M247 Sergeant York
Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Gun (SPAAG)
The ultimately-cancelled M247 Sergeant York was built atop the chassis of the M48 Patton tank and was intended to serve alongside the new M1 Abrams and M2 Bradley.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
In the latter part of the 1970s, the United States Army required the services of a self-propelled, tracked, anti-aircraft system to replace both the M163 "Vulcan" Gatling-type vehicle and MIM-72 "Chaparral" tracked missile carrier which were, themselves, brought into being after the fallout of the General Dynamics MIM-46 "Mauler" air defense program. The new vehicle would serve as a component of the emerging "One-Two Punch" made up of the M1 "Abrams" Main Battle Tank (MBT) and M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV). The now-outmoded M48 Patton Medium Tank (M48A5) would serve as the hull and basis for the automotive components in the new SPAA system, a cost-cutting and logistically sound measure. Design work spanned from 1977 to 1985 under the direction of now-defunct Ford Aerospace.
The end-product became the short-lived M247 "Sergeant York", a 54-ton vehicle that introduced an all-new turret mounting the required radar facilities, tracking equipment and 2 x 40mm Bofors cannons. The vehicle measured 7.7 meters long with a width reaching 3.6 meters and a height of 3.4 meters. She was crewed by three made up of the driver, commander and gunner. The turret allowed an elevation range of -5 to +85 with full 360-degree traversal while the twin Bofors 40mm L/70 guns were capable of reaching out to 12.5 kilometers with a 600 rounds-per-minute rate-of-fire. Onboard ammunition stocks totaled 580 projectiles and the reloading process spanned 15 minutes. A Westinghouse AN/APG-68 radar provided radar-direction for the guns out to 40 kilometers. Fire control was digital and a laser rangefinder was also included. Power to the vehicle was served from a Continental AVDS-1790-2D series diesel-fueled engine developing 750 horsepower and providing the M247 with an operational road range of 500 kilometers and a road speed of 48 kilometers per hour. The vehicle relied on six dual rubber-tired road wheels in a "track-and-wheel" arrangement with the drive sprocket at rear and track idler and front. Five track return rollers were identified along either hull side. A torsion bar suspension provided the necessary off-road travel capabilities.
By this time, the attack helicopter was an ever-increasing threat to friendly armor and anti-tank missiles were greatly improved from their earlier forms. The introduction of the Abrams and Bradley vehicles also hastened development of a tracked vehicle that could keep pace with an advancing armored column and, from this need, was born the U.S. Army's "Advanced Radar-directed Gun Air Defense System" (ARGADS) which eventually evolved under the better-recognized name of "DIVision Air Defense" (DIVAD). Taking several submissions into consideration, contracts was handed to both General Dynamics and Ford Aerospace in January of 1978 to produce the XM246 and XM247 prototypes (respectively). Following head-to-head evaluations, the Ford submission was declared the winner and would carry the finalized designation of "M247" and the nickname of "Sergeant York" - the name used to honor famous American World War 1 hero and Medal of Honor recipient Alvin Cullum York (1887-1964). The U.S. Army envisioned a complete inventory stock of 618 York vehicles.
The M247 was adopted in 1981 and production-quality vehicles then followed. However, the program would run into all manner of issues which led to its untimely demise-by-cancellation with just a paltry 50 units delivered in all. The M247 proved too slow to keep pace with the speedy Abrams and Bradley it was designed defend and mechanical/technical issues consisted. These issues also joined guns that proved too short-ranged for the role at hand. Testing continued - though on life support - into 1984 which proved the vehicle largely unsound, leading to its termination on August 27th, 1985. Very few Yorks were saved from the scrap heap with many hulks ending up as bombing range targets for the USAF.
To remedy the immediate SPAA need, the U.S. Army adopted the M2 Bradley-inspired (M2A2) M6 "Linebacker" variant armed with Stinger missiles. HMMWV-inspired M1097 "Avenger" vehicles were also fitted with Stinger launchers to help bridge the gap even further.