WASHINGTON – The Defense Department has apparently found enough M1 Abrams tanks to refurbish and hand over to Ukraine after initially claiming the delivery would take a year or more due to a lack of inventory.
“We’ve expedited our M1 Abrams timelines to supply Ukraine with more armored capability in the coming months, and the M1s that the Ukrainians will use for training will arrive here in Germany in the next few weeks,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters late last week. “All of this is huge progress.”
The Pentagon on Jan. 25 announced it would send 31 of the US’ premier tanks to Ukraine after expressing reluctance about the idea less than a week earlier.
That announcement came the same day Germany said it would send its Leopard 2 battle tanks to Kyiv following reported pressure by the US and other allies.
At the time, the Biden Administration said it would take up to a year for Kyiv to receive American tanks because they would not come from US stocks, but be purchased new with congressionally approved funds as part of the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative.
“We just don’t have these tanks available in excess in our US stocks, which is why it is going to take months to transfer these M1A2 Abrams to Ukraine,” spokeswoman Sabrina Singh told The Post on Jan. 26.
But Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, indicated Friday that plan had changed, announcing that US tanks “are being refurbished to accelerate their delivery” as he spoke alongside Austin after a meeting of the US-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group in Ramstein, Germany.
“In a couple of weeks you’re going to get training tanks – those aren’t quite combat-capable – and they’ll be used to train the crews on how to shoot, maneuver and maintain these tanks,” Milley said. “That’ll be part of the sustainment package to get them trained up as the other tanks are being refurbished.”
Pentagon spokesman Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said Monday the refurbished tanks will be delivered before 2024 and “are being produced to Ukraine’s specifications” for use “in actual combat.”
“[Sending training tanks] will enable us to do the training concurrent with the production of the tanks which again are refurbishment of the tanks,” he said. “[It] allows us to expedite the timeline so that they can be training on operations on maintenance on sustainment then the personnel will marry up with the tanks obviously before the end of the year for delivery to Ukraine.”
The stepped-up pace comes after recently leaked Pentagon documents revealed Ukraine’s military is in a far more precarious situation than the US would publicly admit.
For example, one document stated that Ukraine’s air defenses that guard frontline forces will “be completely reduced” by May 23 unless reinforced.
But Austin said the bumped-up timeline would help ensure that Ukrainian troops can continue fighting off the Russian invaders.
“I am confident that this equipment and the training that accompanied it — it will put Ukraine’s forces in a position to continue to succeed on the battlefield,” he said.
Echoing Austin, Milley said he believed the M1, which he called “the best tank in the world,” will “make a difference” once delivered.
“When [the tanks] do get here and those crews are trained and they’re used in a combined-arms maneuver tactic in combination with mech infantry, the Bradley [fighting vehicles,] they’ll be very effective,” he said.
Still, Milley warned observers not to put all of Ukraine’s eggs in the M1 basket.
“There’s no silver bullet in war. The outcomes of battles and wars are the function of many, many variables,” he said. “In this case, you would have to make sure that your tanks are used in combined arms with mechanized infantry, artillery – all of that is synchronized with dismounted forces, etc.”
“So there is no silver bullet in this case, but I do think the M1 tank, when it’s delivered and it reaches its operational capability, that it will be very effective on the battlefield.”
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