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U.S. to send Bradley armored vehicles to Ukraine for first time in latest military package

The Biden administration announced a $2.85 billion drawdown assistance package, the largest ever drawdown of current Defense Department equipment to Ukraine. Included for the first time are armored Bradley infantry fighting vehicles. 

Multinational military exercise in Hohenfels
FILE: 08 June 2022, Bavaria, Hohenfels: A U.S. Army M2/M3 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle drives along a road during a multinational exercise at Hohenfels Training Area.  Nicolas Armer/picture alliance via Getty Images

The full commitment of assistance announced on Friday is more than $3.75 billion, which consists of the $2.85 billion drawdown, and another nearly $1 billion in foreign military financing for Ukraine and other countries impacted by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

White House national security council spokesperson John Kirby said Friday the package is designed for what Ukraine needs going forward, particularly in the Donbass, where there has been vicious fighting in recent weeks that is expected to continue through the winter months. 

"In that area of Ukraine, it's a lot of farmland, a lot of open ground, and it lends itself well to the kinds of capabilities that are in this particular package," Kirby said. 

The Bradleys have been described as both defensive and offensive vehicles because they provide armored protection, firepower, and maneuverability to move troops to the frontlines. 

Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder told reporters Thursday the Bradleys provide a capability that will help Ukraine in the coming months "change the equation on the battlefield." 

Ukrainians have been asking for this capability for months. A Ukrainian official told CBS News that armored vehicles were part of the wishlist Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy conveyed to the Biden administration during his quick visit to Washington, D.C., in December. 

When asked why the U.S. could provide the vehicles now and not earlier, Ryder said the U.S. can provide more complex systems now because the war has reached a point where the U.S. has the capacity to provide training, and Ukraine is more able to spare troops for training. 

"Early in this campaign, when Russia was on the doorstep of Kyiv, [it was] a much different situation," Ryder said. "Things like long-term sustainment and logistics would be a much more complex undertaking."

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia Ms. Laura Cooper said Friday the Ukrainians have also demonstrated an increasing proficiency at maintaining and sustaining equipment, and the Bradley vehicle requires regular maintenance.

She said it will take "a couple of months" for the 50 Bradley vehicles to be fielded in Ukraine. 

The Bradley weighs about 30 tons and can move at about 40 miles per hour. It has a main chain gun, a machine gun, and can launch tracked or wired (TOW) guided anti-tank missiles, which the U.S. has provided before and promised 500 more of in Friday's package.

The Bradley has a crew of three and can carry six more troops, making it an effective transport vehicle. The Bradleys are a significant upgrade from the armored personnel carriers the US has previously provided. 

With Friday's announcement, the U.S. joins France and Germany who committed this week to sending infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine. Germany pledged dozens of Marder fighting vehicles, and France has promised to deliver several AMX-10 wheeled armored vehicles. 

Ryder on Thursday credited the Ukraine Defense Contact Group for playing a role in producing these commitments. The Ukraine Defense Contact Group, led by the U.S., consists of nearly 50 nations that meet nearly every month to discuss Ukraine's immediate and longer-term needs. 

The U.S. alone has committed more than $24.2 billion in assistance to Ukraine since Russia invaded in February 2022. Until Friday, the largest drawdown of current Pentagon inventory was in December, a $1 billion drawdown package that included a Patriot missile battery system. 

On Thursday, Germany promised to send a Patriot missile battery to Ukraine, according to a joint statement after a call between President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Sholz.  

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