Ukraine Situation Report: M1 Abrams-Based Mine Clearing Vehicle Appears In-Country

Unwanted by U.S. Marines, the Assault Breaching Vehicle will give Ukraine one more way to clear vast mine fields set up by Russia.

byHoward Altman, Thomas Newdick|
The Marines didn't want them, but Ukraine will find good use for the Assault Beaching Vehicle
Ukraine President's Office
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During a ceremony to celebrate the Day of Missile Forces and Artillery and Engineering Troops, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had a chance to observe a very unusual-looking armored vehicle.

Looking like a cross between a tank and a harvesting machine, the U.S.-made M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicle (ABV) will provide critical capabilities helping Ukrainian troops clear the hundreds of miles of dense mine fields the Russians have built up.

The U.S. Army describes the M1150 ABV as a “highly mobile and heavily armored minefield and complex obstacle breaching system. It consists of an M1A1 Abrams tank hull; a unique turret with two Linear Demolition Charge Systems (employing two Mine Clearing Line Charges [MICLIC] and rockets); a Lane Marking System [LMS]; Integrated Vision System; and a High Lift Adapter that interchangeably mounts a Full Width Mine Plow [FWMP] or a Combat Dozer Blade.”

How it arrived in Ukraine is not clear. There are no M1150s specifically noted on the list of items the Pentagon has provided Ukraine. It likely falls into the nebulous category of "mine clearing equipment" contained among the nearly $45 billion in security assistance provided to Ukraine by the Biden Administration.

The U.S. has shipped the first tranche of what will be 31 Abrams main battle tanks, of which this is a derivative, to Ukraine.

The Marines, under their previous commandant, began to divest their M1150s as part of the overall move away from armor and "larger, legacy systems."

"The M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicles (ABV) are being divested from the Marine Corps in an effort to accelerate modernization and realign 1st Combat Engineer Battalion's (1st CEB) capabilities," the 1st Marine Division said on its Facebook page in September 2020. "Yesterday, Marines with 1st CEB disembarked the ABV's from San Mateo as a part of Force Design 2030."

M1150 Armored Breaching Vehicles divested by the Marine Corps in 2020. (U.S. Marine Corps photos by Cpl. Jailine L. AliceaSantiago)

While the Marines don't want them anymore, the M1150s will come in very handy in Ukraine, where its counteroffensive has largely bogged down thanks in large measure to massive mine fields.

You can read more about what the M1150 can bring to the table in our deep dive here.

Before getting into the rest of the latest news from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can get caught up with our previous rolling coverage here.

The Latest

On the battlefield, Ukraine continues to hold on to a small bridgehead it has made in the town of Krynky in occupied Kherson Oblast.

The troops, who have crossed the Dnipro River, appear to be holding on in the center of the town despite fierce Russian attempts to expel them, according to the Kremlin-connected Rybar Telegram channel.

“Over the past 24 hours, Russian troops have launched several attacks on the positions of the 35th Marine Brigade of the Ukrainian Navy in Krynky,” according to Rybar. “Currently, Ukrainian units hold several houses in the central part of the village.”

“It is difficult to squeeze out and clear the area due to the intensive work of artillery, mortars and drones along the area. The detachments of the 35th Brigade were supplied with a new batch of FPV drones, as well as Shark reconnaissance UAVs.”

The Russian Defense Ministry (MoD) said that "as a result of artillery fire assaults and pre-emptive actions of Russian troops, enemy attempts to land and gain a foothold on the left bank of the Dnipro River were thwarted."

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry did not specifically address the situation Friday.

Much of the rest of the front lines remain relatively stagnant, with Ukraine continuing to eke out small gains in the Verbove-Roboytne salient of Zaporizhzhia Oblast, while fighting off Russian attempts to advance around Avdiivka in Donetsk Oblast.

Here are some key takeaways from the latest Institute for the Study of War assessment:

  • Ukrainian forces recently advanced near Bakhmut and continued offensive operations in western Zaporizhia Oblast on November 2.
  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, near Avdiivka, west and southwest of Donetsk City, in the western Donetsk-eastern Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast and advanced in some areas.
  • Russian irregular forces are continuing to form new assault detachments and are incentivizing recruitment by offering recruits semi-independence from the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD).

Zelensky on Friday fired Maj. Gen. Viktor Khorenko as head of Ukraine's special operations forces (SSO).

"Made a replacement in the command staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, appointing Colonel Serhii Lupanchuk as the new commander of the Special Operations Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine," Zelensky said in his evening address, according to Ukrainian Pravda.

Lupanchuk "is an experienced officer, a combat officer, the right commander and a person who can give our Special Operations Forces more power," Zelensky said. "We are expecting new results."

Khorenko "will continue to carry out special tasks as part of Defense Intelligence of Ukraine GUR)," Zelensky said.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces have dropped more hints about a claimed new long-range land-attack missile, able to strike targets at 700 kilometers (435 miles).

The claims were made in a recent interview given by Brig. Gen. Serhiy Baranov, the head of the Main Directorate of Missile Forces and Artillery and Unmanned Systems of the General Staff of the Armed Forces. Baranov said the new weapon had already hit targets at this range but didn’t add whether or not this was in an operational context.

“There are already prototypes, tests are being conducted,” Baranov added, stating that the new missile is an entirely new design and that in the future, its capabilities will increase, both in terms of range and accuracy.

Baranov’s words were in response to a question about a previous statement from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who also spoke of a new weapon with a range of 700 kilometers.

While Zelensky didn’t make it clear if the weapon in question was a long-range drone or a missile, Baranov confirms it is a missile — either a cruise missile or a ballistic missile.

Most importantly, whatever the design, the existence of such a weapon, developed domestically, would allow Ukraine to strike targets deep within Russia, with greater destructive effect than long-range drones. A ballistic missile, in particular, would also be much harder to counter, although even a cruise missile presents air defense systems with a notable challenge.

The long-range air-launched Storm Shadow and SCALP-EG cruise missiles, as well as the more recently received Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) short-range ballistic missile are capable of hitting targets deep behind Russian lines, including in occupied Crimea.

Recently emerged (but undated) video showing the ATACMS in use by Ukraine, with a salvo launch of three missiles:

In its latest intelligence report on the conflict, the U.K. Ministry of Defense points to what it describes as “the relative sidelining of tactical air power” during recent operations in the south of Ukraine, especially the hard-fought battles around the city of Avdiivka, where Russia launched a major new offensive, with little to show for it, so far.

“Operations in recent weeks have seen the continuation of a trend which has been identified since early in the war: other factors being equal, the balance of land combat generally favors the defending force.”

“In the south, the Ukrainian advance remains relatively static between the two main lines of Russia’s well-prepared defensive positions. Around the Donbas town of Avdiivka, a large-scale Russian assault has floundered on strong Ukrainian defenses.”

“A major factor in this phenomenon has highly likely been the relative sidelining of tactical air power: both sides have maintained credible air defenses, preventing combat jets from providing effective air support for assaults.”

“Above all, the geographic size of the conflict has hampered the offensives: both sides have struggled to assemble uncommitted striking forces capable of a breakthrough because most of their mobilized troops are needed to hold the 1,200km [745-mile] line of contact.

The following video compilation, which includes some older as well as more recent footage, provides a good indication of the intensity of the fighting around Avdiivka. It apparently originates with the 2nd Mechanized Battalion of the Ukrainian Ground Forces and shows multiple Russian attacks, including involving armored formations, being fought off by the Ukrainian defenders.

This photo below purports to show the aftermath of a Russian drone attack on the Ukrainian airbase at Kulbakino, in the southern Mykolaiv region. The wreckage shows three Ukrainian MiG-29 fighters (at least two of which were armed with R-27/AA-10 Alamo air-to-air missiles) that were reportedly destroyed by a Russian drone strike, likely using a Lancet loitering munition, in September.

The U.K. Ministry of Defense recently said that the Lancet — which it describes as a small one-way-attack uncrewed aerial system, or OWA UAV — “have highly likely been one of the most effective new capabilities that Russia has fielded in Ukraine” over the last year.

More loitering munitions appear to be headed to the Russian military.

According to Russian military bloggers, the Lancet is being joined by a smaller and cheaper version of the Lancet, known as Scalpel. Accounts on the Telegram messaging app claim that the first batch of these new loitering munitions is now ready for use in eastern Ukraine. The same accounts suggest that the Russian Armed Forces currently has a lack of Lancets, something that the delivery of the Scalpels is intended to help address.

Details of the latest U.S. assistance package of weapons and equipment for Ukraine were announced today. The package provides up to $125 million of arms and equipment authorized under previously directed drawdowns for Ukraine and is accompanied by an announcement from the Pentagon’s Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative on strengthening Ukraine’s air defenses, viewed as especially critical ahead of an expected Russian drone offensive.

Among others, the package includes: additional munitions for National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS) air defense systems, munitions for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), ammunition for 105mm and 155mm artillery, Javelin and AT-4 anti-armor systems, TOW anti-tank weapons, Claymore anti-personnel mines, small arms, and a dozen trucks.

Ukraine continues to document the destruction visited upon it by Russia following the launch of its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

One of the latest such exhibits is this railway car, said to have been targeted by Russian forces while it was being used in the evacuation from Irpin, in the Kyiv region, in March 2022. The shot-up railcar is now located at Mykhailivska Square in Old Kyiv.

A video uploaded to Telegram shows damaged and/or abandoned M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles. These are said to be operated by the 47th Separate Mechanized Brigade of the Ukrainian Ground Forces, with the location said to be somewhere east of Stepove, in the Mykolaiv region of southern Ukraine.

A weapon less often seen in Ukrainian service is the Archer 155mm self-propelled howitzer, supplied by Sweden. This example is seen covered with Saab‘s Barracuda camouflage, which is designed to defeat “hostile sensors and target acquisition systems in all phases of the mission.”

Sweden pledged Kyiv eight Archer artillery systems, these consisting of a fully automated 155mm L52 gun-howitzer and an M151 Protector remote-controlled weapon station mounted on a modified 6×6 Volvo all-terrain chassis. The system also includes an ammunition resupply vehicle and a support vehicle, and the gun can fire BONUS submunitions and M982 Excalibur guided projectiles.

In a recent interview with the Economist, Valerii Zaluzhny, commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, provided some interesting insight on the conflict, especially regarding Ukrainian figures on Russian casualties and the Kremlin’s overall conduct in the campaign.

“Russia lost at least 150,000 people killed,” Zaluzhnyi remarked. “In any other country, such losses would have stopped the war. But not in Russia, where life is cheap. In this sense, Putin’s Russian Federation is truly an absolute anomaly. Even in former times, human lives in Russia were not valued as cheaply as they are now. For comparison, similar-scale losses in the Soviet-Finnish War forced even Stalin to stop and refuse to seize further territories. Putin continues to grind his citizens into minced meat without any sense, and they obediently go to slaughter.”

And finally, meet Combat Kitty, the latest Ukrainian comfort animal:

That's it for now. We'll update this story when there's more news to report about Ukraine.

Contact the author: howard@thewarzone.com

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