Huntsville, Ala. — Supplying Ukraine with M1A1 Abrams tanks won’t impact the schedules to build tanks for any other customers at the production line in Lima, Ohio, Gabe Camarillo, the Army’s under secretary, confirmed in an exclusive interview with Defense News at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Global Force Symposium.
The Army and Abrams manufacturer General Dynamics Land System have “been working on this very carefully with all stakeholders,” Camarillo said.
The Pentagon announced last week it will speed up its delivery of M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, opting to send a refurbished older model that can be ready faster and reach Ukrainian troops fighting Russia’s invading force by this fall.
That work will need to be done at the Lima plant, but there is no issue with capacity at the facility by adding the 31 additional tanks that need to be quickly prepared for delivery, and, moreover, the Army and other foreign customers will be able to stick to planned delivery schedules for Abrams already ordered, according to Camarillo.
Poland, a key ally in Europe, in January signed a contract for 250 M1A2 Abrams SEPv3 tanks.
“All of that’s accounted for,” he said.
The U.S. will refurbish excess M1 hulls and ship them as the M1A1 SA variant, outfitting the 70-ton behemoths with 120mm cannons and 50-caliber machine guns. The original plan was to send Ukraine 31 of the newer M1A2 Abrams but that could have taken a year or two to build and ship.
The new plan to send older tanks, in addition to getting tanks to Ukraine earlier, will be easier for Ukrainian forces to learn to use and maintain as they fight Russia’s invasion.
Even so, Ukrainian leaders have pressed for the Abrams to strengthen their defenses in anticipation of Russia mounting a spring offensive, and earlier this year Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that August would be “too late” for the weapons to make a difference.
“A tank by itself is not a military capability. You have to send the whole package, and that includes ammunition, vehicles to maintain it, fuel, and you have to do the training on the system so that it can be sustained in combat,” Army acquisition chief Doug Bush said at a Defense News webinar earlier this month. “Efforts are underway to do it as quickly as possible.”
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.