Digital Camouflage On Ukrainian Bradleys Sign Of Coming Combat Debut

M2 Bradleys for Ukraine are starting to get new paint jobs, a new indication that they could be getting closer to entering the fight. Pictures have emerged showing at least one Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle wearing a distinctively Ukrainian pixelated ‘digital’ camouflage scheme and a second one in overall green.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense’s official Twitter account shared one of the pictures earlier today, which shows both of the Bradleys with their new paint jobs, effectively confirming its authenticity. “Bradley IFVs try on a new outfit,” the Tweet accompanying the image says.

Another picture showing an M2 with digital camouflage on a trailer is also circulating online. This image is very low-quality and it’s unclear if this is the same Bradley seen in the Tweet from the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense. The camouflage pattern looks like it could be different in some places and it has a white arrow painted on the left side of the hull not seen on the vehicle in the other photo. It is, of course, possible that both pictures show the same vehicle, but at different times with differences in the paintwork.

Camouflage schemes with pixelated sections in various greens, tans, and black over a green base coat have been common on Ukrainian armored and unarmored vehicles for years now. Other vehicles that the Ukrainian military has received as aid since Russia launched its all-out war on the country in February 2022 have been seen sporting pixelated schemes. Many captured Russian types have also been similarly repainted. There have been reported instances of members of Russia’s armed forces repainting their own vehicles to try to confuse their opponents.

It is unknown at this time where exactly either one of the pictures was taken or when. The vehicles seen in both images are notably missing the barrels for the 25mm M242 Bushmaster automatic cannons in their turrets. These are commonly removed before repainting or being transported across long distances in contexts where there is seen as little to no risk of immediate combat.

A picture of a newly-painted U.S. Army Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle with the barrel to its M242 main gun noticeably absent. U.S. Army

To date, the U.S. military has pledged to transfer a total of 109 M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles to Ukraine. American authorities are also planning to deliver four examples of the M7 Bradley Fire Support Team (BFIST) variant, a specialized version optimized for helping to direct artillery strikes, which you can read more about here.

A U.S. Army M7 BFIST. U.S. Army

It remains uncertain whether any Bradleys have arrived in Ukraine and, if so, if they have officially been put into service. The U.S. military has been training Ukrainian personnel to operate and maintain Bradleys at the Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany since at least February of this year. That same month, a commercial cargo ship, the ARC Integrity, arrived in that country carrying more than 60 Bradleys ultimately bound for Ukraine.

A Bradley bound for Ukraine is loaded onto the ARC Integrity in Charleston, South Carolina, ahead of the ship’s voyage to Germany earlier this year. TRANSCOM

The War Zone has reached out to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense and the Pentagon for more information.

Regardless, repainting the vehicles before their official delivery makes good sense. Pictures that the U.S. military has previously released of the Bradleys headed for Ukraine showed that they were initially painted in an overall desert tan color not well suited for any battlefields in Europe.

Bradleys seen wearing desert tan paint schemes while in the United States in January awaiting transfer to Ukraine. TRANSCOM

Whenever they do begin to finally arrive on the battlefield, the Bradleys are expected to be a major boon for Ukrainian forces. Though the M2A2-OSD-SA variants that the U.S. military is transferring to Ukraine’s military are not the most modern versions of the Bradley, they still offer impressive firepower, including TOW anti-tank missiles and the aforementioned 25mm automatic cannon.

The Bradleys also have more advanced night and thermal vision optics compared to Soviet-era armored vehicles in Ukrainian service, which give them important additional capabilities for finding and engaging enemy forces and acting as scouts. The BFIST variant has an even more robust suite of sensors in place of the TOW missile launcher.

The M2A2-ODS-SA also has a higher degree of protection than many Soviet-designed and Western-supplied armored vehicles in Ukrainian service now, and will simply help bolster Ukraine’s overall armor fleets. Even lighter armored vehicles have been very valuable on both sides of the conflict as they offer an additional layer of defense against shrapnel from artillery strikes, which has become a major threat all around.

You can read more about the benefits that the Bradleys are set to offer Ukrainian forces in detail in this past War Zone feature.

All of this, of course, comes as Ukraine’s military is widely reported to be gearing up for multiple major new offensives in the eastern and southern parts of the country. Additional supplies of more modern heavy armor, in general, are among the things that could be key to the success of those operations. Since the beginning of the year, the United States and other countries have pledged to deliver a growing plethora of armored vehicles, including multiple types of Western main battle tanks, to Ukrainian forces. German-made Leopard 2 tanks have already begun arriving in the country.

The emergence of pictures showing newly painted Bradleys, including at least one in the distinctive Ukrainian pixelated camouflage scheme, indicates that these vehicles, specifically, are getting closer to joining the fighting if they haven’t already.

Contact the author:

Howard Altman Avatar

Howard Altman

Senior Staff Writer

Howard is a Senior Staff Writer for The War Zone, and a former Senior Managing Editor for Military Times. Prior to this, he covered military affairs for the Tampa Bay Times as a Senior Writer. Howard's work has appeared in various publications including Yahoo News, RealClearDefense, and Air Force Times.