Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters the original plan to send the M1A1 Abrams tanks through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which involves purchasing and building new vehicles, would have taken a year or longer.
Instead, the U.S. will send over refurbished older models of Abrams tanks, which will place the main battle tanks in Kyiv’s hands sometime in the fall.
“This is about getting this important combat capability into the hands of the Ukrainians sooner rather than later,” Ryder said.
The decision was made in coordination with Ukraine. The older models are still advanced and come with 120 mm cannons and .50-caliber heavy machine guns.
President Biden in January pledged the U.S. would send 31 Abrams to Ukraine, part of a major agreement with Germany to get Ukraine modern tanks after political pressure to supply the heavy vehicles.
Ryder also announced the expedited distribution of the Patriot missile defense system, first promised when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Washington in December.
Ryder did not say whether the system would be in Ukraine ahead of an expected spring counteroffensive.
Since January, a group of dozens of Ukrainians have been training in Fort Sill, Okla., on the Patriot system, and they are expected to wrap up sooner than expected.
The Ukrainian group will then head to Europe to train on one American Patriot system and another built by the Germans and Dutch, which will be deployed to Ukraine in the coming weeks.
Check out the latest Ukraine war coverage at The Hill’s defense page.