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Watch: Ukrainian M2 Bradleys take out advanced Russian T-90 tank

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Bradley Infantry fighting vehicle

Combat in Ukraine goes on with no respite. Despite the lack of significant progress by either side, the fighting on the ground continues to be fierce with tactical back-and-forths in several parts along the contact line.

The large-scale Ukrainian counteroffensive might have failed but the Ukrainian military still retains a considerable amount of its Western heavy systems. Several Ukrainian heavy brigades now use Western equipment like Challenger 2, Leopard 2, M1A1 Abrams, and Leopard 1 main battle tanks and M2 Bradley, CV90, and Marder A1 infantry fighting vehicles.

The town of Avdiivka in the Donbas remains a fiercely contested piece of land. The Russian military has been trying to capture Avdiivka for almost two years, sacrificing almost 3,000 men killed and wounded for each square mile captured around the destroyed town.

There is still heavy fighting in and around the town and some surprising face-offs have taken place. A recent drone video released by the Ukrainian military shows two M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles taking out a Russian T-90M main battle tank – the country’s most advanced tank.

M2 Bradley vs T-90

The battle begins with the first Ukrainian M2 Bradley surprising the Russian T-90M with a volley of 25mm rounds from its M242 25mm Bushmaster chain gun. Before the Russian tank has time to respond, the first M2 Bradley falls back to the southern part of the town. The incoming Russian shells hit a house. Meanwhile, artillery shells fall on the battlefield.

Then, as the disoriented tank backs up and vainly searches for the Ukrainian infantry fighting vehicle, the second M2 Bradley charges head-on from the south, firing volleys of 25mm Bushmaster rounds on the T-90. Scores of high explosive rounds hit the Russian tank, which is unable to respond and is desperately trying to disengage.

But it is too late for the Russian T-90 as the vicious volleys of the Ukrainian M2 Bradleys have maimed it. Its turret looks shattered and broken, spinning lifelessly. The Russian driver tries to find a way out of the urban maze, but without any optics, he just crashes into trees and buildings. Game over. Victory for the Ukrainians.

The intense battle shows that good training, smooth coordination, and courage can overcome qualitative advantages and defeat an out-of-class adversary.

The opening 25mm Bushmaster volley likely disabled the Russian main battle tank’s sensors and optics, rendering it largely blind to what was going on in its surroundings. Although high explosive rounds from the M2 Bradley wouldn’t be able to penetrate the T-90’s armor, they would wreck its sensors and optics.  

With the ability to fire up to 500 rounds per minute in a tight spot, the M242 25mm Bushmaster is a deadly weapon in the right hands. It can fire both armor-piercing and high-explosive rounds. Although mainly designed to take out lightly armored vehicles, low-flying aircraft, artillery pieces, and concentrations of troops, the M242 Bushmaster can prove quite effective against larger and heavier targets.

T-90M Russian tank
A Russian T-90M tank during Zapad 2017 exercises. The T-90M is one of Russia’s most advanced tanks. (Kremlin)

A single hit by the Russian tank would be enough to destroy either M2 Bradley. But the Ukrainian crews gambled that their initiative, speed, and training would be enough to win them the day. They weren’t wrong.

The U.S. military has transferred or committed to transferring almost 200 M2 Bradleys to the Ukrainian military. With a crew of three men (driver, commander, gunner) and the ability to carry a squad of six infantrymen, the M2 Bradley is a great way to go into battle. The M242 25mm Bushmaster chain gun can put down an impressive rate of effective fire, covering the infantry as they maneuver to the target.

In terms of tactics, this engagement showed why main battle tanks should never go in alone, especially in an urban setting. As powerful and intimidating as a heavy battle tank can be it is also as vulnerable when found alone without any mechanized infantry to support it.

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Stavros Atlamazoglou

Greek Army veteran (National service with 575th Marines Battalion and Army HQ). Johns Hopkins University. You will usually find him on the top of a mountain admiring the view and wondering how he got there.