US, Germany help Ukraine to defend against Russia with tanks

The decision could be announced by the White House today.
Ameya Paleja
The M1 Abrams
The M1 Abrams

Anadolu Agency/Getty 

The U.S. government has principally agreed to send its Abrams tanks to Ukraine, paving the way for German tanks to be deployed in the conflict region, a CNN report said. This is a significant boost for the Ukrainian forces, who look forward to pushing back against the Russian aggression, which will soon complete a year.

Ukraine has been requesting more Western support in the form of tanks and aircraft since Russia invaded the country in February last year. While Western allies have supplied defense systems, they have refrained from supplying attack options such as tanks, fearing escalation of the conflict.

Although supplying tanks was never off the table, the U.S. has said that it will iteratively assess Ukraine's needs and make decisions based on the technical considerations around the operation and maintenance of its Abrams tanks. However, with Germany refusing to supply its tanks unless the U.S. does, the Biden government has now been forced to make an about-face from its earlier stance.

Hurdles in supplying Abrams tanks

Built by General Dynamics Land Systems, the M1 Abrams is a third-generation tank that boasts a computerized fire control system and composite armor and features a 120 mm gun from Rheinmetall. The tank weighing 70 tons, is powered by a multi-fuel turbine engine from Honeywell, making it tricky to own and operate from both a financial and logistical perspective.

In comparison, the Leopard 2 tank, the main battle tank of the German forces, is also a third-generation tank powered by a twin-turbo diesel engine. The tank also features a digital fire control system and an advanced night vision system but without the hassle of maintaining the jet engine that Abrams has.

The U.S. was hopeful that it could convince the German government to supply the Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, of which there are believed to be 2,000 units in Europe alone. However, Germany was not ready to commit its tanks to the Ukrainian effort unless the U.S. did so too. Reports suggest that the Biden government has now relented and will send 30 tanks to Ukraine. This will be accompanied by the supply of recovery vehicles that are necessary for the maintenance of the tanks on the battlefield or their removal to another location for repair purposes.

When will the tanks join the operation?

With Russia expected to launch fresh offensives in the spring of 2023, the supply of tanks provides Ukraine with an option to face the adversary head-on and even retake territories where Russians may have dug up defensive lines.

The U.S. has already started supplying Ukraine with refurbished T-72 tanks with Soviet origins. However, the M1 Abrams tanks are a generation ahead in terms of their ability, which also means that more time needs to be spent on training the troops.

Previous U.S. announcements, such as the PATRIOT air defense systems supply, are yet to translate onto the ground for Ukraine. The M1 Abrams tank supply is not expected to be any different. It could be months before the Ukrainians are able to deploy these tanks against the Russian offense.

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