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Why did the United States choose to send Abrams main battle tanks to Ukraine?

For months, the authorities of USA refused to send M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraineinsisting that its maintenance and repair were very complicated.

On Wednesday, Washington abruptly changed its mind, responding with a resounding yes to the desperate calls from Ukraine to receive tanks.

LOOK: The powerful Leopard 2 tanks will finally arrive in Ukraine. Will they be able to contain the Russian offensive?

The drastic change was the culmination of intense international pressure and diplomatic wrangling over the past week. In the end it all came down to a quick succession of announcements: the United States said it would send 31 Abrams 70-ton main battle tanks to Ukraine, and Germany announced the shipment of 14 Leopard 2 tanks. and permission to other countries to do the same.

Here’s a look at this gigantic combat weapon, its importance in Ukraine’s war against Russia, and what prompted the Joe Biden administration to change its mind.


M1 Abrams tanks have led the assault actions of US forces for decades.

With a crew of four men, the Abrams were first used on a battlefield in 1991. They have heavy armor, a 120-millimeter caliber main gun, the ability to penetrate enemy armor, advanced firing systems, wide tracks, a 1,500-horsepower turbine engine, and a top speed of 42 miles per hour (68 kilometers per hour). hour).

LOOK: Why are Western tanks so important to Ukraine in its war with Russia?

After the Persian Gulf War, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) interviewed several soldiers who praised the tank’s high survivability. and said that “several M1A1 crews reported receiving direct frontal hits from Iraqi T-72s with minimal damage.”

A soldier walks past a line of M1 Abrams tanks on November 29, 2016 at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, USA. (Christian Murdock/The Gazette via AP, File)

In their most recent operation, these battle titans spearheaded the offensive against Baghdad during the 2003 US invasion of Iraq.where units of the 3rd Infantry Division carried out what they called “Storm Attacks” to penetrate the Iraqi defenses.

The Abrams’ powerful turbine engine allows them to navigate almost any terrain, whether it’s snow covered or extremely muddy, said Kevin Butler, a former Army lieutenant who was a platoon leader of Abrams tanks. Butler recalled military drills in muddy terrain at Fort Stewart, Georgia, in the late 1990s, where he expressed concern that tanks would get bogged down like the Humvees had.

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The Abramshe said, “they didn’t even notice” the mud.


The Abrams’ engine needs hundreds of liters (gallons) of fuel to run.

The tank consumes at least 4.7 liters of fuel per kilometer (two gallons per mile), whether stationary or moving, Butler said, meaning that a caravan of tankers needs to be available for them to keep moving forward.

A USA he worries that the fuel demands pose a logistical nightmare for Ukrainian forces. While Abrams can cross snow or mud, fuel trucks cannot. Also, like any jet engine, the Abrams’ turbines need to breathe and draw in air through filtered vents at the rear. When those filters become clogged, either by sand, as soldiers reported to the GAO in 1992, or by other debris they might find in the Ukraine, they stop working.

A US Army soldier points the way to an M1A2 Abrams main battle tank that will be used in military exercises.  (MATEUSZ SLODKOWSKI / AFP).

A US Army soldier points the way to an M1A2 Abrams main battle tank that will be used in military exercises. (MATEUSZ SLODKOWSKI / AFP).

“The Abrams tank is a very complicated piece of equipment.. It is expensive and the training is difficult… It’s not the easiest system to maintain. Maybe yes, maybe not the right system,” Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl said last week.

Too months will be needed for training in the use of the Abrams. Ukrainian forces will have to learn the operation of the tank’s more complex systems and how to keep it running and supplied with fuel.


Despite the drawbacks that USAit all came down to political realities and a diplomatic dance.

Germany had been reluctant to send its Leopards, or allow allies to send their own, unless USA put your Abrams made available due to their fears that the supply of the tanks would anger Russia. For its part, the United States argued that German-made Leopards were a better option because Ukrainian forces could obtain them and undergo training more quickly and easily.

The stalemate frustrated European allies, such as Polandwho wanted to send his leopard But I couldn’t do it without permission. Germany. Thus began the most intense negotiations.

In this file photo taken on February 19, 2017, Iraqi forces display the V sign on an M1 Abrams tank as they advance near the village of Sheikh Younis, south of Mosul.  (AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP).

In this file photo taken on February 19, 2017, Iraqi forces display the V sign on an M1 Abrams tank as they advance near the village of Sheikh Younis, south of Mosul. (AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP).

US and German officials used the word “intensive” to describe the talks that ultimately resulted in both countries changing their minds about sending the tanks.

“This is the result of intensive consultation, once again, with our international allies and partners,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a speech to German lawmakers on Wednesday.

Similarly, a senior US official said that negotiations had been going on for some time, but “they have intensified in recent weeks. The official requested anonymity to provide details about the decision.

Many calls were made. Biden spoke to various parties, including Scholz. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Army General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke and met with their German counterparts and other allies.

Last Friday, the pressure was palpable. Defense officials from more than 50 countries gathered at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany to discuss Ukraine’s current needs for weapons and equipment. The tanks They were a major theme. The rulers of the countries that have Leopard tanks met with the new German defense minister.

Germany authorizes the shipment of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.  (Photo: AP).

Germany authorizes the shipment of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. (Photo: AP).

Germany gradually softened its public stance, which led to the announcements on Wednesday. government officials of Biden they dodged the nagging question of what caused the change. When Biden was asked directly about any pressure from Berlin, the president told reporters that “Germany did not force me to change our position.”


The timing of the delivery of the tanks to Ukraine and the training of Ukrainian soldiers is not clear.. Federal officials limited themselves to saying it will take “many months” to deliver the tanks. Abramsbut what the Leopards will arrive faster.

Doug Bush, the Army’s undersecretary for acquisition, said that The United States no longer buys the Abrams, but uses the old models as “seed vehicles” and renews them. Doing so, however, is neither easy nor quick, she clarified.

Training can start faster, and the Pentagon is already drawing up a program.

“We want to make sure that they are already prepared when they receive the tanksand that the Ukrainians know how to use them, how to keep them running, and have the supply chain ready for parts and supplies,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.

Bush said that Ukrainians have shown that they have the knowledge and ability to learn new systems quickly.

“Often we can shorten and speed up what we can do in terms of training for soldiers of the Ukrainian army,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “With enough motivation and 24/7 access, we can train people very quickly,” he added. “The United States military knows how to do that.”

Source: Elcomercio

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