Experts and two US officials say a move to send modern infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine could pave the way for supplies of more powerful Western tanks, something the US and European allies have so far been reluctant to do.

These could include Germany’s Leopard tanks or even the US military’s M1 Abrams, said experts and officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to talk about ongoing discussions.

Western tanks – as opposed to less powerful wheeled vehicles with smaller main guns – would be a game-changer for Kyiv, which already operates Soviet-era tanks from its own inventions and has been used for invasion by other European countries. is provided later. A Leopard or Abrams is more mobile, accurate and longer range than older Soviet tanks. They are also more effective at protecting troops than older tanks or even Western infantry fighting vehicles as Ukraine continues to suffer heavy losses on the battlefield.

Indeed, while President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked France for the AMX-10 on Wednesday, he urged other allies to provide tanks and other heavy weapons.

“There is no rational reason why Western tanks have not yet been supplied to Ukraine,” he said.

The 50 Bradleys are part of an overall aid package that will be announced Friday worth $3.8 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter, who requested anonymity to speak ahead of the announcement. The package sets aside $2.25 billion for Ukraine, which will also include 155mm artillery shells. Another $682 million in military funding will go to Eastern European countries to buy American weapons and military equipment.

Bloomberg first reported That the administration is considering sending Bradley. The vehicles are designed to operate in conjunction with the Abrams, providing a “complementary” capability, said retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, a former commander of US Army Europe.

Hodges said, “This is the next step by the administration to provide something that they have been reluctant to do in the past, so it is expected that recognition by the administration will signal that Russia is not actually providing new capability every time.” Can do.”

A spokesman for the Defense Department declined to comment on the tank issue.

Bradley alone would be a significant capability enhancement for Ukraine. The US has already sent more than 2,000 combat vehicles, including hundreds of mine-resistant vehicles and Humvees used by Kyiv to break through Russia’s defences. But the U.S. military’s gold standard infantry fighting vehicle, the Bradley, is a faster, better-protected update to the M113 armored personnel carrier.

In addition to the 25mm Bushmaster chain gun, it is also armed with two TOW antitank missiles and a 7.62 coaxial machine gun.

“The Brad (or [Infantry Fighting Vehicle],[Cavalry Fighting Vehicle]) is not a tank, but it can be a tank killer,” Retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling tweetedHe is also the former Commanding General of the US Army Europe.

Unlike the Abrams, the Bradley is considered a defensive weapon, making it a less aggressive option for an administration still concerned about provoking Moscow. But it would be deadly on the battlefield, especially when paired with Kyiv’s Soviet-era tanks, Hodges said.

“A big part of combined arms warfare is that you have protected infantry that can move with tanks, keep up with them, and that’s part of combined arms: Infantry Armored Artillery,” Hodges said. “By having your infantry march with them, it makes it more lethal.”

The US Bradley and the French AMX-10, if deployed by spring in time for new Ukrainian offensives in the former, would provide a powerful new capability for Ukrainian forces. The AMX-10 has been used in the past by the French military as a reconnaissance vehicle and tank killer, and its high maneuverability and speed allow it to hit Ukraine hard and fast in short engagements. Its relatively light armor is a drawback against the heavier Russian guns, however, making speed important.

“While the French vehicle has a lot of firepower, it doesn’t have a lot of protection,” said Nick Reynolds, a research analyst at the UK-based Royal United Services Institute think tank. “It is ultimately a wheeled vehicle which makes it vulnerable, even though its off-road maneuverability is quite good.” However, the vehicle’s gun can hit Russian T-72 tanks and armored infantry carriers.

An adviser to the Ukrainian government told POLITICO that Washington and Kyiv have been talking about sending heavy armor for months. Along with some concerns over the advanced optical and communications equipment included in the new models, one of the main sticking points has been identifying which units or storage facilities have the right vehicles available for export.

The Pentagon last month announced an expansion in both size and scope of its training program for Ukrainian forces at the US base in Germany. The new program would expand the training to a battalion of about 500 soldiers a month, and would also include instruction on how to coordinate infantry maneuvers with artillery support, known as “combined arms operations”.

Now that the administration has given approval to send Bradley, trainees will be instructed on how to operate the vehicles more effectively alongside existing tanks and infantry. Hodges said that lighter and more agile than a tank, the Bradley could hold up to 10 soldiers, who would be able to carry Javelin antitank missiles.

For Ukraine, Bradley and Western tanks can’t come soon enough. Zelensky said on Tuesday that Russia is planning a second mobilization for a major new offensive as early as this year. And last month, Ukraine’s top military leader, General Valery Zaluzny, told The Economist They believe Russia could apply pressure to take Kyiv as early as January.

Ukrainian officials are seeking hundreds more tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and howitzers to help repel Russian offensives, particularly attacks on cities and civilian infrastructure.

“We’re balancing on a fine line. And if [the power grid] is destroyed … That’s when the soldiers’ wives and children start to freeze,” Zaluzny told The Economist. “You can imagine what kind of mood the fighters would be in? Without water, light and heat, can we talk of building up reserves to continue the fight?”

The administration may still be reluctant to send Abrams tanks, however, because of the significant training and logistics involved. Maintenance in the field would be a challenge, especially without a supply of spares. A tank division could also consume up to 600,000 gallons of fuel a day, potentially slowing the movement across Ukraine.

The Bradley’s logistical requirements are “much less burdensome than those associated with the M1”, said one of the US officials. “Our M1 would be a logistical burden that we would not want to put [Ukraine] until they and we are convinced that they are ready.

However, Hodges said the training and logistics challenge is “a solvable problem” if the US begins instructing the Ukrainian military on the system now.

“Let Ukraine take 100 tankers who are experienced tank mechanics and send them to wherever America’s Abrams tanks are in Poland or send them back to Fort Benning, Ga., where the Armor School is, and let them start learning now, ” They said .

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