By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (March 21, 2023) -- The Defense Department announced in January that 31 M1A2 Abrams tanks would be delivered to Ukraine, but officials had speculated it would take about a year to make that happen. Now, they say, the U.S. will instead send M1A1 Abrams tanks from refurbished hulls already in U.S. inventory, and the delivery will be in the fall -- faster than what was initially expected.
"Since we've made this announcement, we've been committed to exploring options to deliver the armored capability as quickly as possible," Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said during a briefing today. "After further study and analysis on how best to do this, DOD, in close coordination with Ukraine, has made the decision to provide the M1A1 variant of the Abrams tank, which will enable us to significantly expedite delivery timelines, and deliver this important capability to Ukraine by the fall of this year."
The M1A1 Abrams will have "a very similar capability" to the M1A2, Ryder said, including advanced armor and weapons systems, such as a 120 mm cannon and 50-caliber heavy machine gun.
"This is about getting this important combat capability into the hands of the Ukrainians sooner rather than later," the general said.
In January, the initial plan was that the United States would use funds from the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative to procure new tanks from the manufacturer. Now, Ryder said, excess hulls already in U.S. inventory will instead be refurbished and refitted to create M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks that can be sent to Ukraine more quickly in order to meet their needs.
"You've heard us talk in the past about trying to work with Ukraine to meet not only their near-term needs, but their medium-term needs," Ryder said. "Taking territory, retaking territory, you know, as part of any offensive will be important ... as will sustaining those gains at some point in the future, as well as being able to deter future Russian aggression. This is all part of ... our broader near-term and longer-term support to Ukraine and their defense requirements."
Ryder also told reporters that training Ukrainians on the tanks is also in the works.
"We will ensure that the Ukrainians receive the necessary training on these tanks in time for them to be delivered," he said. "We'll have more details to provide on that training in the future. But, again, that would be our intent -- and I'm confident that we will accomplish that."
Yesterday, the Pentagon also announced the most recent round of security assistance to Ukraine. The latest round of security assistance, worth about $350 million, includes, among other things, ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System; high-speed, anti-radiation missiles; AT4 anti-armor weapon systems; grenade launchers, small arms and associated ammunition; and Riverine patrol boats.
Since the beginning of Russia's invasion on Feb. 24. 2022, the U.S. has committed more than $32.5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine. The United States also continues to work with allies and partners to provide Ukraine with additional capabilities to defend itself.