The US government is considering sending Bradley fighting vehicles to Ukraine. This is reported by Bloomberg, citing its own sources. The final decision has not yet been made, but as they say, there is no smoke without fire.
Bradley Fighting Vehicle and M2 Bradley, as the most common version on this platform, is a really powerful IFV that surpasses Soviet and Russian counterparts.
“Bradleys would provide a major increase in ground combat capability because it is, in effect, a light tank, (no actually, the Bradley is not a light tank – ed.),” says Mark Cancian, a former White House defense budget analyst who now works at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Unlike the previously provided M113, the Bradley is heavily armed with a powerful 25mm gun and TOW anti-tank missiles. The United States has many Bradleys, though some are older and need upgrades, so inventories are not a problem.”
According to Mr. Cancian, it will be several months before Ukraine can use the equipment if provided, as the crews and engineers must undergo appropriate training.
“The Bradley would be a significant improvement over current Ukrainian fighting vehicles,” said David Perkins, a retired four-star general who as a brigade commander during the US invasion of Iraq had the experience of using these vehicles. He said in his experience the Bradley is “more than a match” for Russia’s infantry fighting vehicles and its T—72 tanks.
The general is not exaggerating, during the Gulf War (1990-1991) M2 Bradleys destroyed more Iraqi (read Soviet) armored vehicles than M1 Abrams tanks.
As we mentioned above, the M2 Bradley is just one part of the larger Bradley Fighting Vehicle family. The development of the concept of an infantry fighting vehicle for participation in intensive combat conflicts on the European theater of war with the possible use of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons began at the height of the Cold War, in the mid-1960s. The process was delayed a bit and the M2 and M3 prototypes from FMC Corporation (yes, this is the same chemical company that developed the M113) were approved only in 1980. BAE Systems Platforms & Services, the American branch of the British BAE Systems plc. had to produce the new IFV. In October 1981, the combat vehicles were named in honor of the recently deceased Army General Omar Bradley, one of the main commanders of the US Army in North Africa and Europe during World War II.
The Bradley Fighting Vehicle, like almost all combat platforms, became the basis for many combat vehicles. The most famous and widespread is the M2 Bradley, the IFV with a crew of 3 soldiers, which can transport 6-7 soldiers (depending on the modification), has an aluminum body and laminated armor that provides protection against 14.5 mm bullets. The M2 is armed with a 25mm M242 autocannon and two BGM-71 TOW launchers. It was the TOW that helped the M2 Bradley so impressively defeat Soviet tanks during the Gulf War.
M3 Bradley is a scout-cavalry, i.e. reconnaissance, version of the M2 Bradley. It is almost the same in appearance, but has only two scouts in the landing section. The rest of the space is occupied by additional radio and reconnaissance equipment.
The M4 Command and Control Vehicle (C2V) is a command vehicle, only 25 of these were produced.
Bradley Stinger Fighting Vehicle (BSFV) is a vehicle for moving and supporting mobile air defense groups armed with FIM-92 Stinger MANPADS.
The M6 Linebacker is a more advanced air defense system. This Bradley has four FIM-92 Stinger launchers instead of two BGM-71 TOW launchers. The newer 2017 version, dubbed the M-SHORAD, has a search radar, an anti-UAV jammer, an XM914 anti-aircraft gun, and multiple Stinger, AIM-9X Sidewinder anti-aircraft missile launchers, and more. Unfortunately, the US Army decided to develop M-SHORAD on a basis of Canadian Stryker IFV.
M7 Bradley Fire Support Vehicle is a Bradley-based artillery reconnaissance system.
Bradley Engineer Squad Vehicle is an engineering vehicle.
Bradley Battle Command Vehicle is a brigade-level command vehicle.
M993/M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System Carrier Vehicle – yes, your favorite M270 MLRS also use Bradley chassis.
Black Knight is an unmanned ground vehicle (UAV), that is, a combat drone on a Bradley-based tracked chassis.
As noted above, the M2 and M3 versions make up the lion’s share of the Bradley. The primary operator is the US Army, which has approximately 4,500 in service and another 2,000 Bradleys in storage. Saudi Arabia has another 400 Bradleys and 32 in Lebanon. Recently, Croatia ordered 89 vehicles, Greece and Lithuania are also looking at this BMP.
As for the M2 Bradley, since 1981 this vehicle has received a number of updates.
The M2A1 (1986) version has a more modern BGM-71D TOW II ATGM, new gas filters and a fire suppression system.
M2A2 (1988) – more powerful engine, new transmission and improved armor, including laminated armor and Kevlar inserts in critical areas. The weight of the vehicle increased from 25 to 30 tons, and the number of passengers decreased to 6 soldiers.
M2A2 ODS/ODS-E (1991) developed after the end of Operation Desert Storm (ODS). The vehicle received a new laser range finder, a tactical navigation system, a digital compass, a system to counter guided missiles, a new combat information system, etc. This version is again designed for 7 fighters. An important improvement is the system of heating the dry ration directly in the vehicle. M2A2 ODS/ODS-E has a reserved space for transportation of FGM-148 Javelin.
The M2A3 (2000) is a fully digital version of the Bradley. That is, the target identification system, fire control, navigation, etc. are digital here. In addition, this version received improved armor, including jet armor.
The M2A4 (2018) is an update that should restore the Bradley’s speed, maneuverability and interior space, which were reduced after the addition of additional armor in the M2A2 version. That is, there is a new engine, suspension, transmission, a smart power distribution system, and so on. The first vehicles of the M2A4 modification, which are converted from the M2A3, M7A3 and M2A2 ODS-SA, were received by the army only in April 2022. A total of 164 Bradleys were ordered to be modified.
That is, as you can see, the latest versions of the M2 Bradley are very modern IFVs. However, the US is going to replace their Bradley with a vehicle that will be selected as part of the OMFV (Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle) program. The program, which involves the development of both manned and unmanned IFVs, was started back in 2015, but only in 2021 were the firms that received orders to develop the concept named. These are Point Blank Enterprises, Oshkosh Defense, BAE Systems, General Dynamics Land Systems and American Rheinmetall Vehicles. In mid-2023, the Army is to select three companies to build prototypes of OMFV vehicles.
Back to Bradley. We don’t know when exactly, which and how many Bradleys the AFU will get, because these plans are only in the discussion stage. But… a lot of such discussions eventually turned into real equipment that protects Ukraine from the Russian invasion. We hope that the M2 Bradley will join the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the first half of 2023. I want to believe it.
M2 Bradley Specifications
Mass – 25.0 tons
Length – 6.55 m
Width – 3.60 m
Height – 2.98 m
Crew – 3 (commander, gunner, driver)
Passengers – 6 (7 in M2A2 ODS/M2A3/M2A4)
Armor – spaced laminated armor offering 14.5mm protection, 7017 aluminum body
Armament – 25-mm automatic cannon M242 (900 shots); 2 × ATGM TOW (7 missiles); 7.62-mm M240C twin machine gun (2,200 rounds)
Engine – an 8-cylinder Cummins VTA-903T diesel
Power – 600 hp. (450 kW)
Operational range – 480 km
Maximum speed – 64 km/h; 40 km/h off-road; 7.2 km/h in water
Cost – $5.5 million in 2022 prices.