM-65D due to their anti armour capabilities. 

Tactical Use of M6 Linebacker in BMS

The M6 is used as a last line of defense for forward battalions in BMS. It is usually found in HQ or Armour battalions.

Quick Reference

  • RMax – 3nm
  • Rmin – N/A
  • AltMax – 10,000’
  • Alt Min – 0’
  • Typical Range – 2nm
  • Typical Altitude – 10,000’