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Bradley: American Cowboy on Ukrainian Battlefield

Bradley: American Cowboy on Ukrainian Battlefield

Тарас Сафронов Тарас Сафронов
Armor IFV Military assistance Ukraine - USA USA

American Bradley infantry fighting vehicles on the Ukrainian battlefield proved to be a powerful force.

The United States provided Ukraine with these IFVs to assist in offensive operations in Zaporizhzhia.

However, they also successfully showed themselves in the course of defense in the Avdiivka direction.

Total amount

In December 2022, the United States began considering sending Bradley IFVs to Ukraine.

The following month, Ukrainian military personnel from the 47th Mechanized Brigade were sent to Germany for training on these IFVs.

Український навідник в БМП Bradley. 2023 рік. Україна. Фото: Dmytro Smolienko

The training took place at the joint military base in Grafenwoehr Training Area, Bavaria, Germany.

The military was provided with Bradley armored vehicles in the M2A2 ODS version for training.

At the end of January 2023, the first Ukrainian Bradleys departed from South Carolina by ship to the German port in Bremerhaven.

According to the U.S. State Department’s report, 190 units of Bradley IFV were delivered in different batches to Ukraine.

БМП Bradley на борту корабля Wallenius Wilhelmsen, Північний Чарльстон, штат Південна Кароліна, 25 січня 2023 року. Фото: dvidshub.net

Of these batches, 4 units of the M7 Bradley Fire Support Team (BFIST) version were transferred.

The IFVs that were transferred to Ukraine entered service with the 47th Mechanized Brigade. This fact became public in January 2023 when military brigades published videos from the exercises on social media. Later, it was also confirmed by the leak of information from the Pentagon.

Bradley version

The United States sent Ukraine a more advanced version of the Bradley infantry fighting vehicle, which is designated M2A2 ODS-SA.

Bradley has a 25mm gun, machine gun, and TOW anti-tank missile system.

The crew of the M2 Bradley consists of three people. The IFV can carry up to six infantry soldiers in the squad compartment.

Externally, the ODS-SA M2A2 can be distinguished from older versions by the driver’s camera located in the front of the IFV hull.

The same camera is also present in the M2A3. However, in photos of Ukrainian IFVs, the latest commander’s sight is missing, indicating that the Americans did transfer the M2A2 ODS-SA.

In all other aspects, according to the manufacturer of these IFVs, BAE Systems, the ODS-SA version is almost identical to the M2A3 and has most of its improvements.

Бойова машина піхоти Bradley українських військових. 2023 рік. Україна. Фото: CNN

Those enhancements are related to the deep digitalization of vehicle and fire control, as well as the integration capabilities into the unified information network of the armored group.

M2A2 ODS-SA weight is 34,250 kg. The vehicle is powered by a 600-horsepower engine. It can reach speeds of up to 61 km/h.

In addition, the manufacturer notes that the vehicle has improved protection of the upper part using titanium.

In addition, part of the ‘Ukranian’ M2A2 Bradleys received BRAT reactive armor.

Бойова машина піхоти Bradley українських військових з динамічним захистом BRAT. 2023 рік. Україна. Фото: 47-ма бригада

Such armor is designed to protect armored vehicles from modern anti-tank weapons, including grenade launchers and ATGMs.

The protection comes in several variations and is made with add-on containers installed on the frontal part of the hull of the American infantry fighting vehicle Bradley, as well as on the sides and turret.

These reactive armor modules are attached to a special frame, which is mounted above the main armor of the IFV. This can be done even in field workshops.

Бойова машина піхоти Bradley українських військових з динамічним захистом BRAT. 2023 рік. Україна. Фото: 47-ма бригада

In addition to all of this, the USA also sent to Ukraine four special fire support vehicles based on the M2 Bradley.

The transferred Bradley Fire Support Team (BFIST) M7 are based on the Bradley ODS M2A2.

Equipment for target designation is installed on the BFIST M7 instead of the TOW ATGM. This vehicle can detect targets of up to 20 km.

Бойова машина M7 Bradley Fire Support Team (BFIST). 2023 рік. Україна. Фото: @WarArchive_ua

The armor protection of the vehicle ensures safe reconnaissance and targeting for the crew. In addition, the M7 also carries special portable surveillance equipment.

The M7 has a built-in battle management system with GPS and an inertial navigation system. It determines the location of the vehicle on the map, as well as the coordinates of the targets.

Бойова машина M7 Bradley Fire Support Team (BFIST). 2023 рік. Україна. Фото: @WarArchive_ua

The M7 BFIST transmits information to the nearest artillery units via a digital battle management system.

Bradley in the Zaporizhzhia region

In early June 2023, various detachments of the newly created 47th Brigade were sent to the Zaporizhzhia direction for a breakthrough of Russian positions.

American armored vehicles were tasked with firing on the enemy’s wooded positions.

Following this, the infantry was supposed to disembark from the armored vehicles and storm Russian positions.

Бойова машина піхоти Bradley українських військових з динамічним захистом BRAT. 2023 рік. Україна. Фото: 47-ма бригада

However, in the first days of the assault, armored vehicles came under heavy artillery fire and encountered mine traps.

As a result, a significant number of Bradleys were derailed, losing their ability to move, and their crews had to abandon them.

Russian forces immediately opened fire on the American armored vehicles in the Zaporizhzhia direction as they entered a radius of 2 kilometers from the invaders’ position.

Підбиті бронемашини Bradley українських військових на Запоріжжі. Початок червня 2023 року. Україна. Кадр з відео російських військових

The Russians continued to fire at the Bradleys even as the armored vehicles retreated to their positions.

Subsequently, when the front line was pushed back, these vehicles were evacuated, and not a single Bradley fell into the hands of the Russians in this direction.

It immediately became apparent that the armor of these vehicles could withstand strikes that Soviet IFVs could not survive.

“When we went to the position to extract infantry, we hit a mine. If it were Soviet equipment, we would not have made it back. Instead, we blew up, left the IFV, and returned to our base,” the military reports.

There were cases when Bradley, manned by one crew, was blown up on a mine during battles in the Zaporizhzhia direction. It withstood hits from a tank, a FPV kamikaze drone, and an anti-tank system.

“I once hit an anti-tank mine, and there was a direct hit of a shaped projectile on the turret. When a HEAT projectile struck the turret, sighting devices were damaged, and the splinterproof glass was broken. Only the driver suffered a concussion; all other crew members and troops were unharmed,” the military recounts.

Бойова машина піхоти Bradley українських військових з динамічним захистом BRAT. 2023 рік. Україна. Фото: 47-ма бригада

Despite the fact that this vehicle can be heard from a distance, its sound did not significantly impede operations due to Bradley’s speed.

“You can hear it from afar; we have experienced it ourselves. However, the fact that you hear it does not make it easier for the enemy. By the time you deploy the ATGM, while you prepare everything, it takes time. During this time, the Bradley will have completed its mission and moved out,” the military explained.

Captured Russians reported that when they heard the Bradley, they attempted to hide in trenches or basements.

“Not all IFV and tank crews were willing to face a Bradley, as it posed a serious threat to them,” the military explained.

The Bradley proved effective in neutralizing Russian IFVs, thanks in part to the presence of the TOW anti-tank missile system, enabling it to take out tanks.

“The Russians underestimated us, they worked against us with the RPG [thinking it would suffice], but it did not work,” the military stated.

During the assault on Robotyne, all operations were carried out in the morning. The Bradley transported and retrieved infantry while engaging Russian forces.

On August 23, 2023, soldiers of the 47th Mechanized Brigade raised the flag of Ukraine over the liberated village of Robotyne in the Zaporizhzhia region.

Bradley in the Donetsk region

Within a few months, the soldiers of the newly created brigade gained significant experience in the use of the Bradley and in countering Russian tactics.

In the fall of 2023, the Ukrainian command deployed Bradley infantry fighting vehicles to defend the Avdiivka direction.

The 47th Brigade commenced defensive positions north of Avdiivka, near the villages of Stepove and Berdychy, as well as at the Avdiivka Coke Plant.

БМП Bradley 47-ї окремої механізованої бригади на авдіївському напрямку на Донеччині. Січень 2024. Фото зі сторінки бригади

In the Avdiivka direction, the Bradley reveals even better performance in battles. The situation for Bradley crews undergoes a change.

In the Zaporizhzhia direction, many kilometers of mined territory and armored vehicles were forced to move along narrow demining routes.

Unlike the Zaporizhzhia direction, the Avdiivka direction allowed for greater maneuverability.

The Bradley IFVs were used as a heavy weapon to destroy Russian advancing forces and to transport infantry to trenches.

“They are targeting enemy equipment, including APCs and IFVs. Tanks have also been destroyed. The enemy is facing significant challenges here. They will incur substantial losses. The exact number of casualties is difficult to determine, as waves of infantry groups and the deployment of equipment persistently continue,” the brigade reported.

Посічена уламками бронемашина M2 Bradley українських військових на Донеччині. Січень 2024. Україна. Кадр з відео @WarArchive_ua

It reached the point where Bradley units engaged in close combat with modern Russian tanks.

For instance, in the area of the village of Stepove, a Bradley crew initiated a battle with the Russian Т-90 ‘Proryv’ tank at a distance of no more than 150 meters.

Initially, the IFV fired at the Russian tank using armor-piercing rounds. Then, they opted to disable the Т-90М tank’s sight devices with high-explosive rounds.

Shell hits disabled the control system of the Russian tank.

As of the end of January 2024, Avdiivka is under the control of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and the military, supported by Bradleys, prevents the Russians from advancing beyond Stepove.

Conclusions

American Bradley armored vehicles proved to be a very powerful support for the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

These IFVs are capable of withstanding anti-tank weapons and mine explosions, ensuring the safety of the soldiers inside.

In defense, Bradley effectively and aptly destroys the Russian infantry, which is trying to gain a foothold in buildings or wooded areas.

Бронемашина M2 Bradley українських військових. Червень 2023. Україна. Фото: @winua22

The vehicle also serves as an effective means for evacuating the wounded or as an armored personnel carrier for assault groups. It can immediately provide cover with its firepower.

However, if the vehicle is de-tracked, the crew will be forced to abandon the Bradley. After that, the enemy sometimes simply finishes off the Ukrainian IFV with tanks.

In the Avdiivka direction, there was a case when Russian infantry de-tracked Bradley from the RPG and then pulled the vehicle into their positions.

It became the only Bradley IFV that the invaders managed to capture. The vehicle also suffered damage to its on-board systems.

Захоплена росіянами бойова машина піхоти Bradley українських військових на авдіївському напрямку. Грудень 2023. Україна. Фото російських військових

It is also worth noting that Ukraine uses Bradley without an active protection system, which could further strengthen the protection of these armored vehicles.

At the same time, at the end of 2021, the American army had almost completed all the necessary tests to integrate the active protection system for Bradley.

Americans planned to complete testing and integration of Iron Fist Light Decoupled APS by the end of fiscal year 2022.

Система активного захисту Iron Fist Light Decoupled. 2022 рік. Фото: Defense-Update

Iron Fist Light Decoupled launches an interceptor in the direction of an aerial threat.

The interceptor explodes next to the enemy ammunition away from the infantry fighting vehicle, minimizing damage to the vehicle.

It is not excluded that in the future, Ukrainian Bradley will receive this active protection system, making these IFVs even more powerful.

Armor IFV Military assistance Ukraine - USA USA