Heavy Russian fire recently knocked out a Bradley infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) during combat in east Ukraine, but a second one showed up and safely evacuated everyone. The US vehicle, which first saw service in 1981, was pounded by rockets, hammered by shells and struck by FPV explosive drones, but got everyone on aboard home in one piece.

Daytime video published by Ukraine’s 47th Mechanized Brigade on May 26 shows a single Bradley M2A2 IFV driving at speed along a dirt road.

It pulls up to another Bradley smoking, but not burning, after having been hit by at least a half dozen Russian heavy artillery rounds including cluster munitions. More artillery rounds impact around the two vehicles as the second Bradley drops its rear door ramp, and crewmen from the disabled Bradley race towards it through smoke and explosions.

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All three crewmen, one limping, make it safely aboard, as the Bradley doing the evacuation takes a direct hit from an FPV drone, and then is rocked by an unidentified anti-tank projectile. The gunner aboard the evacuation Bradley, meanwhile, lights up a nearby target with bursts from his 25mm chain gun. As the rear door cranks shut the Bradley commander initiates a ring of smoke grenades that helps conceal the Bradley which then retreats at high speed in a cloud of dust, Russian artillery strikes straddling the dirt road, the Bradley and its passengers make it out to safety.

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Screenshot of a Russian army drone video showing the Bradley rescue incident.

Kyiv Post geo-located the incident to farmland near the village of Ocheretyne, the scene of heavy fighting for weeks to the west of the Donetsk region town of Avdiivka. Independent Ukrainian news agencies said the video had been edited but said the combat almost certainly took place as depicted and described by Ukrainian army sources.

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The Bradleys of the 47th Brigade have been effectively halting Russian assaults in the Ocheretyne and adjacent sectors, for weeks, as widely confirmed by official Ukrainian sources, as well as Russian and Ukrainian mil-bloggers. The May 27 Russian Defense Ministry daily situation report noted that in the Brigade’s sector, its forces were on the defensive against attacks by Ukrainian Bradleys.

Designed in the 1970s to counter the heavily-armed Soviet-era BMP IFVs, the Bradley was long considered to be over-equipped, over-complicated, and above all over-priced – with each Bradley shipped to Ukraine being worth around $4 million each, once depreciation and transport are considered.

The late 1990s cost overruns in the Bradley program even became the basis of a Hollywood comedy directed by Richard Benjamin and starring Kelsey Grammer. The movie’s plot contrasted greedy arms contractors with brave US officer risking their careers to protect US troops from going to war in a dangerous and ineffective weapon system.

A generation later Ukrainian soldiers, who mostly haven’t seen the film, have nothing but praise for the Bradley. The versions sent by Washington to Kyiv are 1990s-vintage vehicle with thick slabs of additional armor bolted onto the sides, front and the turret. Ukrainian fighter say a Bradley can take a hit like few vehicles on the battlefield and say its mobility on the battlefield is unsurpassed.

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A Bradley vehicle commander Stepan call sign “Barbie” said, in a December interview with veteran Ukrainian military correspondent Andriy Tsaplienko, “One of the most critical factors about this vehicle is that it really saves lives. This vehicle will go to places no other vehicle could possibly get to.”

A May 25 video published by United24, a Ukraine support group, featured a Ukrainian Bradley driver stating that he drove his vehicle over three anti-tank land mines and that he and his crew not only survived the blasts, but were able to reach safety at speed. A single anti-tank mine of the kind deployed in Ukraine would be considered sufficient to stop most vehicles. While Kyiv Post KP couldn’t confirm the claim it is known that the Bradley’s suspension system and under body are often described as “resilient.”

The Bradley’s baptism of fire in Ukraine, in June 2023, was bloody. The 47th Brigade was tasked to spearhead Kyiv’s entire summer offensive. It was required to drive along narrow clearance lanes through Russian minefields covered by anti-tank missiles and attack helicopters which resulted in as many as two dozen Bradleys being knocked out and the offensive stalled.

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Since then, the Brigade has become more adept in using its vehicles and the Bradley has developed a reputation for lethality, reliability, crew safety, speed and ability to cover even the worst ground at speed. The Bradley is armed with the 25mm chain gun and the TOW II anti-tank missile. During the Bradley’s development critics said the missile was a waste of money because a Bradley would always lose to tank s that could fire faster in a long-range shoot out.

In Ukraine the TOW has proved to be deadly even against Russia’s latest tanks, particularly as battlefield encounters often take place at short range where, to the surprise of naysayers the Bradley’s fast-firing chain gun has shot much more powerful Russian tanks to pieces before they have a chance to engage.

According to reports from Washington, Ukraine’s Armed Forces soon be getting more Bradleys.

Up until April 2024 Ukraine had received 186 of a promised 200 US Bradleys and had lost around 68. Shortly after Congress restarted arms shipments to Ukraine, in late April 2024, a Department of Defense fact sheet suggested it intended to up the total for delivery to 300.

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Latest, upgrade of the Bradley, which will replace older models transferred from US forces to Ukraine under the April Congressional arms assistance bill. Photo: Business Insider

Open sources identify the 47th Mechanized Infantry Brigade as the only Ukrainian combat formation operating the Bradley, the actual number currently being fielded remains a military secret. Ukrainian army equipment issue rules, suggest the maximum number of Bradleys a Brigade fields would be around 100. Taking in to account the now expected deliveries this would either see the 47th double in size or, more likely, a second brigade would be equipped with the IFV.

According to international and local reports Ukraine’s armed forces are currently forming at least five new combat brigades although the equipment they might be issued with is not publicly reported.

The 47th Brigade was raised from scratch in February 2023 and was made up with green, newly recruited soldiers led by a small cadre of combat-experienced officers and NCO before being issued with Bradleys. Its lackluster performance after its June 2023 baptism of fire led to the brigade commander being sacked amid what some media reported as poor leadership in the then still-green brigade.

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