WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army is weighing how to get M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, but they may not even arrive until next year, the service’s secretary said Thursday.
U.S. President Joe Biden announced in January he would send 31 General Dynamics Land Systems-made tanks to Ukraine, reversing course after Germany cleared the way for Europe to send its own main battle tanks.
While the capability is meant to strengthen Ukraine’s defenses against its Russian invaders for an anticipated onslaught this spring, Abrams tanks will likely not reach the country before then.
“We’re looking at what’s the fastest way we can get the tanks to the Ukrainians,” Christine Wormuth told reporters at a Thursday breakfast. “It’s not going to be a matter of weeks.”
“None of the options that we’re exploring are weeks or two months,” she continued. “There are longer timelines involved, but I think there are options that are less than two years, less than a year-and-a-half.”
It’s still to be determined, according to Wormuth, whether tanks could arrive by the end of the year.
“There are a variety of different ways” to produce the tanks, she said, from building them “from scratch” like the U.S. is doing for Poland, to drawing from U.S. inventory, many of which are refurbished older tanks.
Wormuth noted that it’s not just delivering the Abrams tanks, but also support equipment like recovery vehicles, ammunition and a training package. “There’s a lot of details still that need to be worked out,” she said.
The Army will present the options to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who will then share them with Biden, who will make the final decision, according to Wormuth.
Last year, Poland and the U.S. reached an agreement for the country to acquire 250 upgraded M1A2 Abrams tanks to be delivered in the 2025-2026 time frame, and last month Poland’s defense minister signed another deal to buy a second batch totaling an additional 116. Poland is the first European ally to buy Abrams tanks.
“There are other [Foreign Military Sales] cases with other countries,” Wormuth said.
Other Abrams tank operators include Australia, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Taiwan, which began receiving its tanks in the summer of 2022.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.