The M7 BFIST is a modified version of the famous M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle, which serves as the United States Army’s forward observation vehicle.

According to Armyrecognition, the US plans to provide the Ukrainian Army with 4 units of special fire support vehicles M7 Bradley. These means are mentioned in the latest military assistance package announced by US President Joe Biden for Kyiv.

The Bradley M7 Fire Support Team, or BFIST, tailored for target spotting and streamlining the coordination of indirect artillery fire, boasts an operational range of up to 20 kilometers, rendering it compatible with systems such as the M142 HIMARS, M270 MLRS, and various munitions, including the M982 Excalibur 155mm precision howitzer rounds.

On the M7 Bradley (BFIST), instead of the BGM-71 TOW anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) launcher, a special target identification device and a variety of sensors are fitted. These devices allows to detect potential objects at a distance of up to 20 km. The armor provides relatively safe protection for the crew when performing reconnaissance and targeting missions.

The M7 Bradley, was introduced into service in 2000 and is operated by a crew of four. Its mobility is facilitated by a 600hp Cummins VTA-903-T600 engine, providing a maximum road speed of 61 km/h, while exhibiting amphibious capabilities with a speed of approximately 6 km/h on water. Additionally, it boasts an impressive range of 400 kilometers. The vehicle’s maneuverability is substantial, capable of handling gradients of up to 60%, side slopes of 40%, vertical steps of 0.76 meters, and trench crossings of 2.54 meters. Furthermore, with proper preparation, it can ford water at a depth of approximately 1.2 meters.

The M7 is a point-and-shoot and point-and lase system. It obtains precise range information to the target via its laser rangefinder and other sensors. It estimates target coordinates with a push of a button. Vehicle has a built-in battle management system with a GPS, and inertial navigation system. This system determines location of the vehicle on the map, as well as targets coordinates. The M7 calls to fire nearby artillery units via a digital battle management system. There is an identification system which prevents calling fire on friendly units.

On a number of occasions the M7 demonstrated that it can put precision indirect fire on the target with standard 155 mm artillery shells. Standard shells land within 50 meters from the designated target. In case with guided munitions it illuminates the target by a laser beam, allowing the laser-guided munitions to detect and hit the target. Furthermore this armored vehicle can target artillery while on the move. The M7 features a dramatic improvement over the previous M981 forward observation vehicle.

Regarding armament, the vehicle is equipped with a 25 mm Bushmaster chain gun and a coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun for self-defense, with ammunition loads of 900 rounds for the main gun and 2,200 rounds for the machine guns. The M7 Bradley BFIST is armored to withstand 30 mm armor-piercing ammunition and 14.5 mm heavy machine gun fire, and there is an option to incorporate explosive reactive armor for added protection against anti-tank rockets and missiles.

Ukraine has received many high-precision weapons from the West, including laser and GPS guided artillery shells. But guided artillery is only as good as its targeting data. That helps to explain why the U.S. government slipped four M-7 Bradley Fire Support Team vehicles into one of its recent arms packages for Ukraine.

“The BFIST allows fire support operations to be performed on the battlefield in vehicles with the same signature, survivability and mobility as the other Bradley fighting vehicles in the maneuver units it supports,” the U.S. Army explained in its budget request for 2024. The crew can sparkle the target with a laser or relay, via a digital network, precise GPS coordinates to friendly artillery batteries. It’s unclear whether Ukraine will have access to the same digital network the U.S. Army uses. But even without the digital data-sharing, the BFIST represents a huge targeting upgrade for the Ukrainians.

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