The delivery of the first batch of US-made M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine has faced many debates about the impact of this weapon on battlefield realities.
About 200 Ukrainian soldiers will be trained for 10-12 weeks to operate and repair Abrams tanks, much shorter than the 22 weeks the US military spends training its crews and the 34 weeks instructing operators how to repair tanks. President Volodymyr Zelensky on September 25 announced that Ukraine had received the first M1 Abrams tanks from the US, expressing gratitude to the allies for fulfilling their commitments. Previously, Washington committed to providing Kiev with 31 Abrams main battle tanks.
The delivery of the first batch of US-made M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine has faced many debates about the impact of this weapon on battlefield realities. Russian and Western military experts point out many problems facing the Abrams, from their weight, size and complexity, to the possible threat they face from drones, artillery and Russian tanks.
Expert Yann Boivin, former commander of a Leclerc tank regiment, said that Abrams tanks will be less effective on the battlefield if not maintained promptly and properly. “The limitation of American tanks is their high level of maintenance and logistics requirements. Turbine engine maintenance requires experienced personnel,” according to Mr. Boivin, emphasizing that problems with gaskets in ammunition compartments and vulnerability to enemy fire are also two Big problem for Abrams tanks.
Former commander of US troops in Europe Mark Hertling warned that if the Abrams engine is used incorrectly, the tank could explode. The 31 Abrams the US said it supplied to Ukraine were modified compared to the tanks operated by the US military. According to Sputnik, perhaps because the US is worried that its tanks will fall into Russian hands and the secrets of this machine will be revealed.
American media assessed that the expedited approach of NATO countries in training Ukrainian soldiers to use equipment provided by the military alliance to Kiev has led to poor equipment maintenance. This will cause a higher rate of failure and malfunction of systems inside the weapon.
“It was supposed to take 8 months to train, but Ukraine wanted to do it in 12 weeks, which means only 3 months. This is beyond imagination,” Viktor Litovkin, a retired Russian army colonel, replied when asked about the practicality of training soldiers to use Abrams in such a short period of time. “Even the best, fastest trained soldiers cannot master this tank in 3 months, because they have never used a similar vehicle before,” Mr. Litovkin said, emphasizing that the Soviet-era tanks that Ukraine often uses have a very different operating principle than NATO tanks.
According to Mr. Litovkin, the language barrier is also a significant challenge when Ukrainian soldiers operate Abrams, everything inside the tank is in English. Mr. Litovkin also pointed out that Ukrainian soldiers may suffer casualties in future battles. “So who will replace them?” Mr. Litovkin emphasized.
“It is very likely that these tanks will be operated by Western mercenaries. Not necessarily from the US, but from any other country that has used Abrams tanks, such as Poland,” Mr. Litovkin said. This is not unprecedented. Last weekend, Russian forces reported destroying a Leopard tank supplied by Germany to Ukraine, in Zaporozhye, manned by a German-speaking crew.
Mr. Litovkin said that Ukraine not only has difficulties in operating Abrams tanks, but also in maintenance. “The Abrams is a very erratic tank, with a high-performance gas turbine engine that uses jet fuel and armor that is often affected by unique technical problems.”
“Where will Ukraine get fuel? The Abrams tank must be cleaned regularly because its filter is erratic with dirt accumulating in the fall and winter months. Not to mention this tank is very massive, weighing more than 70 tons. Bridges in Ukraine can hardly support this weight. In addition, Abrams tanks can get stuck in mud, especially in the fall. Meanwhile, Russian tanks are 20 tons lighter, so they don’t have much difficulty moving on the battlefield,” Mr. Litovkin said.
When Abrams tanks are damaged or stuck on the battlefield, they can immediately become targets for the Russian military: anti-tank missiles, mortars, artillery and suicide UAVs. “So I think Abrams tanks will not play an important role in modern warfare,” Mr. Litovkin said.
The Abrams has seen action in various military operations, including Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf, Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and Iraqi Freedom in Iraq. During Desert Storm, it proved its effectiveness by taking out Soviet-made Т-72 tanks. A 1992 report from the US Government Accountability Office revealed that out of nearly 2,000 Abrams tanks deployed in the operation, only 23 were lost, with seven falling victim to friendly fire and two deliberately destroyed to prevent them from falling into enemy hands.