Ukraine will have to wait months for the promised 31 M1 Abrams tanks since the Pentagon does not have enough of the essential vehicles in its own arsenal to dispatch immediately, according to Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh.
While the White House has stated that Ukraine needs more advanced weaponry to prepare for a new Russian onslaught expected this spring, US tanks will not arrive in eastern Europe until the anticipated drive has passed.
“We just don’t have these tanks available in excess in our US stocks, which is why it is going to take months to transfer these M1A2 Abrams to Ukraine,” Singh said, referencing the specific newer version of the tank the US will send.
Officials at the White House warned Wednesday that it may take up to a year for President Biden’s publicly pledged tanks to arrive in Kyiv since they would be acquired new using Congressionally approved funding as part of the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative.
Watch The Full Promise Of The Tanks Here:
While the Pentagon generally takes about four days to prepare and transfer weapons from US stocks to Ukraine, those procured through the USAI program might take months — or even years — to deliver as the government chooses and employs defense contractors who then develop the weapons from the ground up.
The US statement came on the same day that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz declared his government would deliver Ukraine 14 Leopard 2 battle tanks, ending weeks of speculation that Berlin would not guarantee its tanks unless the US did.
The Pentagon had previously indicated reservations about sending the M1, which is now possibly the most aggressive weapon Washington has promised Kiev since Russia invaded Ukraine 11 months ago.
On Jan. 19, Singh had said, “it just doesn’t make sense to deliver [M1s] to the Ukrainians at this juncture” when asked about the proposed shipment. The US tank’s gas turbine engine, unlike the diesel engines used by the Leopard and Challenger, poses logistical issues, according to the spokeswoman at the time.
On Thursday, Singh reiterated her previous remarks but denied that the Biden administration chose to exploit the USAI program to delay the delivery of the tanks.
“We are using the USAI to show a long-term commitment,” Singh said. “It’s not about delay; we just do not have these Abrams available in our stocks to give the Ukrainians at this time.”
Despite the logistical obstacles, Singh said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin supported sending the Abrams nevertheless after partners and allies committed to sending “urgent capabilities that could be pushed to the battlefield” at the US-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group conference in Germany on Friday.
Defense officials have refused to specify how many heavy battle tanks the United States presently possesses. Since the end of its withdrawal from Afghanistan on August 30, 2021, the military has been engaged in peacetime operations.
On Wednesday, a senior White House official said that “we’re talking months as opposed to weeks” for the tanks to be ready for deployment.
“If we do not have [them] readily within US stocks, then we go the procurement route to make sure that we can procure the right capability for Ukraine and that is what we’re doing here with the Abrams in terms of sustainment maintenance, training, these are all really important considerations,” the official added.
The Pentagon did not specify how long it would take the military sector to manufacture the 31 US tanks, which are exceedingly sophisticated and weigh approximately 45 tons each.
Singh stated that the Department of Defense would use the waiting period to create a training course to teach Ukrainian forces how to operate the M1s.