There's a catch with the M1s going to Ukraine...
OK, What’s the Catch?
We’ve undoubtedly committed the tanks to Ukraine, but don’t expect to see them there anytime soon. We are not providing the M1A2s from our existing inventory of tanks; the Ukrainians will get shiny (OK, dull OD green ones, actually) new ones fresh off the assembly line. It could be several months before tanks can be assembled and shipped overseas to the warzone. And we can make them in only one place; a government-owned General Dynamics-operated plant in Lima, Ohio.
Building a tank is slow going, and the Ohio facility can only put out a dozen new units per month. But wait, there’s more holding up the delivery. The assembly line is now full, fulfilling orders for Poland and Taiwan. These are paying customers; we can’t exactly toss them to the back of the line and throw them on the proverbial backburner. Poland has ordered an impressive 250 M1A2s at a cost of at least $9 million each (who says war isn’t big business?). They are supposed to be delivered in 2025. Politico
tells us that, in the meantime, we are supplying the Poles with over 100 M1A1 tanks recently retired by the Marine Corps. You see, Warsaw needs them to replace the more than 250 old T-72 tanks they gave to Ukraine last year.
The Taiwanese placed their order for 108 M1A2 Abrams in 2019, anticipating possible future issues with mainland China. The first of these units was supposed to be delivered in 2024. Things are starting to get a bit sticky, and someone has to decide who gets what and when.
Abrams tanks are no longer “stick-built” from the ground up. Instead, “seed vehicles” are used. These seed vehicles are bare-bones A1 tanks that General Dynamics modifies to meet the customer’s needs. Each one is custom-built according to the technology and armaments that the customer chooses.
An M1A2 Abrams is unloaded from a C17 in Bulgaria in June 2015. It was later used in the joint training exercise Operation Speed and Power. US Army photo by Spc. Jacqueline Dowland, 13th Public Affairs Detachment. DVIDS
Why Don’t We Send Them What We Already Have?
Great question. I was just wondering that. Wouldn’t it be easier to send them the M1A2 Abrams from our existing inventory and slowly replenish our stockpiles, as we are not currently at war? Yes, it would, but it would also be against the law. US federal law prohibits the export of tanks with classified armor packages. This includes those that utilize depleted uranium as a critical component. So, we strip off all of the high-speed classified stuff and custom-make the new tanks for export to our allies. This takes time. Time that the Ukrainians can ill afford.
What are the Ukrainians to do in the many months it will take to build and ship their tanks? We plan to begin training them on the care and maintenance of the tanks they do not yet have, and we will be teaching them how to operate the vehicles individually and instruct their leaders in American combined arms maneuver tactics.
The Biden administration has decided to provide the Ukrainian armed forces with 31 M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks, a stunning reversal of policy. The new tanks will be custom-made for export and will take several months to assemble and ship, as the assembly line is currently full with orders from...