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US M1A1 Abrams MBTs officially join Ukrainian army's arsenal

In an interview with Voice of America on October 16, 2023, Colonel Martin O’Donnell, a spokesperson for US Army Europe and Africa, confirmed that all 31 M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) promised to Ukraine by the Biden administration have been delivered, along with ammunition and spare tank parts, as suspected in this previous article dated on August 8, 2023. Ukrainian personnel, who received training alongside US forces in Germany, have also returned to Ukraine, prepared to operate the newly acquired tanks.
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A US M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank from the 9th Marine Regiment fires a 120mm round during a live-fire range in Djibouti, Africa, in 2010. (Picture source: US DoD)

The Abrams tanks will join a roster of other Western-manufactured tanks already supplied to Ukraine, including the Swedish Stridsvagn 122, German Leopard 2A4 and 2A6, and British Challenger 2.

With the tanks now in Ukraine's possession, the responsibility of deciding when and where to deploy this new capability falls on the Ukrainian authorities. However, this decision-making process may take some time as Ukrainian military strategists assess their support infrastructure and develop effective deployment strategies against Russian forces. It is essential to note that the strategic choices made by Ukraine will be the determining factor in the outcome of this conflict, and the tanks must operate in sync with infantry and other military assets for maximum effectiveness.

The initial delivery of the 31 American-made Abrams tanks took place earlier than anticipated, with pieces of information emerging as early as September 25, 2023. This timely delivery provides Ukraine with the potential to utilize the tanks in its counteroffensive against Russian forces before the onset of winter.

Currently, Ukrainian forces are confronting well-fortified Russian positions along a substantial frontline. The introduction of Abrams tanks is expected to furnish additional firepower to assist in navigating these fortified positions.

Despite the early arrival of the Abrams tanks in Ukraine, uncertainties persist due to the refurbishment process, which includes the removal of sensitive technologies, such as classified depleted uranium armor, from the older vehicles. Recent events have shown that Russian forces have successfully destroyed Western-supplied tanks like the Challenger 2 and Leopard 2A4.

As reported on September 25, 2023, the Russians have already begun sharing guidelines and strategies for countering the US-made Abrams tanks with anti-tank-guided missiles (ATGMs). While it's expected that an Abrams tank will eventually be hit in the course of the conflict, its crew will have a better chance of survival compared to older Soviet tanks.

The M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank represents a significant evolution from the earlier M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank (MBT). Produced from August 1985 to early 1993 under the oversight of General Dynamics Land Systems, this version incorporates several improvements, including updates to its suspension system, enhanced armor protection, and a redesigned turret gun mount. With over 4,796 units manufactured for the U.S. Army and an additional 221 for the U.S. Marines, it has become a standard main battle tank for the U.S. armed forces. Other nations, including Egypt, Australia, Iraq, Poland, and now Ukraine, have also integrated this armored vehicle into their tank fleets.

From a technical standpoint, the M1A1 Abrams features firepower, including the 120mm M256 smoothbore gun as its primary armament. This cannon can utilize various types of ammunition, including depleted uranium armor-piercing rounds. The tank is also equipped with auxiliary weaponry, including a coaxial machine gun and an anti-aircraft machine gun. Its armor protection includes Chobham composite armor with integrated depleted uranium plates, offering defense against both kinetic energy and chemical energy threats.

The tank's mobility is a key feature, powered by a Honeywell AGT 1500 gas turbine engine, the M1A1 can achieve speeds of up to 68 km/h, facilitating mobility across diverse terrains. It can handle steep gradients, water obstacles, and trenches. Additionally, the tank is outfitted with accessories, including a fire control system, laser range finder, night vision equipment, thermal sight, NBC (Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical) protection, and an automatic fire extinguishing system.


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