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Ukrainian Bradley's Bushmaster 25mm chain gun neutralizes Russian BMP-2 IFVs and T-90M tanks

As reported by Defense of Ukraine in two separate videos released on January 17 and January 18, 2024, the Bradley M2A2 has demonstrated its formidable combat effectiveness in Ukraine. It showed its capacity to demolish a BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) in a matter of seconds, as well as neutralizing a Russian T-90M Main Battle Tank (MBT), thanks to its uniquely designed Bushmaster gun.
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Ukrainian Bradley M2A2 IFVs become more and more of a nightmare for Russian BMP-2 IFVs and T-90M tanks operators. (Picture source: Twitter/Defense of Ukraine)

Hardly surprising against a BMP-1 or BMP-2, this outcome is more surprising with the T-90M, given the respective capabilities of these armored vehicles, but it demonstrates that infantry fighting vehicles can engage and cause substantial damage to modern main battle tanks, challenging conventional expectations regarding their relative capabilities. Nevertheless, the latter result can be attributed to a combination of tactical strategy and situational factors that played a central role in the engagement.

Firstly, it is important to note that the element of surprise should not be underestimated in close-quarter combat. The Bradley crew might have employed elements of stealth or deception to catch the T-90M off-guard, potentially maximizing the effectiveness of their attack. In such engagements, the ability to rapidly discharge a substantial volume of rounds can be a decisive factor. The Bradley's M2A2 is equipped with a 25mm Bushmaster chain gun, known for its high rate of fire. This rapid rate of fire could have allowed the Bradley crew to exploit brief moments of vulnerability in the T-90M's defenses.

Accurate targeting, particularly in high-stress close-quarter combat, demands precision and quick decision-making. The Ukrainian crew's experience might have played a crucial role in identifying and exploiting the T-90M's operational and defensive weaknesses. They may have targeted critical components like vision blocks, sensors, or tracks to immobilize or impair the tank. The type of ammunition used is also a significant factor.

While standard 25mm cannon rounds may not typically penetrate the advanced armor of a T-90M, the Bushmaster's ability to fire specialized armor-piercing rounds is noteworthy. The M242 Bushmaster is compatible with a range of ammunition types, including armor-piercing rounds such as the M791 APDS-T and the M919 APFSDS-T round, which is made of depleted uranium.

The Ukrainian soldiers probably employed either the M791 APDS-T round, designed for armor penetration through high-velocity kinetic energy, or the M919 APFSDS-T round. These rounds, while not typically effective against modern main battle tanks like the T-90M due to their advanced armor systems, could have inflicted critical damage by targeting less protected areas of the tank or key components like vision blocks, sensors, or tracks. This damage could explain why the T-90M appeared to be ineffective in the video.

The T-90M is equipped with the "Kalina" fire control system, incorporating advanced sensors, including thermal imaging and laser rangefinders, to detect, recognize, track, and engage targets. Damage to these sensors would severely limit the tank's ability to detect and engage enemy forces, particularly in long-range and all-weather engagements.

Modern tanks like the T-90M rely heavily on their sensors and optics for situational awareness. This includes not only locating enemy forces but also navigating terrain and coordinating with other units. Besides offensive operations, sensors and optics are essential for a tank's self-defense. They detect incoming threats like anti-tank guided missiles, enabling the tank to deploy countermeasures. Damaging these systems would reduce crew effectiveness, making the tank more vulnerable to ambushes and less accurate in combat. The fire control system, including sensors and optics, plays a crucial role in guiding the tank's main and secondary weapons. The M242 Bushmaster chain gun's damages on this system could potentially affect the tank's ability to fire accurately, potentially reducing its combat effectiveness.

Ukraine Bradley BMP 2 T 90M Russia 925 002

The T-90M Main Battle Tank has several crucial components that can be targeted, such as vision blocks, sensors, optics, and tracks. (Picture source: Vitaly Kuzmin)

The M242 Bushmaster Chain Gun, initially designed in 1976 and mounted on vehicles like the Bradley M2A2 Infantry Fighting Vehicle, stands out for its firepower and adaptability in diverse combat scenarios.

What sets the M242 apart is its unique method of operation. Unlike traditional automatic firearms, it operates independently of gas or recoil mechanisms, relying on a 1 hp DC motor for operation. This design enables seamless rounds feeding, loading, firing, extraction, and ejection, along with rapid transitions between armor-piercing and high-explosive rounds.

The M242 can fire 25mm rounds with a muzzle velocity of 1,100 meters per second, offering an effective firing range of 3,000 meters and a maximum range of 6,800 meters. Additionally, this system gives to the Bushmaster a significant rate of fire, usually around 200 rounds per minute. This rapid-fire capability is particularly useful in targeting fast-moving objects or in situations where a high volume of fire is needed to suppress or destroy enemy positions.

For fire control, the gun's design offers several options through both electrical and manual modes. Gunners can choose from three rates of fire, depending on the tactical situation: single-shot semi-automatic, low-rate fully automatic, and high-rate fully automatic. The gun's accuracy and range are further enhanced by an advanced fire-control system, which offers a stabilized platform, allowing for accurate fire regardless of hull movement.

Thanks to the use of these ammunitions, a vehicle armed with the M242 Bushmaster chain gun, like the Bradley M2A2, is capable of engaging a wide range of targets, including anti-tank missile positions, enemy squads, unarmored and lightly armored vehicles, helicopters, and slow-moving fixed-wing aircraft like drones.

For example, the M919 Armor-Piercing, Fin-Stabilized Discarding Sabot With Tracer (APFSDS-T) round, made of depleted uranium, can hit one side of a light armored personnel carrier or infantry fighting vehicle, such as a BRDM-2 or a BMP-1, and exit the other side with enough kinetic force to disable another one. However, even this round cannot cause the detonation of the ammunition inside a T-90M, as the Bushmaster armor-piercing ammunitions are not designed to pierce a tank's armor, explaining why the crew likely survived the encounter.


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