Washington — President Biden announced Wednesday that the US will send 31 frontline teamsto Ukraine, fulfilling a key request from Kyiv that will provide a major boost to Ukrainian firepower in the coming months.
“Today I am announcing that the United States will send 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, the equivalent of a Ukrainian battalion,” Biden said at the White House, flanked by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. The security package is worth about $400 million, the Pentagon said.
The move comes after Germany said it14 of its own Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and allowing Western partners to re-export theirs, a move Biden praised. France, the United Kingdom, Finland, the Netherlands and other nations are also sending key security assistance, Biden noted, stressing that the US move is part of a concerted effort by Western allies.
According to a recent analysis by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, around 100 tanks would be needed to have a significant effect on the fighting. A growing coalition of donor countries would make that goal possible: “The more countries donate tanks, the easier it will be to share the burden of giving them away,” the European Council on Foreign Relations declared.
This is what the allies are sending.
As Germany’s main battle tank, the third-generation Leopard 2 is one of the most commissioned tanks worldwide, used in more than a dozen other European countries and deployed in conflict zones such as Kosovo, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Syria. . First developed in 1979, the state-built vehicle reaches speeds of 42mph and is equipped with a 120mm smoothbore cannon as its main armament, as well as two coaxial light machine guns. Touted as having optimal maneuverability by its manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, it also provides full protection against IEDs, mines, or anti-tank fire.
“These are the Mercedes BMW supertanks of the world,” Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a former commanding officer of the British CBRN Military Regiment, told CBS News. “I would like at least 10 or 15 T-72 survivors to take on one of them,” he said, referring to the Soviet/Russian models.
Aside from the wide availability of the Leopard 2, which extends to neighboring Poland, the tank’s minimum training requirements could prove more attractive to Ukraine.
“These tanks are that the tank was designed for recruits to be very easy to use,” said of Bretton-Gordon, comparing the tank’s controls to a ’90s PlayStation video game console, “You’ve got kind of a controller in your hand , you basically have three buttons: you just need to press them in the right order, point the gun at your target, and the tank does everything else.”
So far, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has approved the deployment of 14 Leopard 2 tanks and related munitions from his national stockpiles, as well as the training necessary to operate them on the battlefield.
Known for its stabilized gun and accuracy, the US main battle tank, the M1 Abrams, also features a variety of crew protection capabilities designed to defend against chemical, biological, and nuclear attacks. The third-generation tank, which has been exported to militaries including Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Australia and Iraq, sports a 120mm gun and a lighter turbine engine. Entering service in 1980, the tank “continues to face the new and emerging threats associated with the next generation of warfare,” according to its manufacturer. General Dynamics Ground Systems.
Last week, US officials said the complexity of the tank could pose a problem in Ukraine, with Under Secretary of Defense Colin Kahl“It’s expensive. It’s hard to train on… It’s not the easiest system to maintain.”
However, de Bretton-Gordon said that the Abrams is similar in ease of use and efficiency to its Western counterparts, with a marginal increase in fuel required. Many people talk about the Abrams being a big tank, he said, “but it’s marginally bigger than the Leopard and about the same size as the Challenger 2.”
In service with the armies of the United Kingdom and Oman, the British Challenger 2 is a third generation tank designed and built by BAE Systems, officially entering service in 1994 and having been deployed in military operations including Eastern Europe and Iraq, as well as NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence in the Baltic States. Reaching top speeds of 37 mph and equipped with a 55-caliber long tank gun, chain gun, and machine gun, its primary role is to “destroy or neutralize armor,” according to its manufacturer.
The UK’s own Ministry of Defense has described the tanks as “unrivaled in their ability to put extreme pressure on the enemy”, stating that they have repelled rapid and fully engaged advances. An even earlier version, the Challenger 1, is believed to hold the record for longest-range tank-to-tank kills in history, with the vehicle destroying an Iraqi tank at a range of three miles during the first Gulf War.
Earlier this month, the UK became the first Western country to agree to send its tanks to Ukraine, with Downing Street announcing the shipment of 14 Challenger 2s along with other military equipment after a meeting between Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.