The Pentagon is looking to speed up the delivery of the Abrams tank to Ukraine by refurbishing older models instead of manufacturing new ones.
US officials told The Associated Press that the new plan is to send Ukraine the older M1A1 version that can be pulled from US Army stockpiles. The officials expect the M1A1s could be delivered within eight to 10 months.
The initial plan was for the US to manufacture 31 new M1A2 Abrams tanks, which wouldn’t have been delivered for years. The new plan still does not get the tanks into Ukraine’s hands before the spring, when the US is hoping Ukraine will launch a counteroffensive against Russian forces.
Ukrainian troops have been training on the German-made Leopard tank, but it’s not clear when they will start training on the Abrams. According to Poland, at least four Leopards have been delivered to Ukraine, but Berlin has said it’s struggling to put together more than a few dozen tanks for Kyiv, far fewer than what Ukrainian officials have been demanding.
President Biden’s announcement in January that the US would provide Abrams to Ukraine came after Pentagon officials said sending the tanks to Ukraine would be impractical. But Biden’s decision was made to convince German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to send Leopards and sign off on the export of the German-made tanks from other countries.
Scholz previously ruled out sending Ukraine tanks and explained his reasoning by saying he was trying to prevent a direct war between NATO and Russia. But the US and its allies are less concerned about escalation and continue to ramp up support for Kyiv, including Poland and Slovakia pledging Soviet-made MiG-29 fighter jets.