The Pentagon is scrapping plans to send brand-new M1A2 Abrams tanks to Ukraine and will opt instead to deliver a refurbished older version in an attempt to get U.S. tanks on the battlefield in eight to 10 months, The Associated Press reported, citing U.S. officials.
Initial plans to order 31 new Abrams directly from industry would require up to two years to build and deliver to Ukraine, as the Pentagon said it lacked available tanks to draw directly from existing stockpiles. Now, Pentagon officials plan to pull from Army reserves of M1A1 tanks, an older, less sophisticated version that Ukrainian troops will find easier to learn and operate, the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity before the decision was officially announced, told the AP.
The Biden administration approved a delivery of 31 M1 Abrams main battle tanks for Ukraine in the more advanced, expensive A2 configuration in January, part of a political maneuver to convince Berlin to greenlight transfer of German Leopard 2 tanks.
The Pentagon previously opposed sending Abrams to Ukraine. Sourcing, conducting extensive training on new systems and establishing sustainment and maintenance supply line could consume time and resources without producing the battlefield gains commensurate with the investment, officials argued. (RELATED: Pentagon May Tone Down Spy Flights Over International Waters In Black Sea Amid Russian Aggression: REPORT)
However, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth visited a General Dynamics-operated manufacturing site in February and met with officials to deliberate options for sending tanks to Ukraine, according to the AP. General Dynamics affirmed it had the capacity to surge production to 33 armored vehicles per month, including tanks; the company is on contract to build 250 A2s for Poland and 75 for Australia.
💥 The UK has committed to providing 14 Challenger 2 tanks and accompanying ammunition to support Ukraine in its ongoing battle for freedom.
🎥 We explain how the Ukrainian tank crews are getting to grips with the Challenger 2.#StandWithUkraine pic.twitter.com/vIyNyTm47d
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) March 20, 2023
The U.S. has acquired 3,273 M1A1s since 1980, and 600 M1A2s produced between 1996 and 2001, according to Army Technology, although it isn’t clear how many are combat ready or could be easily made so. Included among those tanks are 452 previously operated by the Marine Corps, which officially deactivated all of its tank battalions in 2021, Marine Corps Times reported.
Some divested Marine Corps tanks have been transferred to Sierra Army Depot, where they sit in storage awaiting upgrades for the Army, according to a statement from the Corps. They were scheduled to transfer to the Army by sometime in 2023, Marine Corps Times reported.
“It’s not about delay. We just do not have these Abrams available in our stocks to give the Ukrainians at this time,” DOD Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh previously said in response to questions regarding why the U.S. could not draw from the Marines’ unused tanks, instead opting to procure new A2s.
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