The Pentagon said on Tuesday that it would accelerate the shipment of M1A1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, more than a year after the Russian invasion, opting to send refurbished older versions instead of newer M1A2 tanks.

Abrams Tanks Coming Soon to Kyiv

The latest development in transferring the American tank to troops in Kyiv is part of Washington’s effort to ramp up the latter’s fighting force to continue fending off the invading Russian army.

Ukraine was originally to receive 31 M1A2 Abrams, with a production and shipment timetable of a year or two. However, US officials opted to instead deliver the older M1A1s from the US Army’s existing inventory (as many as 3,700 M1 hulls in storage) to provide them with the much-needed arms sooner. Moreover, the older version would mean easier training and upkeep for the Ukrainian troops than the newer version.

With this, the tanks are expected to arrive in Kyiv by the fall of this year.

During the press briefing, Brigadier General Pat Ryder told reporters that the Department of Defense (DoD), in close coordination with Ukraine, has decided to provide the M1A1 variant. Both sides sought to give Ukrainian troops “important combat capability … sooner rather than later,” adding that the refurbished and refitted older versions have “very similar capability to the M1A2.”

“Again, this is about getting this important combat capability into the hands of the Ukrainians sooner rather than later, and we’ll be sure to keep you updated as additional information becomes available,” Ryder said.

Despite sharing similar exterior features, the most notable difference between the two variants of the 70-ton battle powerhouses is the redesign of the Commander’s Weapon Station (CWS) and the newly incorporated Commander’s Independent Thermal Viewer on the left side of the turret forward near the loader’s hatch.

Additionally, the M1A2 is equipped with an Inter-Vehicle Information System (IVIS) capable of seamless information sharing between vehicles, allowing unit commanders to track the position and progress of subordinates automatically. Further improvements include upgrades on the IVIS software, intercom, and radio communications systems, among many others.

In exchange for swift delivery, Ukrainians have given up a chance to have a hunter-killer upgrade which is equipped in the M1A2. Nevertheless, the troops would enjoy the steel pocket armor of the secondhand version with tungsten mesh. Not to mention its world-class optics, which enable the crew to spot targets up to 8,000 yards away.

Earlier this year, the Biden administration announced that it would send the revered tanks to Ukraine months after refusing to send them, saying that they “were too complicated and too hard to maintain and repair” via AP News.

However, when Germany finally gave the nod, allowing its Leopard main battle tanks to be sent to Ukrainian soil, the US also had a change of heart and permitted the delivery of Abrams.

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According to Reuters, the switch would boost the combat capability of Ukraine without too much hassle in training as the M1A1 variant runs on diesel, just like most of the Ukrainian fleet.

In addition, the US is also set to send advanced armor and weapons systems, including a 120mm cannon and 50-caliber heavy machine gun. The promised advanced Patriot air defense will also be delivered sooner than anticipated.

“I’m not going to get into delivery timelines other than to say we’re confident that we’ll be able to get the Patriots there on an expedited timeline,” he explained.

Furthermore, Ryder noted that Ukrainian soldiers trained to operate the system “went faster than expected, just given their propensity and their eagerness to do the training.”

“[I] don’t want to get into when you’re going to see the Patriot arrive in Ukraine, other than one day it will be there, and we’ll highlight that once the Ukrainians have done that,” the Pentagon Press Secretary added.

Additional Security Assistance

In another separate but related report, the Department of Defense, DoD, announced earlier this week that it would send additional security assistance to continue supporting Ukraine’s fight against Russia’s special military operations.

This would be the 34th presidential drawdown off the US arms reserves since August 2021, valued at up to $350 million. The military assistance package includes the following:

Ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS);

  • 155mm artillery rounds;
  • 25mm ammunition;
  • High-speed Anti-radiation missiles (HARMs);
  • 81mm and 60mm mortar systems and mortar rounds;
  • AT-4 anti-armor weapon systems;
  • Grenade launchers, small arms, and associated ammunition;
  • Demolition munitions and equipment for obstacle clearing;
  • Mine clearing equipment;
  • Heavy fuel tankers;
  • Thermal imagery systems, optics, and laser rangefinders;
  • Riverine patrol boats;
  • Testing and diagnostic equipment to support vehicle maintenance and repair; and
  • Spare parts and other field equipment.

“This week, as Russia’s unconscionable war of aggression against Ukraine continues at a great human cost, we are again reminded of the boundless courage and steadfast resolve of the Ukrainian people and the strong support for Ukraine across the international community,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said via a statement released Monday.

Since the onset of the Russian invasion, the US has been leading the efforts in providing billions of dollars of aid to Ukraine to support its efforts to defend its democratic sovereignty. Between January 24, 2022, to January 15, 2023, Washington has sent bilateral aid to Kyiv up to $76.8 billion, including humanitarian aid, financial assistance, security assistance, weapons and equipment, and grants and loans for weapons and equipment, according to think tank Council on Foreign Relations.

Concerns about munition and weapons depletion have been making headlines for months as the war in Ukraine continues. Though, it has been a matter of concern not only in the US but also a problem in Russia, with the latter turning to cheaper options from allies such as Iran.

The Pentagon sought to bolster the defense industry to address this, encouraging domestic manufacturers to hustle their production line to replenish lent weapons, particularly missiles. As a result, defense spending for the fiscal year 2024 increased by 12 percent more than last year and about 50 percent more than five years ago when the country was at war in Afghanistan.

Aside from ammunition, the budget would include the financing of new ships and aircraft, which officials aim to boost the country’s military capacity not only to defend the aggression against Russia but also to deter China and North Korea in the Indo-Pacific region.