On 18 September, the new Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto announced that the Coalition was deploying M2A2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles back to north-eastern Syria. Last year, the vehicles were briefly deployed in the region in the aftermath of the Turkish invasion.
The vehicles come amidst a backdrop of growing tensions with Iranian-backed forces in the region as well as more frequent and increasingly violent interactions with Russian convoys. While the Coalition states they are for protection of oil assets from the Islamic State, they can also be seen as a means of deterring Russian aggression in the region – sending a firm message.
At least six M2A2 Bradleys have been confirmed as on the ground. While not exactly a large number, there are likely to be more present, representing a strong statement to the Russians. The most effective vehicle currently used to protect Russian convoys is the wheeled BTR-82s, equipped with a 30mm guns.
The logic behind Bradleys instead of the more mobile – and more importantly, wheeled – Stryker can be questioned. Tracked vehicles tend to require more in-field maintenance, are more prone to breakdowns, and are often much slower than their wheeled counterparts. Nevertheless, these vehicles are already being used in patrols. With their TOW launchers and 25mm guns they are a significant addition to the regular M-ATV MRAPs that make up US patrols, the MRAPs typically only sport a .50 caliber heavy machine gun as their main armament.
It remains to be seen how often the Bradleys will come out to play. Potentially, these vehicles will be used to establish mobile roadblocks or used to cross checkpoints manned by Syrian Army personnel. Their presence, however, may also lead to a Russian response. While BTR-82s, with their 30mm cannons, are common on patrols and they have the capability to go toe to toe with a Bradley, it is unlikely the Russians will be eager to be outgunned. It is possible that the Russians may increase their helicopter overwatch presence on patrols or even potentially add tracked vehicles of their own.