WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Thursday announced plans to equip Ukraine with Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, while German officials said they would send Marders, decades-old weapons of a comparable class, as well as Patriot air defenses.
The joint announcement by Berlin and Washington follows a similar move by France earlier this week. Paris pledged to send an unspecified number of AMX-10 RC vehicles, billed as light tanks on wheels boasting armor-breaking 105 mm guns.
Ukraine has been pressing Western powers to donate armored vehicles, tanks and air defense systems and longer-range missiles amid the intense winter fighting. However, U.S. and German officials held back granting Western-made combat vehicles and tanks for Ukraine because they would require significant training and logistics expertise and could escalate the conflict with Russia beyond Ukraine’s borders.
Ukrainian forces have made gains beating back Russian invaders in recent months, and leaders in Kyiv have argued the battlefield success creates an opportunity to throw out Moscow’s forces altogether with more Western help.
The Bradley, a tracked armored vehicle made by BAE Systems, carries up to 10 troops and is usually armed with a 25mm chain gun and anti-tank guided missiles. The U.S. Army has about 2,400 Bradleys in its formations, but the service is moving to replace the 40-year-old vehicle.
According to a report by Reuters on Thursday, the number of Bradleys in line for Ukraine is 50.
Newer versions of the Rheinmetall-made Marder feature a 20mm cannon and anti-tank missiles. The Marder has been in service for more than 50 years with Germany’s armed forces, which started a life-extension for the program some years after the designated successor vehicle, the Puma, was showing growing pains.
According to a White House readout of a call today between President Joe Biden and Chancellor Olaf Scholz, both the U.S. and Germany plan to train Ukrainian forces on the respective armored vehicles.
Pentagon Spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder told reporters Thursday that the U.S. training would focus on both operating the Bradleys and maintaining them. The Bradleys will provide offensive and defensive capabilities as the fighting has grown static along the front line, he said.
In light of Russia’s ongoing missile and drone attacks against Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, Germany also pledged to follow the U.S. in sending a Patriot air defense battery to Ukraine.
Joe Gould was the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He had previously served as Congress reporter.
Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.