US to train Ukrainian forces on Abrams tanks next month


The U.S. will begin training Ukrainian forces next month on how to operate Abrams tanks on the battlefield against Russia before the end of the summer.

Thirty-one US M1A1 Abrams tanks – the size of a Ukrainian tank battalion – will be sent in mid-May to Grafenwoehr, Germany, where about 250 Ukrainians will undergo a 10-week training course with US troops, a US official told reporters traveling. With Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

The tanks are a long-awaited capability for Ukraine, which has been fighting Russia for more than a year.

Although the U.S. initially said it would send new M1A2 versions of the tanks, officials announced in March that the Ukrainians would receive the M1A1, dramatically accelerating the timeline for delivering the tanks.

“Allies and a group of allies have provided a total of $55 billion in security assistance to Ukraine, including more than 230 tanks and more than 1,550 armored vehicles and other equipment,” Austin said Friday at the Ukraine Security Liaison Group in Ramstein, Germany.

“All of this is tremendous progress,” Austin said with Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley. “And I am confident that this equipment and the training that accompanies it will enable Ukraine’s forces to continue to succeed on the battlefield.”

In addition to the US-supplied tanks, Ukraine will also receive German Panther 2 tanks and British Challengers.

On Friday, Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said Poland would host a maintenance center for the Leopard 2 tanks.

“Modern Western technology will result in Moscow’s defeat. The sooner that happens, the sooner peace will come,” Reznikov added.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said the tank hub would cost about 150-200 million euros (about $164-219 million) a year and could be ready by the end of May.

The armor capability adds a powerful ground component to Ukrainian troops that have already endured more than a year of combat. But tanks do not have an immediate impact on the battlefield, given the time it takes to train in Western armor and the significant logistical demands of operating complex systems.

“They said, ‘Give them the destroyed tanks!’ There’s no way you’ve seen the choreography to do this job on the battlefield,” retired Army Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, former commander of U.S. Army Europe, previously told CNN. “In war, get some things wrong, and it leads to disaster and failure. Dangerous tanks become pillboxes that don’t move or fire.

About 8,800 Ukrainian troops have already returned to Ukraine after completing training in Germany, Colonel Martin O’Donnell, spokesman for US Army Europe and Africa, said in a statement on Friday. Currently, approximately 2,250 Ukrainians are undergoing combined arms training in Germany.

“Putin thought he could easily overthrow the democratically elected government of Kyiv. He thought the wider world would free him. He thought our unity would be torn apart,” Austin said of the Russian leader. “But he was wrong — on every count.”

I amIn Germany on Friday, Milli said the tanks that will be training in May are “not combat-capable” and will be used “to train the crew on how to fire, maneuver and maintain.”

While Milley said he believed the tanks would be “very effective” on the battlefield against Russia, he emphasized that they would be a very useful part of the equation.

“The consequences of wars are wars and wars are a function of many, many variables,” Milley said. “And in this case, you have to make sure that your tanks are used in combined arms with mechanized infantry, artillery, all synchronized with the dismounted forces, so there’s no silver bullet in this case, but I do. When the M1 tank is delivered and it reaches its operational capability, it will be very effective on the battlefield.” Think about it.

At a meeting on Friday, Reznikov said his country had been given the “green light” for “closer cooperation” with NATO’s procurement agency.

“Ukraine has achieved unprecedented interoperability with NATO. We are, in practice, already part of the alliance’s security space,” Reznikov said. “I believe this will speed up political decisions regarding our country’s NATO integration.”

Milli said Friday that Ukraine’s military “continues to perform well” in its fight against Russia.

“Russia continues to push hard for its war of choice,” he said. “Unlike the Ukrainian forces, to fight for their country, to fight for their freedom, their democracy and their way of life, the Russians lack leadership, they lack the will, morale is poor, morale is crumbling.”

This story has been updated with additional reporting

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