Pentagon will expedite delivery of tanks, Patriot systems to Ukraine

The Pentagon is on track to send Abrams tanks and Patriot missile defense systems to Ukraine faster than originally planned, the Defense Department’s top spokesman said Tuesday. 

The department will send a refurbished older model of Abrams tanks to Ukraine to speed up its delivery of the weapon to the embattled country, press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters. The option will get the M1A1 Abrams to Ukraine by this fall versus the original plan, which involved building and shipping 31 of the newer M1A2 version of the tanks — a process that would have taken more than a year.

The decision, made in coordination with Ukraine, will “enable us to significantly expedite delivery timelines,” Ryder said, noting that “this is about getting this important combat capability into the hands of the Ukrainians sooner rather than later.” 

The M1A1s can be taken from Army stocks and will be easier for Ukrainian forces to learn to use and maintain compared to the M1A2 — a vehicle that is considered more lethal and runs on a digital system. 

Ryder stressed the older tanks will still have a “very similar capability” to the M1A2s, including “advanced armor and weapons systems to include a 120 mm cannon and .50-caliber heavy machine gun.”

In addition, Pentagon officials are “confident that we’ll be able to get the Patriots [to Ukraine] on a expedited timeline.” 

He would not say if the Patriot would make it to Kyiv ahead of its expected spring offensive, only allowing that the U.S. “made the commitment to provide them with this Patriot capability as quickly as we could, and so that’s what we’re endeavoring to do.” 

The U.S. military in mid-January began training a group Ukrainians to use the Patriot missile system at Fort Sill, Okla., after first promising the advanced weapon in December. 

The lessons, expected to last for several months, “went faster than expected” given the troops’ “propensity and their eagerness to do the training,” Ryder said.  

CNN reported earlier that 65 Ukrainian soldiers were set to complete their training in the next few days and would be sent to Europe to train on one American Patriot and one built by the Germans and Dutch meant to be deployed to Ukraine in the coming weeks. 

The Biden administration in January announced it would provide Ukraine with 31 Abrams tanks after pleas from Kyiv for the vehicles.  

US officials had initially insisted the tanks were too complicated and costly for Ukraine to maintain and repair but acquiesced to pave the way for a political agreement to have Germany allow its Leopard 2 tanks to be sent to the country. 

But military officials later warned the tanks would not reach the battlefield this year due to the time it takes to build and ship the tanks and train Ukrainian soldiers on the weapon.  

The sped-up delivery announcements come ahead of Ukraine’s planned spring offensive against Russian forces. 

Tags Defense Department Pat Ryder Russia-Ukraine war Ukraine

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