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The US accelerates the delivery of Abrams tanks to the war zone in Ukraine

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Pentagon is accelerating its delivery of Abrams tanks to Ukraine, opting to send a refurbished older model that can be more quickly operational, with a goal of delivering the 70-ton combat powerhouses in eight to 10 minutes to bring to the war zone months, US officials told The Associated Press.

The original plan was to send 31 of the newer M1A2 Abrams to Ukraine, which could have taken a year or two to build and deliver. However, 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 when fighting the Russian invasion.

Officials spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday because the plan has not yet been publicly announced. Pentagon officials are expected to make the announcement soon.

The Biden administration announced in January it would send the tanks to Ukraine – after months of insisting they were too complicated and too difficult 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 when the US will begin training Ukraine’s armed forces on how to use, maintain, and repair the tanks. This training pipeline could impact the time it takes for the tanks to be deployed in combat. The Pentagon must also ensure that the Ukrainian armed forces have an adequate supply chain for all the parts needed to keep the tanks running.

During a visit to the tank factory in February, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth met extensively with officials there to determine the best options for shipping the tanks to Ukraine.

“Part of that is figuring out – among the various options – which is the best that can allow us to get Ukraine’s tanks as timely as possible,” Wormuth said at the time.

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

Development of tanks for Ukraine would have to be squeezed between ongoing foreign sales contracts, which include 250 of the latest versions for Poland and about 75 for Australia. During Wormuth’s factory tour, workers prepared to build an updated version of the vehicle for Poland.

Ukrainian leaders have persistently pushed for the Abrams, which first saw action in the war in 1991 and boasts thick armor, a 120mm main gun, armor-piercing capabilities and advanced targeting systems. It runs on thick sprockets and has a 1,500 horsepower turbine engine with a top speed of around 42 miles per hour (68 kilometers per hour).

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Follow AP’s coverage of Russia’s war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine.


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