The US has announced that it will speed up its delivery of Abrams main battle tanks (MBTs) to Ukraine with delivery expected in Autumn 2023.
According to two US officials, the US will send older M1A1 models of America’s MBT instead of the more modern M1A2 version that was originally planned. The switch will allow the tanks to arrive as early as autumn of this year, shaving months off the previous timeline that could have taken a year or longer.
The M1A1 tanks are still formidable weapons that can withstand anti-tank missiles and fire accurately at long ranges. However, they lack some of the advanced features of the M1A2 tanks, such as a newer digital targeting system and improved armor protection. The US officials said that sending older tanks would also reduce the training time for Ukrainian crews and simplify maintenance issues.
The US intends to send 31 M1A1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, enough to equip a complete Ukrainian tank battalion. The tanks will be outfitted with refurbished hulls taken from US inventories and upgraded with new engines and transmissions.
The delivery of tanks is part of a larger package of military assistance that the US has pledged to provide to Ukraine. The US has also agreed to send Patriot missile defence systems, Javelin anti-tank missiles, drones, radars, communications equipment, and other supplies worth more than $400 million.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said last week that these systems would “make a pretty significant difference” in Ukraine’s anticipated counteroffensive.
Austin also urged other countries to send tanks and other armored vehicles to Ukraine as soon as possible. He said that “we have to deliver swiftly and fully on our promised commitments” at a meeting of an unofficial group of some 50 countries providing aid to Ukraine.