The barrier made the US hesitate to supply Abrams tanks to Ukraine

Before announcing the M1 Abrams aid to Ukraine, US officials for months refused to deliver this tank model because it was too complicated and difficult to maintain.

The US on January 25 suddenly changed its position and agreed to aid 31 M1 Abrams main battle tanks to Ukraine after many months of refusing this request. On the same day, Germany also announced the delivery of 14 Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine and allowed other countries to do the same.

The M1 Abrams tank led American attacks for decades, first deployed to the front in the Gulf War in 1991. The M1 Abrams had thick armor, a 120 mm main gun, and an advanced targeting system. forward, large crawler and can reach a maximum speed of 68 km/h.

However, the gas turbine engine of the M1 Abrams with a capacity of 1,500 horsepower consumes hundreds of liters of fuel when operating. Kevin Butler, a former US Army lieutenant who served as a tank platoon commander, said that the M1 Abrams consumes at least 4.7 liters of fuel per kilometer. This means that M1 Abrams units need fuel convoys within reach to maintain momentum.

US officials fear the need for fuel will create a logistical nightmare for Ukrainian forces. The M1 Abrams tank can overcome the snow and mud in Ukraine, but the fuel tank cannot.

US M1 Abrams tank drills in Romania in August 2020.  Photo: US Army.

US M1 Abrams tank drills in Romania in August 2020. Photo: US Army.

In addition, the M1 Abrams’ engine, like other gas turbine engines, requires air to be filtered by a device at the rear of the vehicle. When these filters become clogged with sand or debris that may be encountered on the battlefield, the vehicle’s engine cannot operate.

“M1 Abrams tanks are very complex equipment, expensive, difficult to train, and not an easy system to maintain. They are not necessarily the right system,” said US Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl. Last week commented on the challenge that Ukraine faces when operating the M1 Abrams tank.

Training to operate the M1 Abrams tank will take many months. Ukrainian soldiers will have to learn how to operate more complex systems than the tanks they have, as well as how to keep them afloat and fuel them.

When asked why the US changed its position and decided to transfer M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, President Joe Biden administration officials repeatedly evaded. President Biden replied that “Germany did not force me to change my mind”.

Earlier, American media reported that Berlin had set a condition for Washington that it must deliver to Kiev M1 Abrams tanks in exchange for Germany agreeing to hand over Leopard 2 tanks. German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius later said he “didn’t know of such an arrangement”.

Germany and the US held “intensive talks” before both countries announced their approval to deliver main battle tanks to Ukraine. A senior US official said the talks had been going on for a while but were “particularly intense over the past few weeks”. President Biden spoke by phone with Prime Minister Scholz. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley also spoke by phone with their German counterparts.

Russia - Ukraine battlefield.  Graphics: WP.

Russia – Ukraine battlefield. Graphics: WP.

US officials have not announced a specific deadline for delivering the M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, only saying that this will take months and progress on Leopard 2 will be faster.

Pentagon deputy spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said on January 26 that the process of delivering the tanks would take at least several months. The US Department of Defense will use funds from the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) to purchase tanks from the manufacturer General Dynamics.

The process of training Ukrainian soldiers to operate is expected to begin earlier, and the Pentagon is developing a training program. Doug Bush, assistant secretary of the Army in charge of procurement, said Ukrainian troops “show that they have the knowledge and ability to learn to operate new systems quickly”.

“We can often shorten and speed up what is involved in training Ukrainian soldiers. With enough motivation and the ability to reach them 24/7, we can train people quickly. US Army. know how to do it,” Bush said.

Nguyen Tien (Theo AP)

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