The Ukrainian military has received its first M1 Abrams main battle tanks from the United States.
Last Thursday, U.S. President Joe Biden announced that what is probably the most advanced main battle tank in the world will be in Ukrainian hands by this week. Now, the Ukrainians have received the first tanks.
Ukrainian forces are currently pushing hard in Southern Ukraine, trying to widen a promising tactical breach and turn it into an operational breakthrough. The addition of the M1 Abrams will greatly enhance their capabilities.
M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank in Ukraine
The U.S. committed to sending 31 M1 SA Abrams to Ukraine as part of a stream of security aid to defend against the Russian invasion. Ukrainian crews trained on the system for several months while M1 Abrams were refurbished from the stocks of the U.S. Marine Corps. Now, the fearsome system is on the battlefield. And the Ukrainians need it.
After several weeks of intense fighting, Ukrainian infantry and combat engineers have managed to breach the first Russian defensive lines in the vicinity of the villages of Robotyne and Verbove. Now, Ukrainian forces are throwing in tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and armored personnel carriers to keep the pressure on Russian troops and shatter their defenses.
Although it is unlikely that the Ukrainian military will throw the M1 Abrams straight into the breach in Southern Ukraine, the U.S.-made main battle tank will soon join the fighting.
Ukrainian forces have already deployed the rest of their Western weapons systems, including the Challenger 2 and Leopard 2 main battle tanks. But extensive Russian minefields have prevented these systems from showing their true capabilities. An anti-tank mine will destroy the track of even the most advanced tank. However, the difference between tanks like the M1 Abrams and Challenger 2 on one side, and Russian-made tanks like the T-72 and T-80 on the other, is that the mine will incapacitate an advanced Western MBT, but will not completely destroy it.
Why so Late?
The White House was initially reluctant to send M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, for two reasons. First, because it didn’t want to further provoke Moscow; and second, because it wasn’t sure that the Ukrainian military would truly benefit from the transfer, due to the M1 Abrams’ significant logistical needs.
In hindsight, the West should have armed Ukraine with main battle tanks, long-range precision cruise missiles, artillery guns, and advanced long-range weapons systems such as the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) from the beginning.
But initially, the West was cautious not to provoke a disproportionate response from the Kremlin, like the detonation of a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine. With the specter of nuclear warfare distant, the West should continue to arm Ukraine and even send more advanced weaponry, such as MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS).
About the Author
A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations and a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ). He holds a BA from the Johns Hopkins University, an MA from the Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and is pursuing a J.D. at Boston College Law School. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.
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