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The Biden administration is preparing to announce a roughly $2.5 billion military aid package to Ukraine that is expected to include dozens of Bradley and Stryker armored vehicles, according to two people familiar with the decision, since the Pentagon intensified its support ahead of an expected counter-offensive against entrenched Russian troops.
The war has entered a phase, US officials said, when Ukrainian units must engage enemy forces in a concerted manner, using tanks, armored vehicles, artillery and aircraft in what is known as combined-arms warfare. Bradleys and Strykers would greatly increase their firepower, allowing soldiers to move quickly around the battlefield.
The upcoming transfer could include nearly 100 Stryker, one of those people said. It would be the first time the Pentagon has delivered such vehicles to Ukraine. Those familiar with the plan spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss it ahead of an official announcement.
The Bradley combat vehicles included in this broadcast will be in addition to the 50 vehicles announced earlier this month in a separate $3 billion weapons package, the people said. The next tranche of aid will also include a significant increase in ammunition for howitzers and rocket artillery, they said, and more mine-resistant vehicles.
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The new vehicles are designed to complement the large-scale combined arms training that several hundred Ukrainian soldiers are receiving at a US military facility in Germany to help them change the dynamics on the battlefield, US officials said. As winter rolled in, fighting centered on the south and east and degenerated into a violent slugfest, with both sides suffering heavy casualties for modest gains.
“The Russians are really digging in. … They dig trenches, they put in these dragon teeth, they lay mines. They’re really trying to bolster that FLOT, that front line of troops,” Undersecretary for Defense Policy Colin Kahl told reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday. “To enable the Ukrainians to breach given Russian defences, the focus has shifted to allowing them to combine fire and maneuver in a way that will prove more effective.”
However, it is unlikely that this aid package will include one of Kiev’s most ardent requests: M1 Abrams main battle tank. The administration has rejected these requests, citing the logistical and technical complexity of operating the systems and suggesting that they could quickly become an obstacle for Ukrainians.
“The Abrams tank is a very complicated piece of equipment. It is expensive. It’s hard to train for. It has a jet engine. I think it’s about three gallons per mile of jet fuel. It’s not the easiest system to maintain,” Kahl said. “It may or may not be the right system, but we will continue to look at what makes sense.”
Politico reported for the first time last week that the transfer of the US Strykers was being examined.
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Bradleys and Strykers offer different abilities. Strykers are eight-wheeled armored transporters capable of a top speed of 60 miles per hour. They have several variants, including the most common, an infantry vehicle capable of transporting a squad of nine soldiers along with a driver and vehicle commander.
The vehicle’s rear door slopes down like a ramp, allowing soldiers to stream into an active battle or go to a fight from a distant infiltration point. Strykers have primary armaments such as heavy machine guns and automatic grenade launchers with hatches that allow soldiers to stand up inside the vehicle and face out to defend its flanks.
The vehicle first saw combat in Iraq and Afghanistan and received mixed reviews from US soldiers. While it’s quieter than an Abrams, it’s less armored and more prone to getting stuck in mud. The US Army struggled to fit cages around the vehicles to support insurgent-launched rocket-propelled grenades before detonating. The cages increased the vehicle’s weight and dimensions and accelerated the wear and tear they were subjected to.
It is unclear whether the Strykers sent to Ukraine will contain such cages, which also make transport difficult.
Bradleys, on the other hand, are heavier and slower. They run on tracks that help them get through muddy conditions. These vehicles can carry fewer troops than Stryker, although their more powerful armor and armament, including TOW missiles and a 25mm cannon, make them better suited for direct combat.
News organizations like the Washington Post have asked to monitor training conducted by US soldiers. The Department of Defense has not granted such requests.
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