News Region & Country Ukraine

Ukrainian Bradley only had a two-person crew when it wrecked a T-90

Decades of best practices for armor are no match for a self-described gamer and his driver.
Nicholas Slayton Avatar
(Screenshot via TCH/@wartranslated on Twitter)

A little over a week ago combat footage out of Ukraine went viral, showing a U.S.-donated Bradley Fighting Vehicle with Ukraine’s armed forces taking on a Russian T-90M tank and quickly making short work of it. The decades-old Bradley, essentially an armored personnel carrier and not a tank itself, drove circles around the modern Russian tank. It fired its 25mm gun nonstop until the Russian armor was disabled and crashed into a tree. It turns out the Bradley did that with only a crew of two.

Seriously. 

In an interview with the Ukrainian outlet TCH, the two soldiers with the 47th Mechanized Brigade, which has been fighting around Adviivka, spoke about how they did it. The footage, given English subtitles by the Twitter account @wartranslated , features plenty of details about the crew, but none more striking than the fact that it was just two guys. There is Serhiy, who served as both the driver and commander, and Oleksandr, the driver.

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The general rule for armor is at least a crew of three: a driver, a gunner and a commander who can spot targets. It allows each crewmember to focus on their primary tasks in the most efficient way. That’s true for how the Bradley Fighting Vehicle is meant to be used. In practice, the gunner sits to the left of the commander, both selecting what type of ammunition the M242 Bushmaster 25mm automatic cannon fires and actively firing the gun. But here, it was just a two-man team — presumably Serhiy was in the gunner seat, utilizing solely the sights available for that role. So not only was the Ukrainian Bradley outgunned and up against a Russian unit with better armor, it was likely doing so with a smaller number of soldiers.

Or, as Twitter use @forbesmm put it:

As effective as Serhiy and Oleksandr were this month just by themselves, it’s not clear why the Ukrainian Bradley was only using a two-person crew, or if that is a common practice among the 47th Mechanized Brigade. Fighting around Avdiivka. has been brutal and resulted in heavy casualties on both sides, which could impact the 47th’s combat effectiveness.

Or this two-person crew might just be built different. In the interview, Serhiy notes some unspecified issue impacted the other Ukrainian Bradley Fighting Vehicle spotted in combat footage, leaving his alone against the Russian T-90. Then his Bradley started to have some kind of issue with its own anti-armor weaponry. But he was not deterred. In what might be the most modern military explanation ever, Serhiy said he knew where to hit them because he’s a gamer. Seriously. 

“But as I played video games, I remembered everything. Both how to hit and where,” Serhiy said. 

As our colleagues at The War Zone noted, the Bradley crew did have some advantages. Although lesser armed and armored than the Russian tank, the Bradley is extremely maneuverable. The 25mm gun can fire at a rapid rate, so when Serhiy said they “fired with all we could,” it basically meant a fast and constant bombardment of rounds into the enemy tank, direct hits that took out its turret. 

Fighting around Avdiivka remains intense, with a combination of heavy artillery and trench warfare that has become common in the front lines, particularly during winter. Ukrainian forces have been fending off wave after wave of Russian assaults on the city, which sits not far from Donetsk. Later in the TCH feature, the reporters talk to Bradley repair crews, who have to deal with both damage from mines and the cold. According to one mechanic, the vehicle isn’t really built for the Ukrainian winter. 

Whatever the case, the U.S.-provided Bradleys are proving effective on the battlefield around Avdiivka. Even though Russia is still able to field modern tanks despite heavy armor losses, Serhiy and Oleksander demonstrated teamwork and fast thinking can overcome the odds. 

“But I think we did well,” Oleksandr said. That would be an understatement.

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