February 3, 2023

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What is the Bradley Fighting Vehicle?

The White House announced Thursday that the Pentagon would deliver Bradley Fighting Vehicles to Kyiv, which offer Ukrainian soldiers more protection and firepower than any truck or armored personnel carrier the West has sent to date.

Although Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has long called for US-made tanks, the White House has resisted sending them, citing the amount of time it takes to train soldiers to use them in combat and also to maintain and repair them.

Here’s a closer look at the Bradley, which has offered a middle ground between the capabilities of a main battle tank like the M1 Abrams that Kyiv has been demanding and the capabilities of vehicles like the Vietnam War-era M113 armored personnel carrier that the Pentagon is offering already delivered to Ukraine.

The Bradley falls somewhere between a traditional tank and an armored personnel carrier, but it’s not a main battle tank.

The main task of a main battle tank is to destroy other tanks. The standard US tank is the M1 Abrams, which generally weighs around 70 tons and carries a 120mm gun capable of firing a variety of anti-tank rounds.

The Abrams rides on treads and can reach speeds of about 42 mph on flat surfaces and 30 off-road. Notably, unlike previous generations of US tanks, the Abrams is powered by a gas turbine engine similar to those used by jet aircraft. Taking care of these engines and keeping them fueled is a difficult task on the battlefield.

In comparison, vehicles with diesel engines like the Bradley are much easier to maintain and run.

The Bradley has a 25mm gun mounted on a rotating turret on the vehicle’s hull, which is why it is often mistaken for a tank. (Bradleys were substituted for the tanks requested by President Donald J. Trump for a July 4th celebration in front of the Lincoln Memorial in 2019.)

A 7.62mm machine gun is also normally mounted on the turret, along with launchers for the BGM-71 TOW missile. The United States has already delivered 1,500 TOW anti-tank missiles to Ukraine and announced the transfer on August 19 as part of a $775 million aid package.

Like the Abrams, the Bradley rides on treads rather than wheels, allowing it to traverse rough terrain impassable to trucks. And the hulls of both vehicles are encased in sophisticated armor blocks designed to offer some protection against direct attacks from enemy fire and missiles.

According to an Army history of the vehicle, the Bradley was designed to keep up with M1 Abrams tanks, allowing commanders to move troops alongside tanks in mutual support.

And while both vehicles are operated by small crews – four soldiers for the Abrams and three for the Bradley – the Bradley features a door and ramp combination that opens backwards, allowing infantry soldiers to quickly board and disembark.

The Bradley can carry about half as many troops as a traditional armored personnel carrier – like the M113 vehicles the Pentagon has already sent to Ukraine – but has much better armor protection and carries much more firepower.

Not exactly. The Ukrainian Army had a number of Soviet-era tanks and armored personnel carriers before Russia invaded, and some of the personnel carriers are armed with machine guns. Many were destroyed during the war.

The Bradley offers a much greater level of protection to the troops inside, and her 25mm gun and TOW missiles provide those troops with a greater level of fire support, while allowing battlefield commanders to form small teams of Bradleys to target Russians turn off tanks and other vehicles.

Yes. The US Army built two different versions. One, dubbed the M2, is built to carry a squad of maybe half a dozen soldiers into battle. The other, dubbed the M3, is designed for scout units to conduct reconnaissance missions and can carry two additional soldiers.

We do not know yet.

The Bradley was a Cold War creation, built to carry US troops into combat with Russians. According to army documents, it was introduced in 1981.

Bradleys were used in Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and also during the post 9/11 wars.

Its lengthy development — which lasted more than 15 years — was satirized in a 1998 HBO film The Pentagon Wars.