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AP: Ukraine pulls US Abrams tanks from battlefield amid Russian drone threat

by Abbey Fenbert April 26, 2024 4:20 AM 3 min read
Mine roller on a U.S. M1 Abrams tank supplied to Ukraine, July 14, 2023, in Bavaria. (Matthias Merz/picture alliance via Getty Images)
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Ukrainian forces have pulled U.S.-provided Abrams M1A1 battle tanks from the front lines due to the high risk of detection by Russian drones, two U.S. military officials told the Associated Press (AP) on April 25.

The U.S. announced in January 2023 that it would send Ukraine 31 M1 Abrams tanks, a force equivalent to one Ukrainian battalion. Officials confirmed in October 2023 that all 31 vehicles had been delivered.

According to the U.S. officials who spoke to the AP, Russian surveillance drones and hunter-killer drones have changed the situation on the ground substantially, increasing the vehicles' risk of detection.

Five of the 31 Abrams tanks have already been lost on the battlefield, they said.

The concentration of drones means "there isn't open ground that you can just drive across without fear of detection," one senior military official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

For the time being, the Abrams tanks have been removed from the front lines. The U.S. and Ukraine will work together to change tactics, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Adm. Christopher Grady told the AP.

What will it take for Ukraine to maintain and operate the M1 Abrams?
The Ukrainian military has passed another milestone by starting to master the M1 Abrams, the top-notch main battle tank to be provided by the U.S. According to the Pentagon, some 400 Ukrainians are training for the job at U.S. Army bases in Germany. After many months of deliberations

"When you think about the way the fight has evolved, massed armor in an environment where unmanned aerial systems are ubiquitous can be at risk," Grady said.

"Now, there is a way to do it. We'll work with our Ukrainian partners, and other partners on the ground, to help them think through how they might use that, in that kind of changed environment now, where everything is seen immediately."

Officials also said that the drone threat is not the only issue, and that Ukraine needs to adopt new tactics that will make the Abrams tanks more effective in the field.

The U.S. provided Ukrainians with training on tank operation at the Grafenwoehr Army base in Germany in spring 2023. This included training on using the Abrams vehicles in combined arms warfare.

The defense officials said that since last spring, Ukrainian forces have only made limited use of the Abrams tanks and have not taken advantage of combined arms warfare tactics.

The officials spoke to reporters about the status of U.S. weapons in Ukraine on the eve of the April 26 Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting. The summit will mark the coalition's two-year anniversary.

When and how will US aid impact the front lines in Ukraine?
After almost seven months of delays, the U.S. Congress finally approved $61 billion in aid for Kyiv, mostly in the form of military assistance. The legislation was promptly signed by U.S. President Joe Biden, and shortly after, the Pentagon announced the first defense package of $1 billion, contain…
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