The M1 Abrams main battle tanks (MBT) that President Joe Biden pledged to Ukraine in January arrived at the Grafenwoehr Army base in Germany on Monday, slightly ahead of schedule.
Tank crews and maintainers from Ukraine will begin to train on the vehicles in the next two to three weeks.
It could still be several months, however, before the MBTs are actually deployed on the battlefield in Ukraine.
“We are doing everything possible to accelerate the delivery of these tanks, and early fall is a projection,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee last Thursday.
During that hearing, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) pressed Austin to move quickly to get the tanks to Kyiv’s forces as soon as possible.
“It is critical that the administration provide Ukraine with what it needs in time to defend and take back its sovereign territory,” she said. “We expect the administration not to wait until the 11th hour if the Ukrainians seek more before the end of the fiscal year.”
M1 Abrams: Next Step Training
The M1 Abrams, which has been in the United States military’s arsenal for more than four decades, is considerably different from the Soviet-designed T-72 and other MBTs employed by Ukraine. U.S. military officials have said that it will take some time for the Ukrainian tank crews to get up to speed on the platform.
“As we’ve discussed previously, this extensive training program for Ukrainian crews and maintainers is intended to prepare them for their critical roles ahead and effectively operating the M1 tank and defending Ukrainian people,” Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said during a briefing on Monday.
The U.S. had announced that it would deliver 31 Abrams MBTs with advanced armor and weapons in January.
However, it made the decision in March to refurbish M1A1 Abrams tanks already in U.S. inventory to shorten the timeline.
According to the DoD, the M1A1 variant has “a very similar capability” to the M1A2.
In addition to preparing the crews, training will also be provided to maintenance personnel to keep the Abrams rolling.
“Certainly a key aspect of the training will be maintenance and sustainment of that capability,” Ryder added.
“You’ve heard us talk about the fact that the M1 is a complex machine that requires a lot of maintenance to sustain it and keep it operating. So that will be crucial, which is why we’re doing the training in stride with the actual refurbishment of the tanks.”
Currently, approximately 500 Ukrainian soldiers are conducting combined arms training at the Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels training areas in Germany.
That training includes instruction marksmanship and rendering medical aid, in addition to other basic soldiering tasks.
Around 10,700 Ukrainian soldiers have already completed the training and have returned to the front lines.
That includes 6,100 who have completed small arms training, 4,000 who have completed specific platform training, and 600 who have completed staff training.
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Author Experience and Expertise
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 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.