Morning Intelligence Report
MG Paul Vallely, US Army (Ret)
Stripped-Down Abrams Tanks Won’t Help Ukraine as They’re Too Advanced to Use
July 30, 2023
© Sputnik International / Sergey Melkonov
Despite their advanced technology, the General Dynamics M1 Abrams tank is unlikely to impact Ukraine’s conflict substantially; an expert told Sputnik. On the contrary, its high tech is exactly what will stop the Ukrainians from maximizing its effectiveness.
Reports in US media in recent days have indicated that donations of the much-vaunted M1A1 Abrams main battle tank, the mainstay of the US Army, will begin arriving in Ukraine in the coming months. Concomitantly, a maintenance facility for the advanced vehicles is set to open in Poland, ostensibly to service Abrams tanks sold to Warsaw to replace the Leopard 2 tanks it previously gave to Ukraine.
It was previously reported that delivery of the Abrams tanks, which were initially promised in January, would take months to be adapted for export to Ukraine due to their secret advanced technology. In particular, the Abrams used by the US military has a unique type of depleted uranium-based armor that is so secret even its troops cannot see the inside of the armor without proper clearance.
Michael Maloof, the former senior security policy analyst in the Office of the US Secretary of Defense, told Sputnik that the Abrams tanks are highly complex machines requiring specialized training and tools, which the Ukrainian Army is not ready to handle.
“On our tanks in the US Army, they have the latest technologies. It’s an element of export control, a question of insuring against the latest technology, possibly getting into the wrong hands if the tanks are captured, for example,” he said. “The US does not want Russia to exploit whatever technologies are on it.”
“Also, the level of technology on some of these vehicles is quite high. And therefore, the United States does not believe the Ukrainians can master that type of equipment in such a short period. This equipment of it can be very sophisticated if you will. So, it’s just a question of the ability of the Ukrainians to be able to not only handle it but master it, especially in a wartime situation. If they’re under fire, it’s got to become second nature technology, which is all brand new to them. And the Abrams is a highly technical machine anyway. Unless they’re brought on and trained with it repeatedly, their ability to sustain the tank’s integrity without it getting destroyed is meager.”
“The tank is highly sophisticated, and the ability of the Abrams to maneuver and get around is somewhat limited by the ability of its fuel supplies to keep up with it. It guzzles jet fuel. It takes jet fuel. It may take some kerosene, some gasoline in a pinch, and diesel. But it’s primarily run most efficiently on jet fuel. Given the terrain conditions, I think they’re going to be limited,” he said, comparing it to being put behind the wheel of a Lamborghini sports car when one has only ever driven a Volkswagen commuter car.
“So, I think it’s going to be a big leap for them to go from training in a very short time to actual combat and being able to master that.”
The former Pentagon expert said that if the Ukrainian Abrams crews aren’t careful, their tanks could suffer the same fate as the Leopard 2s given to them by European states, despite their superior technology and defenses.
“It depends upon the crew’s proficiency and familiarity with the equipment. As I said, the Abrams is more sophisticated than any other tank. And therefore, given the supposedly high technology levels, they not only have to master that, but the crews must also master tactics on the battlefield dealing with things. And there are armaments they can destroy; it has some pretty good armaments on it.
But some missiles can penetrate the armor of the Abrams tanks from a very long distance. And Abrams has a few vulnerabilities that I’m aware of, and if they’re hit just right, then you can knock the Abrams out. The armor is tough. But there are some armaments, a Javelin [anti-tank missile], for example, could destroy an Abrams. It’s just one example.”
Mr. Maloof is also the Director of the Legacy National Security Group.