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Warp Speed: Ukraine’s Bradley Fighting Vehicle Program is Moving Fast

Bradley Fighting Vehicle
Soldiers fire a 25mm tracer round from an M2A3 fighting vehicle during an integrated night live-fire exercise at Camp Adazi, Latvia, Nov. 25, 2021.

The U.S. announced on January 5 that it would provide Ukraine with fifty Bradley Fighting Vehicles (BFV). Less than two weeks later, Ukrainians have begun training on BFVs in Germany, reflecting a rapidly developing program. Analysts have suggested a lengthy timeline likely exists for Ukraine’s eventual deployment of BFVs in combat against Russia

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Foreign Affairs noted the extensive training timeline required for integrating BFVs into Ukraine’s military. The Washington Post assessed that, at a minimum, training Ukrainian units to use BFVs would take at least several months, while The Atlantic estimated a timeline of six months to a year

In my initial assessment, I stated that, depending on several factors, it could be a year or longer before Ukraine can start using BFVs to fight Russia. These factors include the BFVs the U.S. actually provides to Ukraine and the U.S. security cooperation teams responsible for implementing the program, among others. The information that has emerged over the last several days provides some insights into Ukraine’s BFV program, about which many details remain unclear.

Expedited Training

The rapid initiation of Ukrainian BFV training in Germany stands out as a largely unexpected development, even if some commentators had predicted a very condensed timeline. At least one video of Ukrainian BFV training appeared on social media, providing some very limited video documentation of the program. It appears the U.S. has planned an extremely aggressive training pipeline; on January 12, Pentagon Press Secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder briefed that Ukrainian BFV “training will take weeks, not months.” On January 16, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley visited the U.S. base in Grafenwoehr, Germany where Ukrainian BFV training started on January 15, highlighting the importance of this program. A day earlier, Milley stated that training will “take a bit of time … Five, six, seven, eight weeks, who knows. We’ll see what happens here.” The timeline – just ten days – from program announcement on January 5 to initiation of training on January 15 is incredibly fast. Even backing up program initiation to early November 2022, when the plan to provide Ukraine BFVs apparently originated, means that, from program initiation to the beginning of training, at most two months transpired.

This is years faster than any of the U.S.’ other recent programs to provide BFVs to foreign partners.

Vehicles for Training and Battle

The actual vehicles the U.S. is providing for Ukrainian BFV training in Germany have clearly contributed to this expedited timeline. In the U.S.’s two most recent programs, providing BFVs to foreign partners (Lebanon and Croatia), the U.S. opted to refurbish (in the case of Lebanon) or provide old BFVs for refurbishment by the recipient (for Croatia). 

In the Ukrainian case, it very much appears that the U.S. has chosen to provide operational BFVs already located in Europe, most likely in Germany, for initial training. Online commentary has suggested that the BFVs Ukraine is training on were provided from U.S. Army prepositioned stocks in Germany. This achieves at least two objectives. First, it has enabled rapid initiation of the training program, reducing a years-long process for refurbishment to a days-long process. Second, it ensures that the vehicles provided for Ukrainian BFV training are actually operational. The Department of Defense (DoD) has not, however, yet confirmed if the BFVs being used for training will also be delivered to Ukraine, or what variant of BFV Ukraine will receive. A Pentagon spokesperson had no additional information to offer when asked on further specifics on January 15. 

It is also still unclear, or at least unconfirmed, which variant of the BFV the U.S. will provide to Ukraine. Multiple media reports, including an updated one on January 15 in Forbes, have stated the U.S. will provide Ukraine with the M2A2 Operation Desert Storm (ODS) variant. Many of these reports are circular, referring back to themselves or other articles for which the source of information is not provided.

It does seem possible, if not likely, though, that the U.S. would provide M2A2 ODS BFVs to Ukraine; the U.S. provided the same variant to Lebanon and plans to provide them to Croatia. The U.S., however, does not appear to have confirmed this publicly, when asked, DoD declined to provide any additional information; U.S. European Command has remained unresponsive to my information requests. 

Questions about Variants Remain

While the M2 variant Ukraine will receive matters, because the operational capability of each variant differs, even the M2A2 ODS variant, updated in 1995 after the Gulf War, would provide Ukraine an incredible combat capability. There have been additional upgrades to the BFV since 1995: the M2A3, which features upgraded armor and other improvements, debuted in 2002, and the M2A4, which the U.S. Army started to receive in 2020, features a more powerful engine. While there also exist cavalry (M3), air defense (M6), field artillery observation (M7), and other BFV variants, Ukraine is expected to receive one of the M2 infantry fighting vehicle variants. 

The mechanism through which the U.S. is providing BFV training has also likely expedited the training timeline. Unlike the case of Lebanon, in which the U.S. used a lengthy defense contracting process to provide BFV training, for the Ukrainian BFV training program the U.S. is using existing facilities and personnel.

The very short timeline—even using the two months since program discussions first appeared in the media—simply does not support the sort of contracting effort normally required for such large-scale security cooperation programs. This approach also suggests that actual U.S. military Bradley experts are highly involved in training Ukraine to use BFVs, which was not the case in Lebanon.

Ukrainian BFV training in Germany is part of the expanded combined arms training package announced at the start of 2023. BFV training apparently has started with classroom and academic instruction and will be followed by field training at increasing levels of organization, likely culminating in battalion-level maneuver training. This appears to follow a standard, if expedited, training progression, which would usually start with individual-level tasks, including simulated and live-fire gunnery for BFV crew qualification, and progress to section, platoon, company, and battalion-level maneuver training. General Milley on January 16 informed the press traveling with him that the Ukrainians in the BFV training program had departed Ukraine just a few days earlier, and that ideally BFV training would be complete “sometime before the spring rains show up” in Ukraine.

While spring, technically, starts on March 20, 2023, the spring rainy season in Ukraine runs from the beginning of March to the end of June, with the period from the beginning of May to the end of June being the rainiest. By Milley’s ideal timeline, one might expect Ukrainian BFV training to finish by perhaps the end of April, translating to around the beginning of May before Ukraine deploys BFVs in combat. 

DoD, however, has not provided any such estimate, perhaps for operational security reasons. Per Brigadier General Ryder, the Pentagon Press Secretary, “You’ll see the Bradleys arrive in the battlefield when they arrive.”

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About the Author: Jeff Jager, a retired U.S. Army Foreign Area Officer (FAO), served multiple FAO tours on the USEUCOM-USCENTCOM seam, including as an attaché in Cyprus, a U.S Army Training and Doctrine Command Liaison Officer Turkey, and a Foreign Military Sales Officer and ODC Chief in Lebanon. He also served as a military advisor at the Department of State. He holds a B.S. from the U.S. Military Academy; an A.A. in Turkish from the Defense Language Institute; and three M.A.s (Turkish Army War College, security studies; Georgetown University, German and European studies; Webster University, international relations). He is currently a Ph.D. student in Salve Regina University’s international relations program. He can be contacted via LinkedIn.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government. The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense (DoD) of the linked websites, or the information, products, or services contained therein. The DoD does not exercise editorial, security, or other control over the information you may find at these locations. Review of this material by DOPSR does not imply Department of Defense endorsement of factual accuracy or opinion.

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About the Author: Jeff Jager, a retired U.S. Army Foreign Area Officer (FAO), served multiple FAO tours on the USEUCOM-USCENTCOM seam, including as an attaché in Cyprus, a U.S Army Training and Doctrine Command Liaison Officer Turkey, and a Foreign Military Sales Officer and ODC Chief in Lebanon. He also served as a military advisor at the Department of State. He holds a B.S. from the U.S. Military Academy; an A.A. in Turkish from the Defense Language Institute; and three M.A.s (Turkish Army War College, security studies; Georgetown University, German and European studies; Webster University, international relations). He is currently a Ph.D. student in Salve Regina University’s international relations program. He can be contacted via LinkedIn.

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Chris Kane

    January 17, 2023 at 4:18 pm

    When the 2/30 Inf, 3rd ID (M) then at Conn Casern, Schweinfurt, West Germany transitioned from M113 tracks to M2 Bradleys, it took less than 30 days for those soldiers to begin patrolling the border while the assigned cavalry unit transitioned to M3s.

    It ain’t gonna take long if the vehicles are available.

    *Note: 2/30 Inf has been deactivated.

  2. Chris Kane

    January 17, 2023 at 4:20 pm

    Whoops. Im old. Ledward Barracks, not Conn.

  3. GhostTomahawk

    January 17, 2023 at 6:20 pm

    50 Bradley’s…

    That’s nice. They’ll be destroyed or sold on the black market in a month. Like everything else.

    STOP THIS MADNESS

  4. pagar

    January 17, 2023 at 6:33 pm

    The cowboys have truly set the dreaded wick alight finally or definitely.

    That one which leads to the
    big or massive powerkeg that has the label ‘world war three’ on it.

    Puny brains and dementia brains think that aluminum tin cans can fight and win against thermonuclear warheads.

    Like advocating spears and sticks can win against cannons and field artillery.

    Well, someone needs to initiate expending some fusion devices anyway. You can’t keep them in permanent storage or in a silo reserve forever.

    Good steps in the march toward Megiddo.

  5. Steve

    January 17, 2023 at 6:44 pm

    Can’t help noticing the lack of videos of Ukrainians complaining about their lack of training, equipment & supplies, while they are all over the Internet for the Russians. The Bradleys, and perhaps the western tanks, will face-off against seriously-degraded Russian units compromised of those newly-mobilized conscripts. Could see some big changes on the ground this summer.

  6. 404NotFound

    January 17, 2023 at 9:21 pm

    Bradleys, ?

    They’re the panzer IVs of US military or US Army.

    Useful against small fry nations like Iraq, panama or Libya.

    Against nuclear-armed countries, bradleys are like mobile coffins or self-propelled incinerators.

    Ukraine chose war not peace with its giant neighbor in the 21st century. Encouraged by falsehoods and misled by lies from US & NATO and EU.

    Nobody bothers to read about the fate of puppet regimes propped up by US and NATO.

    The Saigon one of the seventies or the recent one in Kabul. August 2021.

    Once the going gets hard, really hard, the US and NATO will decide to scamper for the exit. The puppets left behind, well, they can sacrifice their asses, or flee together with US and NATO.

    Bradleys, they’re like the panzer mark IV workhorses of hitler’s war machine.

  7. Newt

    January 17, 2023 at 10:00 pm

    I am sure the Ukrainian can drive the Bradleys around right away. But to utilise it as a weapon of war, and to use them strategically as a team probably need more training and exercises. And much more training is needed if they are able to maintain and fix any issues on the fly with those very complex weapon systems.

  8. dave

    January 18, 2023 at 1:26 am

    Steve haven`t seen a dead russian soldier yet going on a year. Forgot the POW`s executed, and put on social media multple times. Better get some better media sources. This ain`t one of them.

  9. David Chang

    January 18, 2023 at 6:40 am

    God bless people in the world.

    Socialism warfare is not small war.

    God bless America.

  10. TheDon

    January 18, 2023 at 8:33 am

    Its escalating.
    2023 not looking good folks.
    Both sides take losses.
    Theres a lot of disinformation on both sides but for sure this is costly in lives.

    Sad event continues.

  11. mawendt

    January 18, 2023 at 1:46 pm

    Thirty days or less after hitting Ukrainian soil Brads will be engaging Russians. They’ll support Ukrainian infantry chopping up Russian infantry, and their TOW systems be another thing Russian armor will fear in Ukraine.

    Employing a BFV is little different in employing a BMP2/3, something with which Ukraine has experience. Stating it’ll take six months to a year to employ after receiving them shows extreme stupidity on Ukraine, military equipment deployment, and the Ukrainian military. The Washington Post and the Atlantic are not reliable sources for military information.

  12. Paul Hoffman

    January 18, 2023 at 4:36 pm

    No mawendt The only way that is possible is we will be driving them

  13. mawendt

    January 19, 2023 at 12:35 pm

    Paul, I learned how to drive a Brad in two days; to accurately target with Bushmaster in a day. I didn’t learn how to operate the TOW, but it seemed to be a couple day affair. Although it was never my military MOS, if I had to I could’ve been in a BFV crew, and only gotten better with experience. So, no – soldiers who have experience in IFV employment will transition pretty quick for usage, though learning the nuances in maintenance particularly in the field will be cumbersome. Operating would not.

    Identifying and calling targets is the big training issue. If you take a vanilla troop and train from scratch, it’ll take longer. If you train up crews familiar with IFV employment (as Ukraine is) then I’m guessing a week to be proficient, and after that the nuance of maintenance.

    And who knows? mabes ‘foreign volunteers’ with shake and bake Ukrainian citizenship might be part of the initial deployment. To crew 50 Brads would be pretty easy, if you pay enough.

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