The United States has said it will send dozens of Bradley armoured fighting vehicles to Ukraine as it seeks to bolster Kyiv in its attempts to repel invading Russian forces.
The delivery is expected to total about 50 units and comes as part of a more than $3bn military assistance package for Ukraine announced by the White House on Friday, which Washington said was its largest aid package for Kyiv to date.
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The US provided more than $21.9bn in military assistance to Ukraine in 2022, according to a State Department statement last month.
In addition to the Bradley vehicles, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the new package was expected to include mine-resistant ambush-protected light vehicles (MRAPs) and other personnel carriers, surface-to-air missiles, ammunition and self-propelled howitzers.
It comes as Germany has committed to sending its armoured vehicles to Ukraine and follows a similar announcement by France earlier this week.
Ukraine has long pushed for heavier weaponry, including tanks, that would aid its operations. Western nations have been reluctant to send them, citing fears of becoming further drawn into the war or provoking Russia.
But the Ukrainians have built momentum and Western nations have been expanding the weapons they send them.
On Thursday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that his country would also provide 40 armoured vehicles, known as Marders. in a joint statement with US President Joe Biden.
So, what is a Bradley Fighting Vehicle?
- The Bradley is a tracked, medium-armoured vehicle armed with a 25mm gun.
- Named after a US general who commanded US troops in World War II, it is operated by a crew of three and, depending on the version, can carry seven soldiers around the battlefield.
- In addition to its turret-mounted gun, it can carry a tube-launched, optically-tracked, wireless-guided (TOW) missile launcher, which can destroy tanks – earning it the moniker “tank killer”.
- Made by BAE Systems, the vehicle weighs about 36 tonnes and can go at approximately 61 km/h (38 mph), according to the US Army.
Does it differ from what Germany and France will send?
- France has pledged a similar armoured vehicle called the AMX-10 RC. The wheeled, high-mobility armoured reconnaissance vehicle has a 105mm gun and carries up to four people.
- Germany will send about 40 Marder infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine before the end of March. The tracked Marder often has a 20mm gun, a crew of three and can carry five or six into battle. Some Marders carry the Milan anti-tank weapon.
When will the Bradleys arrive in Ukraine?
- If shipped by sea, the trip could take several weeks.
- If the Bradleys the US has in Europe are sent to Ukraine, the timeline would be much shorter.
- Ukrainians will require training on how to operate the vehicles.
Why does Ukraine want them?
- Ukraine could use the firepower of the “tank killer” TOW missiles on board the Bradley in conjunction with its own tanks as part of the “mechanised combined arms” team, an advanced fighting tactic Ukrainians will receive training for in the coming weeks.
Will heavy tanks come next?
- It is unclear. While Ukraine has requested advanced tanks such as the M1 Abrams, NATO has been reluctant to send them because of fears this could further escalate the war.