U.S. to deliver M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine in September

According to an article published by Politico on July 27, 2023, the United States is anticipated to begin delivering Abrams tanks to Ukraine in September. The tanks are intended to bolster Ukraine’s military capabilities as it continues its counteroffensive efforts to reclaim territory from invading Russian forces.

As part of the plan, a few Abrams tanks will be sent to Germany in August for final refurbishment before being shipped to Ukraine the following month. This schedule represents the most specific timeframe disclosed for the deployment of America’s main battle tank. While Pentagon officials had previously mentioned that the tanks would be provided to Ukraine in the fall, this new information offers more clarity on the expected timeline.

The tanks are said to be older M1A1 models, as they can be made available much sooner than the more modern A2 version, which would have taken an additional year to reach Ukraine. According to Politico, to maintain confidentiality regarding sensitive plans, all six sources, including a Defense Department official, a U.S. official, an industry official, a congressional aide, and two others familiar with the discussions, were granted anonymity. The U.S. government’s decision to supply the tanks is part of its effort to support Ukraine in its counteroffensive operations and strengthen its long-term defense capabilities. Besides the tanks, the U.S. plans to begin training Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets, with intentions to get warplanes delivered by the end of the year.

Ukrainian forces are currently facing entrenched Russian defenses along a frontline that stretches for hundreds of miles. The delivery of Abrams tanks is expected to provide additional firepower to aid Ukrainian forces in breaking through these fortified positions.

The initial shipment will include 6 to 8 tanks. A total of 31 tanks, equivalent to a Ukrainian battalion’s strength, are planned to be sent to Ukraine. Pentagon spokesperson Col. Martin O’Donnell declined to provide specific details on the timeline but emphasized the U.S.’s commitment to expedite the process. Before Ukrainian forces can use the tanks, they are required to complete a roughly 10-week training course on 31 trainer tanks at Germany’s Grafenwoehr base. According to a separate Defense Department official, the Ukrainian troops are expected to complete their training in August.

While there is hope that the tanks could potentially arrive in Ukraine as early as August, uncertainties remain due to the refurbishment process, which involves stripping the older vehicles of sensitive technology, including secret depleted uranium armor.

The U.S. is also collaborating with European allies to establish heavy maintenance repair facilities for the Abrams tanks and other heavy armor donated to Ukraine. Ensuring proper training for repairs and spare parts is part of the effort to support Ukraine’s military capabilities in the long run, according to Pentagon’s top acquisition official William LaPlante.

The arrival of the Abrams tanks is expected to provide a significant boost to Ukraine’s military efforts, particularly in the contested south and east regions, where they are probing for weaknesses in Russian defenses. However, Russian forces have fortified their positions across hundreds of miles of frontline territory, making it challenging for Ukrainian troops to dislodge them. The lack of modern fighter planes for air support also leaves Ukrainian ground troops vulnerable to Russian helicopter attacks and directed mortar and artillery fire. Despite the challenges, Pentagon officials expect Ukraine’s forces to persist in their efforts to reclaim territory and continue pressing forward in their counteroffensive operations.

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