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The US To Send A “Tank-killer” Fighting Vehicle To Ukraine

Story Highlights
  • The Bradley's main weapon is a 25 mm M242 Bushmaster chain gun, which is also called a "autocannon" and can shoot both high-explosive and armor-piercing rounds.
  • The last thing you want is for a brand-new Abrams tank to get stuck somewhere and you can't move it because you don't have the logistics infrastructure in place right now.

This week, the Biden administration said that the U.S. would give advanced Bradley Fighting Vehicles to Ukraine to help it fight against Russia’s invasion. Experts said that this would make a big difference in the conflict, but not a decisive one.

The Bradley is a strong platform for weapons that can destroy enemy tanks. It can also be used to look around the battlefield and move small groups of soldiers quickly and safely.

The Bradleys are going as part of a larger aid package worth $2.85 billion. On the same day, Olaf Scholz, the chancellor of Germany, said that his country would give Ukraine Bradley-like Marder combat vehicles and a Patriot air defence system. France announced the day before that it would give AMX-10 RC armoured fighting vehicles.

The U.S. and its allies are stepping up their support for Ukraine with these moves. Before, they were afraid to send systems like the Bradley for fear that Russia would do the same.

Image credit : Getty Images

Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, “Today I want to personally thank President Biden and Chancellor Scholz for the very important decision to strengthen our defence.” He said that giving away the weapons was “a big win for our country.”

Significant shift

Colonel Liam Collins, a retired U.S. Army officer and the founding director of the U.S. Military Academy’s Modern War Institute, told VOA that the Bradley could help Ukraine a lot, but it wouldn’t win the war by itself.

“It’s a big deal, and it’s still arguably the best infantry fighting vehicle in the world,” said Collins, who was also a U.S. adviser to Ukraine from 2016 to 2018. “But no single weapon system is going to win or lose the war for Ukraine.”

He said that the decision to give Ukraine the Bradley was a big change in how the U.S. and its allies seem to think about the conflict in Ukraine and how strong the Ukrainian military is.

“Before the war, no one in the U.S. gave Ukraine a chance,” he said. “So the help they got was just small things that could get there quickly.” He said that the Javelin anti-tank weapons and Stinger surface-to-air missiles were “just things to hurt Russia, but not things that would win the war.”

This initial help was later joined by longer-range artillery, drones, and other tools that helped Ukraine push Russian troops out of much of the land they had occupied when the war started.

He also said, “As we’ve watched this go on, there’s been more and more of a commitment to help them win. And throughout the war, we’ve seen that Ukraine has the better army. The only thing that Russia has going for it is the size of its military.

Tank compromise

Zelenskyy has been asking the U.S. and its allies for months to send tanks to Ukraine, but they have been slow to do so. One reason for this reluctance is that it is hard to keep systems like the U.S. M1 Abrams main battle tank running in the field because they are so complicated. To do this, you need experts who are highly trained and reliable logistical support.

Also, an Abrams tank’s engine, which has 1,500 horsepower and is almost three times the size of a Bradley’s, burns through fuel very quickly, making logistics even harder.

Michael Akopian, a researcher in the Defense Program at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank, told VOA that the Bradley has many capabilities like a tank but is much easier to operate and maintain.

“In a way, a Bradley could be better than a tank because it’s easier to keep up,” said Akopian. “These have diesel engines instead of the Abrams tank’s really complicated engines that look like turbines. It’s easier to keep clean and easier to keep in good shape.

“The last thing you want is for a brand-new Abrams tank to get stuck somewhere and you can’t move it because you don’t have the logistics infrastructure in place right now.”

Akopian says that the Bradley “is a good compromise between everything they need and the real challenges that the Ukrainian military does face.”

Bradley details

Since the 1980s, the Bradley Fighting Vehicle has been in use. Improvements made over the years have kept it up-to-date enough to be one of the best vehicles of its kind in the world.

There are different versions of the Bradley that are made for different uses. Overall, though, the vehicle weighs about 28 tonnes, moves on treads like a tank, is well-protected, and has three major weapons systems that make it a powerful enemy on the battlefield. With a crew of three, one configuration can carry an extra six infantry soldiers.

The Bradley’s main weapon is a 25 mm M242 Bushmaster chain gun, which is also called a “autocannon” and can shoot both high-explosive and armor-piercing rounds. A 7.62 mm machine gun is mounted next to it. The Bradley also has tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided (TOW) missiles that can take out larger tanks.

Both the main gun and the TOW missiles of the Bradley have an effective range of more than 3,000 metres. This is farther than many Russian tanks can reach. This means that the Bradley can attack a tank while staying out of the tank’s range.

The Bradley was used a lot for the first time in the 1990-1991 Gulf War. It was known as a good “tank-killer” because it destroyed more Iraqi tanks than the larger and more powerful M1 Abrams did during the war.

Since then, the Bradley has been a key part of many military actions, such as the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

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