US to Send 31 M1 Abrams Tanks to Ukraine
They will join “hundreds” more armored vehicles arriving amid concerns about an anticipated Russian offensive.
The United States will send Ukraine 31 M1 Abrams tanks—enough to arm a battalion—after training their crews in the months ahead, senior White House and defense officials announced Wednesday.
Combined with promised deliveries of U.S. Bradley Fighting Vehicles and other countries’tanks, light tanks, and other armored vehicles, one senior administration official said, Ukrainian forces will soon receive “hundreds” of armored vehicles of various types.
The announcement came one day after German officials said they would provide 14 German-made Leopard 2 tanks, in coordination with Poland and other allies who will send their own Leopards. Their ultimate goal is to send Ukraine 88 tanks, enough for about two battalions.
A senior defense official told reporters Wednesday, “In the weeks, and really the days leading up to [the announcement], we did hear some major commitments by allies of additional armored vehicles and tanks, including the Challenger  tanks from the UK. Certainly, the U.S. and the Netherlands are still working to deliver 90 T-72 tanks, which we had refurbished and about half of those are arriving on the battlefields now. You also have France announcing their Amx-10 [RC] light tanks. And then in the armored vehicle category and the infantry fighting vehicle category, in addition to the U.S. Bradleys–and we're over 100 at this point–you also have the 40 Marders from Germany. And Sweden also has announced 50 CV90s. And there's a host of Soviet-era BMPs that were also announced. So you're going to see hundreds of armored vehicles, exceptionally capable vehicles, and tanks arriving in Ukraine.”
A senior administration official said that discussion between allies on how to help Ukraine has intensified ahead of a possible Russian push to claim territory.
“We do expect that Mr. Putin and the Russian military will try to go on the offense here in coming weeks and months, as the weather gets better,” the official said, adding that the administration aims to help Ukraine “have the ability to retake the to reclaim their sovereign territory. And that means everything that is recognized by international borders,” including Crimea.
The defense official said that the Abrams represent a “long-term commitment.” The United States will provid them through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, or USAI, as opposed to via presidential drawdown authority. That’s important because the USAI, as a funding mechanism, takes more time. But administration officials said that the goal is to enable Ukraine to maintain and use the tanks long-term.
The defense official said, “Because this is a procurement under USAI, we're talking months as opposed to weeks. And as with other capabilities, you've seen us do this before, if we do not have [it] readily within U.S. stocks, then we go the procurement route to make sure that we can procure the right capability for Ukraine. And that is what we're doing here with the Abrams in terms of sustainment, maintenance, and training.”
The official continued,“We will have the ability to put in place a very careful training program. But also a very careful program to be able to maintain and sustain these tanks, which do require a good deal…of assistance.”
The United States will also send eight M88 recovery vehicles to service the tanks in the field.
Executives from Abrams-maker General Dynamics said the company’s Lima, Ohio, production line can meet the demand of sending tanks to Ukraine if the U.S. decides to send them.
“Staffing is not an issue here. There is plenty of capacity on the combat vehicle side” of the company, for tracked and wheeled vehicles, CEO Phebe Novakovic said Wednesday on the company’s quarterly earnings call. “So to the extent that the U.S. government intends to execute any contracts with respect to some of these bilateral agreements they are developing, ... it’s well within the capacity of the industrial base to accommodate.”