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Friday, May 24, 2024

Pentagon Speeds Up Abrams Tank Delivery to Ukraine

'Part of it is figuring out—among the different options—what’s the best one that can allow us to get the Ukrainians tanks in as timely a fashion as we can...'

(Headline USA) The Pentagon is speeding up its delivery of Abrams tanks to Ukraine, opting to send a refurbished older model that can be ready faster, with the aim of getting the 70-ton battle powerhouses to the war zone in eight to 10 months, U.S. officials told the Associated Press.

As of late February, the Biden administration was estimated by the BBC to have spent some $112 billion in U.S. tax dollars on Ukraine, about a quarter of which has gone to weaponry and equipment.

However, that only accounts for the active territorial dispute since Russia invaded the former Soviet satellite in February 2022.

The conflict between the two countries had been simmering since a U.S.-backed Ukrainian coup in 2014, under the Obama administration, and America had been providing operational support—both explicit and covert—throughout that span, as well.

President Joe Biden, whose family has been deeply involved in business deals with the Ukrainian government, has since brought the shadow war to the brink of global catastrophe by further provoking and fomenting tension with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Biden administration’s initial plan was to send Ukraine 31 of the newer M1A2 Abrams, which could have taken a year or two to build and ship. But officials said the decision was made to send the older M1A1 version, which can be taken from Army stocks and will be easier for Ukrainian forces to learn to use and maintain as they fight Russia’s invasion.

The officials spoke on Tuesday on the condition of anonymity because the plan had not yet been publicly announced. Pentagon officials were expected to make the announcement Tuesday.

The Biden administration announced in January that it would send the tanks to Ukraine—after insisting for months that they were too complicated and too hard to maintain and repair.

The decision was part of a broader political maneuver that opened the door for Germany to announce it would send its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and allow Poland and other allies to do the same.

It’s unclear how soon the U.S. would begin training Ukrainian forces on how to use, maintain and repair the tanks. That training pipeline could affect the amount of time it takes for the tanks to be used in battle. The Pentagon will also have to ensure that Ukrainian forces have an adequate supply chain for all the parts needed to keep the tanks running.

During a visit to the Lima, Ohio, tank plant in February, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth met with officials there at length to determine the best options for getting the tanks to Ukraine.

“Part of it is figuring out—among the different options—what’s the best one that can allow us to get the Ukrainians tanks in as timely a fashion as we can,” without disrupting foreign military sales, Wormuth said at the time.

Officials at the plant, which is owned by the Army and operated by Reston, Virginia-based General Dynamics, said production totals can vary, based on contract demands. And while they are currently building 15-20 armored vehicles per month, including tanks, they can easily boost that to 33 a month and could add another shift of workers and build even more if needed.

Development of tanks for Ukraine would have to be squeezed in between the current contracts for foreign sales, which include 250 of the newest versions for Poland and about 75 for Australia. During Wormuth’s tour of the facility, workers were preparing to build an updated version of the vehicle for Poland.

Ukrainian leaders have persistently pressed for the Abrams, which first deployed to war in 1991 and has thick armor, a 120 mm main gun, armor-piercing capabilities and advanced targeting systems. It runs on thick tracked wheels and has a 1,500-horsepower turbine engine with a top speed of about 42 miles per hour.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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