On Wednesday, President Joe Biden released a statement on his latest conversation with Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy. In the call, Biden not only revealed that he was sending an additional $800 million in “weapons, ammunition, and other security assistance” to Ukraine, he provided some exciting details of just what would be heading down the high-speed pipeline between the U.S. and Kyiv.
These new capabilities include artillery systems, artillery rounds, and armored personnel carriers. I have also approved the transfer of additional helicopters. In addition, we continue to facilitate the transfer of significant capabilities from our Allies and partners around the world.
The helicopters mentioned here are likely those Soviet-era Mil Mi-17s that were purchased from Russia over a decade ago and refurbished by the U.S. Mi-17s were used by U.S. special forces in Afghanistan, and at least four Mi-17 helicopters were sent by the U.S. to the Afghan military … when it had one. At one point, the U.S. had at least 63 of these helicopters, but it’s not clear how many are still in flying condition and available to send. The fact that any are being sent shows just how quickly things are changing, and how the U.S. is now willing to send systems that just weeks—or even days—ago would have been unthinkable.
Also mentioned here are armored personnel carriers. It’s possible that Biden is talking about M113s since the U.S. has something like 6,000 of the things sitting in storage. However, these are relatively ancient systems. Though they’re still in use by various militaries around the world, there is a much better system available: the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. The Bradley is a generation newer than the M113, and there are also over 6,500 of them sitting around.
It’s almost like someone at the White House was reading kos’ last post.
Now that the taboo against “heavy” weapons is shattered, let’s get the M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle into Ukrainian hands. It is being phased out of the U.S. Army, and there are thousands available for gifting.
The Bradley is nowhere near as difficult and complicated to maintain and supply as a modern combat tank, it can be mounted with tank-killing missile systems, it can protect infantry during the kind of open ground combat we’re seeing in south and east Ukraine, and it can more safely transport infantry to combat zones than softer-skinned vehicles (including through defensive Russian artillery barrages). To get a sense to how much simpler the Bradley is, the training program to maintain it is 12 weeks, while it’s six months for the M-1 Abrams tank. And the Bradley uses regular diesel, not jet fuel like the Abrams.
The Army has been looking to replace the Bradley almost from the moment it appeared. The last basic Bradley rolled off the assembly line over 20 years ago, but there are still variants being made. There are lots of upgrades, modifications, and variations, and there are still a lot of Bradley M2 and M3 and M4 and M6—just a lot of Bradleys—in use out there. But the Army would definitely like to see it depart and make room for whatever comes out of their next-generation plans (which includes plans for an “optionally manned” fighting vehicle that could also operate as a kind of big, heavy, ground-based drone with a gun). Sending a few hundred Bradleys to Ukraine might help speed that along, so this plan should have fans in the Pentagon.
A Bradley M2 packs a crew of three and up to six passengers. Up top is a terrifying 25mm chain gun capable of firing 200 rounds a minute, with some upgraded to 500 rounds a minute. If that’s not enough, a machine gun is mounted along the side, and all the passengers have ports through which they can convert the Bradley into a rolling gun platform. It’s also well armored with both steel plate and reactive armor. Oh, and it generally comes armed with at least two anti-tank missiles. It’s not as fast as the APVs seen driving around Ukraine on both sides of the conflict; a BMP-3 is arguably better if you’re more concerned about shooting than defending your passengers. But in almost all cases, a Bradley is seriously better armored.
The Russian BMP-3 is supposed to have active anti-missile systems that would protect it against incoming weaponry, but the 65 known-dead BMP-3s so far are a pretty good argument that the system does not work particularly well. The Bradley has much thicker steel overlaid with ceramic and explosive plates. They’re not going to fail unless they’re hit hard. It outweighs other APVs by a dozen tons, all of it armor.
In any case, the Bradley—which is armored like a tank—is also going to be vulnerable to anything that might stop a tank. But it’s not going to be taken out by many of the weapons that could stop a more lightly armored vehicle.
This statement from Biden follows word that the U.S. is also working to send artillery to Ukraine, both by replacing older Soviet systems in other NATO countries and possibly by sending some NATO gear that would range the artillery being used by the Russians.
The U.S. has been sending weapons to Ukraine for years, well before Russia rolled across the border. However, in advance of the invasion, the U.S. was very concerned about sending signals that Russia might read as aggressive. It was willing to share with Ukraine a lot of basic supplies and material needed by every military, but drew the line at what was seen as “offensive weapons.” (Which is, of course, a ridiculous term.) Along those lines, it was okay to send Ukraine an anti-tank missile that could be used to take out an armored vehicle, but not okay to send them an armored vehicle.
However, the moment that Russian forces rolled into Ukraine, the line of what was acceptable began to shift. And shift. And shift. The battle that’s brewing in the Donbas region looks to determine Ukraine’s future. And Russia’s future. Which makes it worth both investment and risk on the part of the U.S.
And because God hates writers, just as I was about to press “publish” on this we got the official word.
So it’s not the Bradley after all. This time. Instead, it’s the M113. Which is also … good. It’s just a generation behind. Even so, it beats the hell out of walking, and there’s a reason it’s still in use 60 years (!) after the first one rolled off the line.
The U.S. kept making M113s through 2007, and like the Bradley, the basic chassis of the M113 is at the heart of dozens of other mobile platforms. In a way, there’s a whole M113 “ecosystem” in almost the same way that the Russians have built dozens of other vehicles on the basic frame of a T-72. Here’s another way of putting it: About half of all the armored vehicles in the U.S. Army are based on the M113.
There is certainly no problem with either vehicle’s availability (6,000 sitting in warehouses) or with parts, which could be measured in warehouses. The U.S. doesn’t need them. Ukraine can use them. So, sure, M113s. Most standard M113s are fitted with machine guns and/or grenade launchers. Israel still uses thousands of the things. They are a whole lot better than nothing … just not as good as a Bradley. (You’re welcome to read some disappointment into this.)
Now we also know that it’s 100 Humvees, plus another 300 Switchblades, and 500 more Javelins (or one day’s worth, according to Zelenskyy). We also got a definitive number on those Mi-17 helicopters, which will likely find duties that are not directly on the Donbas front where Russia actually has both air defenses and is willing to risk dipping a jet into Ukrainian airspace for a few minutes. The most welcome item on the list may be the least controversial: 30,000 sets of body armor and helmets. That's something that will get used.
But it’s not Bradleys. Today. Of course, it wasn’t Mi-17 helicopters yesterday. So … get back to me tomorrow.
Lot of people on Twitter saying "finally!" and "it's a start!" Daily Kos readers should know better by now. This is actually part of an ongoing series of shipments, now totaling $2.4 billion. It's not a start, and it's not the end. Once this is delivered, there will be another $800 billion (or whatever) transfer of more equipment. And the next one will have more Javelins, more Stingers, more Humvees, more artillery pieces, more body armor and helmets, more munitions, and, hopefully, Bradleys.
One thing I left out when talking about this package — and it may be the most important.
What’s the best way to put to use the long range artillery the U.S. announced it was sending on Tuesday? That would be taking out Russian artillery. Not only is artillery a devastating weapon in a head-on battle, it’s the “tool” with which Russia has been tearing apart Ukrainian cities one block at a time.
Those AN/TPQ-36 “Firefinder” radar systems that the U.S. is sending to Ukraine have One Job: Find Russian artillery, and feed Ukrainian artillery with firing solutions to make Russian guns go away.
What makes these even better? The Ukrainian army already has some. That’s because an anti-artillery system easily fits into the idea of a “defensive weapon,” so the U.S. has been delivering them for years.
Ukraine knows how to operate these systems and integrate them into an artillery team. They should also already have the training necessary to both repair and maintain the Firefinder.
Who is sending keen gear? The Czechs are sending keen gear. Honestly, Ukraine already has around 400 of these systems still in action. But another tranche — with ammo — doesn't hurt a thing (well, hopefully it hurts Russian armor).
No confirmation of this, but please let it be so. The “launched from” part of this story would be interesting to know, if true.
If accurate, this is sad news. Not just because of the Ukrainian losses, but because of how desperately Mariupol needs to be saved.
Worth noting that the Moskva was the “Russian warship” in “Russian warship, go fuck yourself.”
Which would make this sweeter if true. However, it also makes an even better reason to be skeptical of this news until there is some kind of confirmation from an official source.
This is just west of Donetsk and seems to be connected to another of those “is it a probe, or is this the best they can do” attacks.
Ukrainian officials—and apparently Russian officials—are admitting that Moskva (Moscow) has been damaged by a Ukrainian missile. Moskva (Moscow) the city has been damaged by Putin’s policies.
Further evidence that the damage to the Moskva is severe. Russian media confirms that the crew was evacuated. They couldn’t save the ship.
In Western navies, a guided missile cruiser will cost in the billions of dollars. It’s safe to say that this is the single most expensive loss of the war to date, and it’s at least in the hundreds of millions of dollars.