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‘Disabled & Detracked’, Ukraine Becomes ‘Graveyard’ For Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles; US Likely To Supply More

As Ukraine’s counter-offensive unfolds, the world has been stunned by visuals showing the destruction of several US-supplied Bradley infantry fighting vehicles by the Russian forces. 

In response to the escalating situation, the United States is reportedly gearing up to provide a new aid package, including additional Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs).

Two defense officials, who spoke to VOA on anonymity, have revealed that the upcoming aid package is expected to include Stryker and Bradley armored vehicles.

The purpose of these IFVs will be to replace those that have been damaged or destroyed during the current Ukrainian counter-offensive. 

In addition to the armored vehicles, the aid package is expected to include munitions for the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS) as well as an increased supply of rockets for Ukraine’s High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS). 

A M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle assigned to 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment “Iron Rangers,” 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division moves toward an objective during a multinational situational training exercise in Cincu, Romania, Sept. 23, 2021.
An M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle during a multinational situational training exercise in Cincu, Romania, on September 23, 2021. US Army photo by Spc. Joshua Cowden, 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

The upcoming aid package, once delivered, will be the 40th instance in which the US Department of Defense has authorized the drawdown of military equipment since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.  

The news about the possible aid package comes amid reports indicating that Ukraine has incurred the loss of over a dozen Bradley infantry fighting vehicles in the past few days as part of their ongoing counter-offensive.

According to the Dutch open-source analysis website Oryx, which closely monitors visual evidence of losses in the conflict, a staggering total of sixteen Bradley infantry fighting vehicles provided by the United States, have been either lost or damaged in Ukraine in the past few days. 

Based on the information provided by the website Oryx, five Bradley infantry fighting vehicles have been destroyed, while eleven others have suffered damage and subsequently abandoned.

The losses incurred by Ukraine represent a portion of the 109 Bradleys the United States has pledged to provide. The deployment of these vehicles was confirmed for battlefield use in April. 

Bradleys are designed to combine firepower capabilities with the capacity to transport approximately ten troops, utilizing tracks instead of wheels for mobility. This dual-purpose design enables them to serve as combat assets and personnel carriers in military operations.

Why Is Ukraine Becoming The Graveyard Of Bradleys? 

The loss of Bradleys occurred as Ukraine undertook one of the most treacherous and intricate military maneuvers known as a breaching operation. These operations, involving the breach of enemy defenses, are considered among the most dangerous and complex military tactics. 

However, compounding the challenges, these breaching operations were carried out without air support and with inefficient suppressive artillery fire. Such circumstances have intensified the vulnerability of the Bradleys, leading to the losses and damage observed. 

However, a defense analyst and former British army officer Nicholas Drummond told CNN that the Ukrainian side’s losses are within the realm of expectation. 

Drummond describes it as a necessary but expensive strategy, expressing his preference for “a lot of armored vehicles” in conjunction with artillery fire and air support from combat aircraft. 

A photo of the damaged Bradleys and other vehicles: Twitter

In his analogy, he states that achieving significant objectives in warfare often requires accepting certain losses, compared to breaking a few eggs when making an omelet.

Oliver Alexander, an independent analyst, said that the initial losses suffered by the vehicles were likely the result of encountering minefields, leading to their “disabling and detracking.” 

He also noted the significant challenge posed by mines, anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs), and FPV (First Person View) drones, as they can effectively disable Ukranian vehicles. 

These threats are anticipated to present a major problem for Ukraine, similar to the challenges previously experienced by Russia in the early stages of the war. 

Alexander has also voiced his concerns regarding the effectiveness of Short-Range Air Defense (SHORAD) and Electronic Warfare (EW) assets during the ongoing counter-offensive. 

But, the US-supplied vehicles have reportedly demonstrated their effectiveness in safeguarding the lives of Ukrainian personnel. Compared to the Soviet-era BMP-1 and BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles previously utilized in Ukraine, the Bradleys exhibit superior strength and capabilities.

According to Rob Lee, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, the destruction of a Bradley is less likely to result in casualties among the troops it transports.

For instance, a video on social media showed Ukrainian soldiers being unharmed after their Bradley IFV was targeted by anti-tank-guided missiles and a landmine.

While the outcome after the video concludes remains uncertain, the expert noted that the actions of these troops showcased their application of combined arms maneuver techniques that they were trained on. 

Yet, more donated weapons are expected to sustain damage or destruction on the battlefield, as this is an inherent aspect of warfare.

The critical question moving forward is whether the Ukrainian forces have gleaned valuable lessons from such incidents. Observing how they adapt and respond to these challenges will be of keen interest as the counter-offensive progresses.

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