Pentagon spokesperson Patrick Ryder confirmed on March 21 that the U.S. would supply Ukraine with 31 M1-A1 Abrams tanks instead of the newer M1-A2 version it had pledged before, according to CNN.
The U.S. official said this decision would allow his country to deliver the tanks to Ukraine by the fall of 2023.
Washington will also send Ukraine “advanced armor and weapons systems” that are “very similar capability” to the M1-A2, including a 50-caliber heavy machine gun and 120mm cannon, Ryder added, as quoted by CNN.
Earlier the same day, the Associated Press reported the U.S. Defense Department had made such a decision regarding Abrams, citing unnamed officials.
According to the AP sources, it would be easier for Ukrainian troops to learn how to use and maintain the M1A1 than the more modern version of Abrams tanks.
U.S. President Joe Biden announced the decision to send Abrams tanks to Ukraine in late January after U.S. lawmakers’ call to give Kyiv the tanks to push Germany to authorize the delivery of German-made Leopard tanks.
Compared with Soviet tanks, which Ukraine and Russia currently use on the battlefield, the mobility and firepower of Western equipment could help Ukraine launch more counteroffensive operations.