US Assault Breacher Vehicles to Get Ukraine Combat Debut

Soldiers from A Co, 116 Brigade Engineer Battalion, position their M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicle during a live-fire training exercise at the National Training Center (NTC) in Fort Irwin, Calif., June 12, 2019. The M1150 is a U.S. military mine and explosives clearing vehicle, equipped with a mine-plough and line charges. NTC is a month-long rotation that provides more than 4,000 service members from 31 states, including units from 13 National Guard states and territories, with realistic training to enhance their combat, support and sustainment capabilities. (Photo by: Cpl. Alisha Grezlik, 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

The United States M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicle (ABV) is about to receive its combat debut against the Russian Army.

An ABV was viewed in a display in Kyiv as part of a ceremony celebrating the Day of Missile Forces and Artillery and Engineering Troops. The presence of the ABV was somewhat surprising as it had not been specifically identified in any of the US military aid packages being provided to the Ukraine. Considering the challenge of the massive minefields faced by Ukrainian forces in their offensive to reclaim territory lost in the Russian invasion the ABVs are clearly a welcome addition to its capabilities.

The ABV is specifically designed to breakthrough minefields and obstacles. Developed by General Dynamics Land Systems it also uses specially developed obstacle clearance devices from Pearson Engineering in the United Kingdom. It uses the M1A1 main battle tank chassis. It has a forward lifting device to which are fitted a blade and/or various mine clearing devices.

The gun turret is replaced by an armoured structure that contains two Linear Demolition Line Charges that can be launched beyond the vehicle. Each LDCS consists of a daisy chain of C-4 explosives deployed by a rocket approximately 100 meters forward. When detonated from the ABV the line charge blasts a path up to six meters wide and 110 meters long. The explosion causes mines to detonate or be destroyed while also effectively clearing wire and other entanglements. The ABV then uses the blade and clearance devices to physically clear the path. The ABV is also equipped with a .50 heavy machine gun.

It is likely that the M1150’s provided to Ukraine were drawn from systems from the US Marine Corps which came available when it disbanded all of its MBTs and associated heavy armoured vehicles. It is not clear when the ABVs were received by Ukraine or how many it has. Since they use the same chassis as the M1 main battle tanks also received it is possible that both have been held back while training and support was effectively in place.

The ABV’s advantage is that it provides a protected platform that can rapidly approach and undertake the clearance of mines and obstacles and do so from the march. An effective clearance operation can, thus, occur quickly while screening smoke and suppressive fires are placed on overwatching defending positions. Exposure of the actual clearance can thus be minimized reducing the ability of the defender to effectively respond.

Currently the US Army is the only user of the M1150 ABV although Australia had been approved in 2021 to acquire twenty-nine systems.

by Stephen W. Miller