Time to send the old M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine? Production of the M1A1 Abrams tank ended in 1992, by which point some 4,800 were produced – and most of those vehicles remain in service with the United States military. However, the U.S. Army currently maintains more than 2,300 original M1 Abrams that was never upgraded to the later standards.
Instead, those tanks remain in reserve storage – and unless the U.S. were to end up in a very serious conflict, it is unlikely any of those will ever be returned to service. A question has been asked why couldn’t those aging main battle tanks (MBTs) be sent to Ukraine?
Such a scenario would seem like the best use of old equipment that the Department of Defense has little use for – and likely spends a considerable amount to maintain. Even a few hundred could significantly bolster Ukraine’s tank force, while a thousand would give Ukraine a major advantage on the battlefield, especially as Moscow has been forced to deploy antiquated T-62s to reinforce its military following the significant losses in armored vehicles in recent months.
Biden Has Said No
The debate over what the M1 could actually do is largely a moot point, as the Biden administration has made it clear that no Abrams could be headed to Ukraine. At best, it appears that Poland will be equipped with more advanced Abrams while it sends it Cold War-era T-72s to Ukraine. That’s still a win for Ukraine but falls short of what could be a significant game changer – or at least what would appear as such.
There is more at play than how Moscow might react to facing American-made tanks in Ukraine, and that’s a serious consideration in its own right. Vladimir Putin has already made it very clear that he sees the conflict as a NATO proxy war against Russia, even as it was on his orders that the conflict began. U.S. tanks would likely only escalate the conflict.
Then there are the logistical challenges.
As previously reported, the United States military won’t even send its surplus M60 tanks. It isn’t just a matter of how Russia will react, but just getting the tanks to Ukraine would present serious issues. Ukraine operates the T-72 and has plenty of spare parts and the know-how to cannibalize damaged/destroyed tanks as needed, including those once operated by Russia. Maintaining the M60 would present a challenge while operating the tanks would require that American soldiers train the Ukrainians.
Where could such training of the M60s take place? There is little chance that the Pentagon would risk sending instructors to Ukraine, and even if the training could take place in Poland or Romania, it would require that Kyiv take some of its best crews out of action – something it can’t afford to do.
Such issues become even more complex with the Abrams. One only needs to consider how Russia might respond if 2,000 M1s even arrived in Poland or Romania – such movements couldn’t be easy to conceal and it could appear to Moscow that NATO was planning an invasion, even if it was publicly announced that the tanks were on the way. Wars have been started for less.
Sending M1 Abrams would likely drag the U.S. and NATO into the war, and the Biden administration is right to not even consider such an option.
M1 Abrams: Pictures
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.
Mike de Socarraz
October 24, 2022 at 5:36 pm
You don’t win wars being fearful of using certain weapons. You must be bold. After all, Russia invaded Ukraine and is committing war crimes daily. Complete disagree with you. Biden is wrong about this. It is a good thing you are a writer and not a military man.
October 24, 2022 at 7:35 pm
Proxy wars are a cowardly way of assisting your “allies” and “friends”. Using Ukrainian men as cannon fodder so the globalist canals running the west can keep their Soros backed puppet in Ukraine is pathetic. What is worse is that they’re doing it to keep access of lithium open to them so they can make money on it for their green energy scams they’ve invested in.
This isn’t about defending democracy. It’s about keeping their corrupt cash cow open for business. No different than why we went to Nam, Panama, Iraq or Afghanistan.
So stop this madness. Stop the senseless killing of young men in the name of profiteering veiled as democracy.
October 24, 2022 at 8:34 pm
Why send 2000 tanks? 100 Abrams would be a game changer. During the battle of 73 Easting on Feb 26, 1991 elements of the US Army’s 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment [ACR]… including roughly 36 M1A1 Abrams tanks… defeated two Iraqi armored brigades in close combat. In the battle, the 2nd ACR lost no Abrams tanks and only one M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle to Iraqi fire. The Iraqi Army lost 160 tanks. As I understand it those were mostly Russian made T-72s, 180 personnel carriers, 12 artillery pieces, and 80 wheeled vehicles.
Bottom line: just a few M1 Abrams would make a massive difference. The Russians are using the same tanks, or worse, than the Iraqis did decades ago. the Russians are talking about bringing out older T62s. Abrams would obliterate them. Perhaps that’s actually the problem Biden has with it. HIMARS strikes from 40+ miles at least have an element of distance for Russia propaganda to make something up as to why something exploded.
October 24, 2022 at 9:14 pm
“U.S. tanks would likely only escalate the conflict.”
“Sending M1 Abrams would likely drag the U.S. and NATO into the war, and the Biden administration is right to not even consider such an option.”
US and NATO partners have thus far sent:
155 mm howitzers – towed and self-propelled
Harpoon anti-ship missiles
Bayraktar combat drones
Air defense systems
Counter battery radars
Light and heavy support trucks
Millions of artillery rounds
Night vision equipment
The only country doing any escalation is Russia. Ukraine deserves the opportunity to defend itself, and providing a few hundred old M-1 Abrams isn’t going to trigger WWIII.
December 3, 2022 at 4:05 pm
A few questions.
Does the author think we’d transport, stage, then deliver all 2000 tanks at once?
After HIMARS, T-72’s, Stingers, Javalens, NLAW’s, this is where Russia decides enough is enough and what? Decides to really get curb stomped by firing on a NATO member? Sends us a strongly worded memo?
Russia is not the Soviet Union! We take ultimatums or threats from 3rd world countries we give them! It’s like all of NATO is being punked by a country with an economy smaller than New Jersey.
January 20, 2023 at 2:23 pm
Come on Biden. Send the Ukrainians!!the Tanks they want get this war over with.Your letting Putin tell you what weapons we can send.