By Andrew Thornebrooke
The United States is expediting its delivery of battle tanks to Ukraine by providing a different variant of armored capability than previously decided.
Ukraine will still receive a full battalion of Abrams battle tanks from the United States, but will be getting the M1A1 variant rather than the M1A2 variant. The M1A1 is a slightly older variant with similar armament but older electronic systems and different tracks.
“[Department of Defense] announced in January that the United States would be providing 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine under the Ukraine Security Assistance initiative with the intent of providing the M1A2 variant,” said Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder during a March 21 press conference.
“However, ever since we made this announcement, we have been committed to exploring options to deliver the armored capability as quickly as possible.”
Ryder added that close bilateral study and analysis had led Ukrainian and U.S. officials to conclude that expediting the delivery of tanks by sending the M1A1 variant would be more beneficial than waiting for M1A2s.
“… the decision to provide the M1A1 variant of the Abrams tank will allow us to significantly expedite delivery timelines and deliver this important capability to Ukraine by the fall of this year,” Ryder said.
“This is about getting this important combat capability into the hands of the Ukrainians sooner rather than later.”
Ryder also said the United States would eventually deliver “a very similar capability to the M1A2, which includes advanced armor and weapons systems” such as a 120 mm cannon and .50-caliber heavy machine gun.
The announcement follows a drawdown of an additional $350 million military aid package on March 20, the 34th of its kind since Russia’s attempted conquest of Ukraine began.
The most recent drawdown will furnish Ukraine with munitions for high-mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS), rounds for .155 mm field artillery, and ammunition for small arms.
Ukraine is currently preparing to fend off a spring offensive by Russian forces, and has led several attacks on occupied territory in Crimea and the Donbas in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, Russian and Chinese authorities have suggested a political settlement to the conflict, which the United States has dismissed as a ploy for Russia to legitimize its conquests and prepare for future attacks.