An M1A2 Abrams main battle tank fires during the 2022 African Land Forces Summit at Fort Benning, Georgia. US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Brandon Rickert.
By LOLITA C. BALDOR, TARA COPP and AAMER MADHANI, Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The U.S. will send 31 M1 Abrams battle tanks to Ukraine, reversing months of persistent arguments that the tanks were too difficult for Ukrainian troops to operate and maintain.
President Joe Biden announced the decision Wednesday on the heels of Germany agreeing to send 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks from its own stocks. Germany had said the Leopards would not be sent unless the U.S. put its Abrams on the table, not wanting to incur Russia's wrath without the U.S. similarly committing its own tanks.
In all, European nations have indicated they could send as many as 90 tanks to Ukraine. The UK has pledged 14 Challenger 2 tanks, Germany 14 Leopards, and Poland and Estonia have both indicated they would be willing to send many of their own.
A US Marine Corps M1 Abrams. Photo by Cpl. Theodore Ritchie.
That many tanks would give Ukraine nearly two full tank battalions. US Army tank battalions are usually between 50 and 60 tanks.
“With spring approaching, Ukrainian forces are working to defend the territory they hold and preparing for additional counter offenses," Biden said in his announcement of his decision to send the tanks. “To liberate their land, they need to be able to counter Russia’s evolving tactics and strategy on the battlefield in the very near term.”
The $400 million package announced Wednesday also includes eight M88 recovery vehicles — tank-like tracked vehicles that can tow the Abrams if it gets stuck.
Many US M1 Abrams tanks receive humorous nicknames from their crew like this one of the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment. Photo by Mac Caltrider/Coffee or Die Magazine.
Using the assistance initiative funding route, instead of dipping into the existing U.S. stockpile, means it is unlikely the tanks will be available to Ukraine before Russia's anticipated spring offensive.
Russian Ambassador to Germany Sergey Nechayev on Wednesday called Berlin’s decision to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine “extremely dangerous.”
Nechayev said in an online statement that the move “shifts the conflict to a new level of confrontation and contradicts the statements of German politicians about their reluctance to get involved in it.”
Russia is believed to have lost over 1,000 tanks in its invasion of Ukraine. Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images.
“We’re seeing yet again that Germany, as well as its closest allies, is not interested in a diplomatic resolution of the Ukraine crisis, it is determined to permanently escalate it and to indefinitely pump the Kyiv regime full of new lethal weapons,” the statement read.
For the Abrams to be effective in Ukraine, its forces will require extensive training on combined arms maneuver — how the tanks operate together on the battlefield — and on how to maintain and support the complex, 70-ton weapon. The Abrams tanks use a turbine jet engine to propel themselves that burns through at least 2 gallons a mile regardless of whether they are moving or idling, which means that a network of fuel trucks is needed to keep the line moving.
Read Next: Ukrainian Heavy Metal: US, Allies Agree To Send Strykers, APCs, and — Yes — Even Tanks
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