Ukraine will receive 31 Abrams tanks from the United States by the beginning of autumn, said US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin during his testimony yesterday to a Senate committee.The tank delivery is scheduled to coincide with the completion of tank training currently being undertaken by Ukrainian crews, Austin added.

 “We are doing everything we can to expedite the delivery of these tanks,” Austin said in response to a question by Senator Susan Collins (Republican - Maine) during a Senate Intelligence Committee briefing.

“According to our forecasts, this will happen at the beginning of autumn,” Austin continued.

“In the meantime, we moved several tanks to the training ground so that the Ukrainians could begin their training. By the time the training is complete, the tanks will be available for use.”

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Austin outlined that the delivery timetable is linked not only to the training program, but also to the establishment of appropriate maintenance and related infrastructure for the Abrams, which is a new addition to Ukraine’s military capabilities.

Abrams tanks were initially pledged to Ukraine by President Joe Biden in late January 2023. The American move to provide the tanks came after lengthy lobbying by Ukraine.

The move also enabled a major pledge from Germany for 14 of its Leopard 2 tanks, as well as from other countries with Leopards who rely on Germany (as the manufacturer of Leopards) to de facto approve their own donations.

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Initially, the US intention was to build and provide 31 new M1A2 Abrams, a third generation weapon, to the Ukrainians. However, that could have taken from one to two years.

As a result, the Department of Defense changed the plan in late March to the provision of modified M1A1 Abrams, a second generation weapon.

“After further study and analysis of the best possible options, the Department of Defense, in close coordination with Ukraine, decided to provide a variant of the M1A1 Abrams tank, which will allow us to significantly accelerate the delivery time and deliver this important equipment to Ukraine by the fall of this year,” a Pentagon spokesperson said at the time.

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Among several differentiating features, the newer M1A2 version of the Abrams has a more advanced fire control system for the primary gun it shares with the older M1A1 version: the M256 120mm smoothbore gun.

Depending on the artillery rounds it is firing, this gun can pierce enemy armour up to 2 kilometers away. The M1A1 also carries three and up to four heavy machine guns.

The Abrams is especially noted for its high-powered turbine engine which can travel up to 60 kph in difficult terrain. However, at $10 million each, the Abrams is a high-complexity weapon which requires significant operator training, extensive support infrastructure, and strong supply lines for specialized jet fuel, which is used by its turbine engine.

It is also believed that the Abrams tanks that Ukraine ultimately receives will also be modified to not include secret componentry in case of capture by Russian forces.

It is not anticipated that this cohort of Abrams will be used in the initial stages of Ukraine’s much-anticipated counteroffensive.

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At the April 21 meeting of the Ramstein contact group, which coordinates allies’ military support for Ukraine, Defense Secretary Austin stated that to date 230 tanks and 1550 armoured vehicles have been pledged/provided to establish nine new Ukrainian mechanised infantry brigades, which are part of counteroffensive preparations.

In total, Ukraine has been promised/delivered some 575 tanks by its allies, including 325 from Poland and 76 from the US.

 

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