US mine-clearing vehicle M1150 falls into Russian possession

In a recent development, military assets of the Armed Forces of Ukraine [AFU], supplied by the United States, have reportedly ended up in Russian hands. Russia’s TASS news agency broadcast a video showing the retrieval and subsequent storage of three American-made vehicles that were supplied to Ukraine. The machines featured in the video include the M88 tracked repair and evacuation vehicle, the M1150 barricade vehicle built on a tank base, and the M88A2 Hercules Armored Recovery Vehicle. 

US mine-clearing vehicle M1150 falls into Russian possession
Video screenshot

These three vehicles are a significant component of any military operation involving weighty armored vehicles, with the M1150 standing out as the most critical. Just for clarity, the M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicle [ABV] is a state-of-the-art mine- and explosives-clearing vehicle crafted by the U.S. military. It operates on the M1 Abrams chassis and is equipped with a mine plow and line charges. Information from Russian Telegram sources suggests that these three vehicles were commandeered in the vicinity of the village of Berdichi, located near Avdiivka. 

It was only in November 2023 that it was established that the M1150 was provided to Ukraine by the United States. In a report by Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, on Gunner’s Day, it was noted that at least two such machines were present behind him. These pieces of information have been, until now, the only evidence that Kyiv has received these specialized military vehicles meant for demining operations. The exact number of units delivered still remains a subject of conjecture.

US mine-clearing vehicle M1150 falls into Russian possession
Video screenshot

How many M1150s have been delivered?

As we ushered in 2024, clear-cut updates on the delivery of the M1150 ABV from the United States were conspicuously missing. At that time, industry insiders speculated that this new batch of mine clearance vehicles might have been shipped alongside the Abrams tanks. This noteworthy acquisition catapulted Ukraine’s military to a prestigious second place globally, trailing only the United States, and distinguished it as the first international operator to employ this machinery. It’s worth pointing out, though, that Australia secured the green light for this purchase back in 2021, but the finalizing details and execution of the agreement have yet to emerge. 

The question marks over the volume of M1150 ABV supplied to Ukraine are becoming increasingly relevant. If one were to base their assumptions solely on Zelensky’s picture featuring a pair of these machines in the background, it might suggest that Ukraine has potentially lost both of their mine clearance vehicles, which are based on the resilient M1 Abrams chassis.

Ukraine uses a very rare assault Abrams hybrid - the M1150 ABV
Photo credit: Twitter

One M1150 was hit

As referenced by BulgarianMilitary.com, a video surfaced on Twitter shared by Russian think tank Rybar on February 22nd of this year, showing the destruction of an M1150. It’s challenging to confirm from the videos [one released by Rybar and another by TASS] if the same military equipment is in question. Rybar raised queries about why Ukraine did not deploy additional safety measures to protect this valuable military asset, particularly as it was situated dangerously close to the contested area, within the vicinity of the peaceful village of Petrovske. 

In a video quickly spreading online, we see the M1150 sustain a hit. It remains uncertain whether the attack stemmed from an air-based source like a missile or a kamikaze drone, or a ground-based source such as artillery or an anti-tank system. The members of the vehicle’s crew managed to escape unscathed, which implies they had the time to notice the impending attack and therefore avoid a severe catastrophe. This suggests the possibility of an assault by a kamikaze drone. 

The implications of this loss for Ukraine are significant. Given that Russian forces have laid extensive minefields both within and behind the Ukrainian lines, the M1150 would have been a crucial tool for Ukrainian engineer units assigned with the task of clearing those fields. The destruction of these two demining devices [if indeed there are two separate machines involved] will certainly hinder the progress of Ukrainian forces.

What is M1150?

Let’s delve into what the M1150 is and how it functions. The ABV is a substantial vehicle, approximately 12 meters long, 3.7 meters wide, and 2.4 meters high. Weighing about 72 tons, it’s among the heaviest pieces of equipment in the US military’s arsenal. Intriguingly, the M1150 ABV boasts a robust 1,500-horsepower gas turbine engine, akin to what’s utilized in the M1 Abrams tank. This enables it to reach speeds of up to 45 mph on roads and 30 mph off-road, boasting an estimated range of roughly 250 miles. 

Ukraine uses a very rare assault Abrams hybrid - the M1150 ABV
Video screenshot

The vehicle’s equipment entails a full-width mine plow, two linear demolition charges [LDCs], and a lane marking system. The mine plow serves to clear a course through minefields, while LDCs can be deployed to carve a wider path or penetrate complex obstructions. 

Designed to neutralize both anti-tank and anti-personnel mines, the M1150 ABV marries the abilities of its mine plow and LDCs to achieve this aim. The plow physically displaces the mines, while the LDCs can detonate mines from a secure distance. Moreover, the vehicle is fitted with a marking system to indicate safe lanes for trailing units.

M88 military vehicle

US mine-clearing vehicle M1150 falls into Russian possession
Photo credit: US Army

The M1150 ABV is a loss for the Ukrainian military, but we should not shift focus away from another military vehicle the Russians claim to have captured – the M88 Recovery Vehicle. The M88 Recovery Vehicle is a fully tracked, armored vehicle engineered to provide responsive, robust support to combat units during warfare. Its main role is to repair or replace damaged parts in fighting vehicles under fire, as well as to extricate vehicles that have become bogged down or entangled. 

Powered by a Continental AVDS-1790-2DR V12, air-cooled twin-turbo diesel engine, this vehicle boasts a top speed of 45 km/h and a range of up to 450 km. The M88 operates with a crew of four – the commander, driver, mechanic, and rigger. Here’s a snapshot of its dimensions: it spans a length of 8.3 meters, a width of 3.4 meters, and stands at a height of 3.2 meters. Weighing in at approximately 54.4 tons, it certainly leaves a substantial presence on the battlefield. 

The M88 is kitted out with a main winch, an auxiliary winch, and a boom. The main winch can pull up to 70 tons, and when used with a pulley in a two-to-one configuration, it boosts its capacity to a hefty 140 tons. The auxiliary winch can pull up to 35 tons, and the boom can lift up to 25 tons. The vehicle also comes equipped with a .50 caliber M2 machine gun and smoke grenade launchers for defense. Its armor can withstand light to medium anti-armor weapons, ensuring protection for the crew as they perform their tasks.

M88 and M88A2 Hercules differences

The M88A2 Hercules, an enhanced version of the M88, was conceived to overcome certain shortcomings of the original model. Concerning towing capacity, the Hercules notably outperforms the M88, boasting the ability to tow up to 70 tons, over double the M88’s 25-ton limit. 

Additionally, the Hercules is outfitted with a sturdier winch and hoist system than the M88’s. Its system has a lifting ability of 35 tons, a step up from the M88’s 25-tone capacity. The M88A2 Hercules also ups the ante with a more potent engine compared to the M88. A notable enhancement comes in the form of armor protection. The M88A2 Hercules brandishes improved armor protection over the M88, affording better safety for the crew. An added safety measure in the Hercules is the nuclear, biological, and chemical [NBC] protection system, a feature absent in the M88. 

mm8a2 recovery vehicle - 2
Photo credit: US Army

Finally, the Hercules offers a longer operational range than the M88. The former can operate up to 200 miles without needing refueling, surpassing the M88 mileage limit of 150. This gives the Hercules an edge in operational flexibility and endurance.

What do the M88 and M88A2 Hercules repair?

The M88 and M88A2 Hercules recovery vehicles are capable of repairing the M1 Abrams tank, one of the main battle tanks. In addition to tanks, the M88 and M88A2 Hercules can also repair armored vehicles. These include the M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle and the M3 Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicle, both of which are critical to U.S. ground operations. 

Russia: US doesn't want photos of Abrams stuck in the Ukrainian mud
Photo credit: YouTube

Furthermore, the M88 series can repair self-propelled artillery, such as the M109 Paladin. This vehicle is a key component of the U.S. Army’s artillery units, providing heavy fire support to ground forces. Another type of military equipment that the M88 and M88A2 Hercules can repair is armored recovery vehicles. These vehicles are designed to recover and repair damaged or disabled vehicles in combat situations. 

Lastly, the M88 and M88A2 Hercules can also repair armored personnel carriers, such as the M113. These vehicles are used to transport infantry on the battlefield, providing them with protection from enemy fire.

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