WASHINGTON – The Biden administration plans to send more than 30 of its frontline battle tanks to Ukraine, a move intended to resolve Germany’s reluctance to supply its own battle tank to bolster Ukrainian forces in the fight against Russia, according to a US official.
Modern, capable tanks are seen as crucial to Ukraine’s ability to withstand an expected spring offensive by Russian forces and help Ukrainians retake parts of their country seized during the invasion ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Ukrainians operate Russian and Soviet tanks. Western tanks would offer them vehicles with more firepower, mobility, and armor.
The Pentagon has refused to send the tanks, citing the high maintenance and need for jet fuel for its engine. Germany’s Leopard tank, used by several European allies, runs on more readily available diesel fuel.
However, Germany wanted the Pentagon to sign up its own tanks before sending its Leopard 2 tanks and allow other countries that operate the tanks to supply them to Ukraine.
The Biden administration has already sent $27 billion in military aid to Ukraine since the Russian invasion in February 2022. The weapons sent became increasingly sophisticated and deadly. The tanks and armored personnel carriers that are now being handed over to Ukraine are the same ones used by the US Army’s front-line soldiers.
The current Pentagon plan calls for sending 31 M-1 Abrams tanks and eight vehicles to rescue those injured in combat, said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the plan. The Biden administration’s decision to send in the tanks was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
On Tuesday afternoon, Pentagon officials declined to confirm the decision.
“I have no announcements to make at this time,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, told reporters Tuesday. He described the Abrams tank as very powerful but very complex.
Last week, the US-led coalition in support of Ukraine failed to reach an agreement with Germany over the deployment of their Leopard tanks. Also last week, the Pentagon announced its latest military aid package, armored personnel carriers, ammunition and other supplies worth $2.5 billion.
The Abrams is deadly, fast, and heavily armored. The Abrams weighs about 70 tons and carries a 120mm cannon and .50 caliber machine gun. The Abrams was developed during the Cold War and the first tanks were delivered to the Army in 1980. They first saw combat in 1991 during Operation Desert Storm in Iraq.
According to a report by the Congressional Research Service, “The tank was deadly as crews said its 120mm gun was accurate and its ammunition deadly against all types of Iraqi armor, regardless of the level of tank readiness and soldier training. The Abrams also survived well on the battlefield.
An Army report cited by the Research Service noted that Abrams tank crews said they received “direct frontal hits from Iraqi T-72 (tanks) with minimal damage. In fact, the enemy did not destroy any Abrams tanks during the Gulf War.”
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