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Mystery: What Version of the M1 Abrams Tank Will Ukraine Get?

M1 Abrams Tank like in Ukraine. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

The U.S. is sending Ukraine the M1 Abrams main battle tank. After months of negotiations, the White House has finally agreed to provide the Ukrainian military with what is one of the most capable main battle tanks in the world

In a security aid package worth $400 million, the U.S. will be sending Ukraine 31 M1 Abrams tanks, 8 M88 tank recovery vehicles, 120mm ammunition, and logistical and training support to effectively operate the tank.  

According to the White House, Ukraine won’t receive its tanks until several weeks. 

M1 Abrams to Ukraine: The Detail

Interestingly, the Pentagon announcement of the security aid package stated that it would be coming from the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) and not from a Presidential Drawdown Authority (PDA).

Whereas under Presidential Drawdown Authority, the Pentagon draws from its own weapon stocks and sends them to Ukraine, under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, the U.S. government buys new weapons and sends them to Kyiv. 

In essence, the latest package provides the funds for the contracting process that will eventually pick and deliver the weapon systems that Ukraine will get. It is also a commitment to the long-term survival and effectiveness of the Ukrainian forces. 

“This USAI package underscores the continued U.S. commitment to building the capacity of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, now and into the future,” the Department of Defense stated in the press announcement

What this suggests is that the 31 M1 Abrams main battle tanks Ukraine will be receiving will be either brand new or modified versions of the tank.  

The M1A2 SEPv3 vs the M1A1 FEP M1 Abrams

One option is for Ukraine to receive the M1A2 SEPv3 version of the Abrams tank.

This is the latest model of the main battle tank; the U.S. Army only received the first vehicles in 2020. 

The M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams has additional electrical power coming from an auxiliary power unit, updated network capabilities, more protection against all types of munitions through explosive reactive armor mountings, improved ammo data link to interface with advanced ammunition, including airburst munitions. 

Last but not least, the latest version of the M1 Abrams tanks required less maintenance to upkeep and operate.

This is an important consideration in the context of Ukraine. One of the primary reasons the U.S. was so hesitant to provide the main battle tank to Ukraine was because of the high cost and effort required to keep the weapon system running in a combat zone.  

The U.S. military is already working on the update of the M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams. But the SEPv4 is still under development and is extremely unlikely to be the version Ukraine receives. 

The other option for Ukraine is to receive the M1A1 FEP Abrams. Used until recently by the U.S. Marine Corps, the Firepower Enhancement Package (FEP) equipped the A1 version of the Abrams with better night and day target acquisition capabilities.

But for Ukraine to receive this older version of the main battle tank, the U.S. would have to do some work on the vehicles, primarily to remove the depleted uranium armor that is considered classified technology. 

Regardless of which exact version of the M1 Abrams Kyiv receives, the Ukrainian forces will be in a better position to hurl back the Russian forces

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Expert Biography: A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. He is currently working towards a Master’s Degree in Strategy and Cybersecurity at the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.