The M113 is a fully tracked armored personnel carrier that was developed by Food Machinery Corp (FMC). The vehicle was first fielded by the United States Army'smechanized infantry units in Vietnam in April 1962. The M113 was the most widely used armored vehicle of the U.S. Army in the Vietnam War, earning the nickname 'Green Dragon' by the Viet Cong as it was used to break through heavy thickets in the midst of the jungle to attack and overrun enemy positions. It was largely known as an APC or anACAV (armored cavalry assault vehicle) by the allied forces.
The M113 introduced new aluminum armor that made the vehicle much lighter than earlier vehicles; it was thick enough to protect the crew and passengers against small arms fire but light enough that the vehicle was air transportable and moderately amphibious. In the U.S. Army, the M113 series have long been replaced as front-line combat vehicles by the M2 and M3 Bradley, but large numbers are still used in support roles such as armored ambulance, mortar carrier, engineer vehicle, command vehicle, etc. The Army's Heavy Brigade Combat Teams are equipped with around 6,000 M113s and 4,000 Bradleys.
The M113's versatility spawned a wide variety of adaptations that live on worldwide, and in U.S. service. These variants together represent about half of U.S. Army armored vehicles today. To date, it is estimated that over 80,000 M113s of all types have been produced and used by over 50 countries worldwide, making it one of the most widely used armored fighting vehicles of all time. The Military Channel's "Top Ten" series named the M113 the most significant infantry vehicle in history. The U.S. Army planned to retire the M113 family of vehicles by 2018, seeking replacement with the GCV Infantry Fighting Vehicle program, but now replacement of the M113 has fallen to theArmored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) program.
The M113 has received a variety of nicknames over the years. The South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) called it the "Green Dragon". U.S. troops tended to refer to the M113 simply as a "113" (spoken as "one-one-three"), a "track" or an ACAV. The IDF employs the M113 in many different variants, all designed in Israel, and has given each of them official names, from the baseline "Bardelas" over the "Nagmash", "Nagman", and "Kasman" variants for urban combat up to the "Zelda" and "Zelda 2", which were fitted with ERA armor-suites. The Australian Army refers to its M113A1s as "Buckets", "Bush taxis" and the modified M113A1 fitted with 76 mm turrets as "Beasts". The German Army has various nicknames, depending on location and branch of service, including "Elephantshoe", "Tank Wedge" and "Bathtub".
In service with the Hellenic Army, M113s have traditionally been referred to as "ducklings" (παπάκια), most probably due to their amphibious capabilities.
While some claim that the M113 has been nicknamed the "Gavin" (after General James M. Gavin), this is not an official designation. One observer said
In more than 30 years working in the defense industry, I have never, never heard anybody use the name "Gavin" for the M-113. Not in the US nor in any of the many countries that use the vehicle. Not in the military forces, not in the companies that build and equip it, not in the groups that retrofit and repair it. This usage appears not only to be "unofficial", it is entirely fictional and I believe that you may have been the victim of a hoax or deliberate disinformation.
In March 2007, a group of U.S. Army soldiers sit on the rear ramp of an M113, staging for a reconnaissance mission in Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq.
Today’s M113 fleet includes a mix of M113A2 and A3 variants and other derivatives equipped with the most recent RISE (Reliability Improvements for Selected Equipment) package. The standard RISE package includes an upgraded propulsion system (turbocharged engine and new transmission), greatly improved driver controls (new power brakes and conventional steering controls), external fuel tanks, and 200-amp alternator with four batteries. Additional A3 improvements include the incorporation of spall liners and provision for mounting external armor.
The future M113A3 fleet will include a number of vehicles that will have high speed digital networks and data transfer systems. The M113A3 digitization program includes applying appliqué hardware, software, and installation kits and hosting them in the M113 FOV.
The US Army stopped buying M113s in 2007, with 6,000 vehicles remaining in the inventory.
In 1967 some Jordanians M-113 were captured in West Banks and were integrated into Israeli Army. In 1970 Israel started to receive the better armoured M113A1 to replace half-tracks. IDF M-113s were armed with a M2 HB machine gun, and two MAG 7.62mm machine guns on either side of the upper crew compartment door. After the 1973 war armor and protection were improved. By 1982 war almost all the Israeli infantry rode in Zeldas.
The Israel Defense Forces still operates large numbers of the M113 in its combat missions, from its total fleet of 6000 of the vehicles. On numerous occasions since their introduction in the late 1960s, the IDF's M113s have proven vulnerable to modern anti-tank missiles, IEDs, and RPGs, resulting in the deaths of many Israeli soldiers riding inside the vehicles. The IDF has nonetheless been unable to replace the use of them in combat operations, due to budget constraints in equipping its large mechanized infantry regiments.
In 2004, two fully laden IDF M113s were destroyed by IEDs, resulting in the deaths of 11 soldiers, all those inside the vehicles on both occasions. The vulnerability of the M113 armored personnel carrier to improvised explosive devices and rocket-propelled grenades, led the IDF to later begin to develop the Namer APC.