As Ukraine continues its counteroffensive in Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk oblasts, the first images of destroyed and damaged U.S.-donated M4A2-ODS Bradley Fighting Vehicles have emerged.
One image shows that Ukrainian forces apparently abandoned four M2 Bradleys as well as one Leopard 2A6 tank and one BMR-2 Mine-Clearing vehicle during an attack in the Zaporizhzia region, according to the open source intelligence group Oryx. The organization has been tabulating destroyed, damaged and captured vehicles from both sides, publishing information only about those it can visually confirm.
The vehicles were damaged during an attempt to break through the defenses of Russian troops south of the town of Malaya Tokmachka, according to the Russian Warrior DV Telegram channel.
Oliver Alexander, an independent open source investigator, said after reviewing video of the incident that it looks like after losing the four Bradleys, the Leopard and the BMR-2 armored demining vehicle in one location, "4 more M2A2 Bradley ODS-SA IFVs drove to the exact same position and started taking loses."
Analyst Rob Lee told The War Zone it appears some of those vehicles in that image could have been damaged by mines. The Pentagon declined to comment about the damage or destruction of the Bradleys or hypothesize about what issues could be raised should Russia capture any. Of course, given the nature of this conflict, that had to be a consideration before the Bradleys were provided.
"The Bradleys provided to Ukraine were the exportable variant, much like the other security assistance that was delivered," a Pentagon spokesman told The War Zone.
Additional video and images of damaged Bradleys in Ukraine is emerging as well. Russian Telegram channels have made unverified claims that at least six Bradleys were destroyed in fighting during this operation.
That we are seeing images of these vehicles damaged or destroyed should come as no shock. Ukraine is attacking without air support in an area that the Russians knew would be a likely vector and have prepared for such an advance for many months, including with mines and fortifications. While these vehicles are more capable than anything else in the Ukrainian arsenal, they are far from invincible, especially under those conditions. And regardless of accelerated training, mistakes will be made and lessons will be learned early on the hard way. The days ahead will prove if this trend becomes outright alarming or not.
It is unclear if the vehicles in this image were abandoned or recovered by Ukraine. However, once vehicles are left behind, they can either be taken off the battlefield by an adversary or destroyed.
Because of their firepower, maneuverability, and durability, the Bradleys were considered a key donation for Ukraine's push to recapture territory. You can read more about what they bring to the table in our deep dive here.
The U.S. has donated 109 M2A2-ODS Bradley variants and four B-FIST variants. 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. It is unknown how many are currently in Ukraine.
Given the nature of this operation - which as we predicted in December was designed to disrupt and eventually cut off the so-called land bridge to Crimea - is inevitable that we will see more destroyed and damaged Bradleys, as well as other advanced NATO combat vehicles.
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