Arrival of Abrams tanks in Ukraine will bring powerful new weapon to the battlefield

RAMSTEIN, Germany – US-made Abrams battle tanks will arrive in Ukraine soon, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said Tuesday, finally bringing a powerful new weapon to the battlefield in a bid to help Ukraine advance in its slow-moving counteroffensive against Russia.

Speaking to 50 defence ministers and other top officials assembled in Ramstein, Germany, for the 15th meeting of what is known as the Ukraine Defence Contract Group, Mr Austin also reiterated that the United States would train Ukraine’s pilots on F-16 warplanes, and urged allies to move faster to provide air defence and produce ammunition that Ukraine’s forces desperately needed on the battlefield.

Ukraine’s key needs right now are air defence, ammunition, 155mm artillery rounds and mechanised armour, Mr Austin said, and he asked the contact group to “dig deep.”

He repeated British estimates that Russian attacks on Ukraine’s ports and storage facilities have so far destroyed 280,000 tons of grain, which he said was enough to feed 10.5 million people for one year.

Ukraine has been eagerly anticipating the arrival of the M1 Abrams tanks since the Biden administration agreed in January to donate 31 of them, especially as Ukraine’s forces begin to penetrate minefields and other obstacles.

On the timing, Mr Austin said only that they would “be entering Ukraine soon,” comporting with Pentagon estimates that they would arrive by the fall.

US troops have been training Ukrainian crews on the sophisticated tanks in 12-week stints since spring, but the tanks had not yet been delivered as of Monday, a senior US military official said.

The official said that some of the tanks would reach Ukraine within days. The rest would be delivered in the coming weeks, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details that have not been formally announced.

They will be a much-welcomed but small addition to a ground war that so far has chewed up at least 648 of Ukraine’s tanks – including at least 17 manufactured in the West, according to Oryx, a military analysis site that counts only losses it has visually confirmed.

Over the past six months, several European countries have sent dozens of German-made Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine, and Britain delivered at least 14 of its Challenger 2 tanks in the spring.

Ukraine had said it needed at least 300 tanks from Western benefactors, but it has so far received only about half that number, said Colonel Markus Reisner, who is closely monitoring the war at Austria’s main military training academy.

By comparison, officials have estimated that Russia is manufacturing about 200 tanks each year.

“That is the problem,” Col Reisner said this week. “Either the West delivers or it will be tricky.”

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