In a significant policy shift, the Biden Administration plans to send M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine. The Abrams will provide Ukrainian forces with modern heavy firepower against Russian military assets. Currently, Ukraine relies on Soviet-era tanks and does not have any modern European or U.S. tanks in its arsenal.
Strike Source spoke to a commander of a specialist unit in Eastern Ukraine about the development.
“This is good for us. We have a problem with Soviet tanks because we don’t have the ammunition for them,” the commander said. “So with these tanks, we cannot shoot often. And we only have our T-64, T-72, and then a few other tanks we produced at our Kharkiv plant. These two tanks are almost the same, the T-64 is older, but the combat module is slightly better and has a higher rate of fire.”
During the war, the commander has seen Russian forces using the T-64 and T-72 the most. However, he mentioned that T-90, which Russia produced in 1992, is in Ukraine. “I’ve seen them using the T-90 shooting at our positions. But most of the time, they are using the T-64 and T-72. The Russians can continue to lose tanks, and they still have thousands more in storage.” T-90 variants are also used by India, Algeria, and Azerbaijan.
He has some concerns over Ukraine’s lack of infrastructure to repair the tanks.
“We don’t have infrastructure and repair specialists for these tanks. We don’t have many guys who have experience with European or U.S. tanks, so that will be a little challenge for us.”
A current M1 Tank Platoon Sergeant told Strike Source how much of an advantage the M1 has over the T-64.
“The new variant of the M1 would win hands down. Targeting system is far superior, engagement and range and crew tactics are a big factor. The T-64 has the advantage on traveling range and maneuverability.”
“The auto loader of the T-64 is known to have some issues as well causing the platform to go down and be unable to fire, vs. the M1 which uses a trained crew member to select and load the gun.”
In addition, there are worries that Russia could potentially get a hold of an Abrams. A former tanker and U.S. Green Beret told Strike Source. “I don’t think we need to be sending our tanks to Ukraine. If the Russians get a hold of one, that would not be good for our tankers. No reason to give up our technology.”
The Russian State has a history of targeting U.S. defense technology. In February 2022, The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) released an alert about Russian State-Sponsored Cyber Actors targeting Cleared Defense Contractors (CDCs) to obtain “sensitive data about U.S. defense and intelligence programs.”
Earlier this month, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov reacted to the news of Britain’s plans to send tanks to Ukraine, saying the tanks will “burn just like the rest.” The Kremlin has yet to comment on the Biden’s Administration’s policy shift.
The M1 Abrams will increase the Ukrainian military’s capability to counter Russian forces on the battlefield. The tank will give Ukrainian forces an advantage over the T-64. But without the resources in place for needed maintenance on the Abrams, Ukraine likely faces significant challenges in sustaining its new military assets. Further, depending on the number of Abrams Ukraine receives, that advantage may be short-lived.
Ukraine’s successful use of the Abrams against Russian tanks in Ukraine could also be viewed as an escalation by the Russian State, increasing tensions with the U.S.
We assess that the Biden Administration will continue to back Ukraine with major military aid and that we could potentially see other major weapons systems and assistance in the future.