On September 20, a top US defence official stated that the US administration is considering transferring tanks to the Ukrainian army in the future.
This remark was made during a regular Pentagon press conference on the conflict between Russia and Ukraine on the same day.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian military troops have advanced in a massive counter-offensive that began four weeks ago, recapturing a significant chunk of the region.
The tank comes next after the rocket.
Foreign military aid packages containing ammunition and equipment, particularly systems such as high mobility rocket artillery, are at the root of Ukraine’s recent success (HIMARS).
“The tank was certainly on the table,” claimed a Pentagon official. He also stated that before US officials agree to equip Ukraine with these weaponry, the Ukrainian military must demonstrate its capacity to maintain Western tanks.
Ukraine recently proven its capacity to train soldiers and maintain the HIMARS system.
However, it is unclear what kind of tanks the US administration is willing to send to Ukraine. Commentators are currently speculating on the prospect of the US supplying Ukraine with the M1 Abrams tank.
A number of M1 variants are already available for export. However, these tanks for Ukraine are still fresh and have a greater capacity than the old Soviet tanks.
Perhaps the oldest tanks in the US Abrams tank inventory will be considered for “downgrade,” allowing the US President to transfer them straight to allies and partners.
Through a similar “downgrading” process, the US government recently gave billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine’s armed services.
Concerning current tanks, the US Marine Corps retired the complete fleet of M1 tanks, as well as M88 armoured vehicles and armoured vehicle support “bridges” (AVLBs) based on the M60 tank chassis, a few years ago. The vehicles decommissioned by the US Marine Corps have been given to the US Army. The US Army already has thousands of outdated M1s on hand.
At the same time, if Ukraine acquires the M1, it will face major maintenance and logistics issues due to the vehicle’s high fuel consumption and sophisticated gas turbine engine. Most Western and Soviet tanks are powered by more common diesel engines.
Rich sources from the US and NATO
In addition to the M1, the US may consider transferring to Ukraine the M1128 Stryker (MGS) mobile artillery system equipped with a 105mm cannon but not a tank.
The US Army has announced plans to phase out all M1128 vehicles by 2021, meaning that the vehicles could be ready for delivery to the Ukrainian military.
The M1128 vehicles can be very suitable for Ukraine in the present situation as they are simpler, easier to operate and maintain than the Abrams vehicles.
Sending the M1128 to Ukraine could be part of a larger effort by the US government to promote the delivery of older tanks with NATO-standard 105mm cannons to Ukraine. For example, there are still a number of American-made M60A3 Patton tanks in the stockpiles of some NATO countries – which can be significantly upgraded with modern sensors or other features. If necessary, US officials can ask other countries to donate those tanks to the Ukrainian army.
Recently, there has been discussion about the possibility of Germany sending old Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine, or approving the supply of Leopard 1 from third parties.
However, for now, German authorities continue to block any attempt to deliver Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine.
At a press conference on September 20, the above US defense official especially emphasized that US officials “have spent a lot of effort to encourage countries (mainly in Europe) if they still own tanks due to If the Soviet Union produces, please supply it to Ukraine. Ukraine is used to using tanks since the Soviet era.
Notably, Slovenia – a member of NATO, also announced on September 20 that it plans to deliver 28 M-55S tanks to Ukraine as part of an agreement to receive back 40 tanks from Germany to exchange. The M-55S is an upgraded version of the Soviet T-55 tank. Slovenian firm STO RAVNE partnered with Israeli defense contractor Elbeit to implement this upgrade package in the 1990s.
The M-55 is equipped with a 105mm NATO cannon instead of the original D-10T 100mm cannon. The vehicle has modernized optical and fire control systems, as well as the ability to equip explosive reactive armor (ERA). If this deal goes ahead, Ukraine will also have to start receiving NATO-standard 105mm tank ammunition.
Although there are many opinions that tanks are no longer suitable for the modern battlefield, tanks are still widely deployed by both sides in the Ukraine-Russia conflict. Even older armored vehicles are still useful.
Therefore, it is not a coincidence that the Ukrainian government still expects to receive tanks and armored vehicles.
In the context of Ukraine counter-attacking and wanting to retake the territory, they really need to add armored tanks to achieve that goal as well as make up for the number of vehicles lost in the fighting.