The U.S. DoD has released images of the first batch of M2 Bradley armored vehicles for the Ukrainian Forces and on their way to Europe. The images confirmed that the Ukrainians will not be receiving an older version, but one of the latest variants of the armored infantry fighting vehicle.
The M2s not so old after all
The Defense Visual Information Distribution Service and the Transportation Command, U.S. Armed Forces (TRANSCOM) confirmed on Jan. 25 and Jan. 30 that 60 M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles were being loaded onto a ship for delivery to Ukraine. These photos clearly identified the version of the Bradley that will be transferred to the Ukrainian Ground Forces. Indeed, many rumors suggested an older version, and U.S. officials only mention the term "Bradley" in their statements. However, this is the latest developed version of the M2 Bradley, namely the M2A2 ODS SA, available since 2003. It is even newer than the M2A3, produced from 2000.
The M2A2 ODS SA, for Operation Desert Storm Situation Awareness, has most of the features of the M2A3 (technical info at the end of the article), including the infrared camera for the driver but without the independent camera for the vehicle commander (used on the M2A3), as demonstrated by the images below.
The vessel in question is the Arc Integrity, a roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro, roll-on/roll-off) vessel specializing in vehicle transport. It is owned by American Roll-on Roll-off Carrier (ARC), a subsidiary of the Wallenius Wilhelmsen Group. It has the distinction of participating in the American VISA (Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreement) program. This program allows a shipping company to make a vessel available to TRANSCOM without any financial compensation. In exchange, the company is given priority for a Department of Defense contract. This arrangement is a win-win; the transportation company provides empty space in its transport vessels which is then filled by the DoD with various cargo, vehicles, etc. (depending on the needs and type of vessel). The financial loss to the transportation company is therefore minimal, not to mention the fact that it is given priority for future contracts.
The Bradleys boarded the ship from the North Terminal of the Port of Charleston, South Carolina, USA. However, the exact route of the Bradleys is unknown as the ship has made a stop at the Port of Baltimore and is currently en route to the Port of Southampton. The latter is expected to call there to empty some of the cargo, but the Bradleys would most likely be disembarked during a future call at one of the ports on the European continent (Antwerp, Rotterdam, etc).
M2A2 ODS SA
This variant of the M2 Bradley carries over the features of the previous versions, already carried over by the M2A3 variant:
- Offensive: laser rangefinder and second-generation optical systems, TOW II missile launcher, M242 Bushmaster gun (25 mm)
- Defensive: anti-shatter coating, possibility of adding reactive armor tiles, automatic fire suppression system
- Navigation: thermal camera for the driver, inertial navigation, electronic transmission
- Other: oxygen mask carry-on, digitalized systems, programmable screen presence,etc.
On the other hand, as described at the beginning of the article, this variant differs from the M2A3 in that it does not have an independent camera on the right rear of the turret and has an advanced and open electronic architecture, allowing for the simplified addition of new technologies.
At the time of writing, this version, produced since 2003, is the last variant of the M2 Bradley to have entered service. However, since 2018, an improved version has been under development. It incorporates the M2A3's independent camera for the vehicle manager, a new camera for the driver, an even more developed electronic structure, etc.
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