Earlier this month, Ukrainian soldiers officially completed their planned training program involving American M1 Abrams main battle tanks (MBTs) in Germany.
Since the tanks are not expected to be ready for delivery until next month, however, Kyiv requested its troops remain in Western Europe.
Spokesperson for U.S. Army Europe and Africa confirmed that roughly 200 Ukrainians had finished a three-month-long training program at Hohenfels Training Area and will remain there to “maintain their operator and maintenance proficiency until the 31 tanks the U.S. has committed to refurbish and to deliver to Ukraine by the fall are ready.”
Officials believe that these 31 armored vehicles will arrive in Ukraine sometime in September, just in time to aid Kyiv’s ongoing counter-offensive.
In 2022, the Biden administration was hesitant to deliver MBTs to aid Ukraine’s defensive efforts against Russian forces. However, the White House ultimately reversed its policy stance surrounding tanks earlier this year.
When the U.S. revealed it would provide 31 tanks to Kyiv in January, it opened the floodgates for other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries to do the same. Germany had previously asserted that it would agree to deliver its own Leopard 2 MBTs to Kyiv if American made that pledge first.
Industry experts originally believed that the U.S. would send the more modern A2 Abrams variant to Ukraine. Due to time constraints, however, the administration decided to provide the older M1A1 models which can be taken from Army stocks. Additionally, officials claimed that the older version would be easier for Ukrainian troops to train up on. While the eventual arrival of Abrams tanks to Kyiv is highly anticipated, it will not mark the first vehicle transfer provided by America. The U.S. has already shipped Stryker vehicles and Bradley fighting vehicles to the frontlines of the war.
Introducing the M1 Abrams
The Abrams family of tanks has remained a mainstay of the U.S. Army’s armored corps for more than four decades.
Widely considered to be one of the best MBTs in service today, the formidable MBT series has undergone multiple facelifts over its lifetime to maintain an edge over enemy near-peers. Chrysler Defense (now General Dynamics) developed the original Abrams tank to replace the M60 Patton.
The new and improved MBT sported Chobham composite armor that made it very difficult for enemy tanks to penetrate. A 120mm main gun, a 1,500 horsepower turbine engine and armor piercing capabilities also made the Abrams MBT a powerhouse on the battlefield.
Although later Abrams feature enhancements from its predecessors, the older tanks being sent to Ukraine will have a “very similar capability” to the M1A1, according to Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder.
As detailed by Newsweek, “There have been several models of the M1A1, with the later ones including upgrades such as improving situational awareness and increasing the firepower. The “main upgrade” is in the M1A1’s sighting devices, including with a single second-generation Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) sighting system and an additional tactical information system.”
Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin.
From the Vault