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The Pentagon is now pushing to get more than two dozen U.S. Abrams tanks to battlefields in Ukraine as soon as this fall, two American defense officials confirmed to Fox News on Tuesday.
A decision has been made to send an older M1-A1 model of the tank from U.S. Army stocks instead of the more modern M1-A2 version announced back in January.
The original plan to send 31 M1-A2 Abrams tanks would have taken well over a year, possibly two years to be delivered to Ukraine. This move to speed up the tank delivery comes as Ukraine is preparing to launch a spring offensive.
In an interview on MSNBC Tuesday, United States National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby described the Abrams tanks as “very sophisticated” and that “we don’t have a whole heck of a lot of them just sitting on the shelf.”
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U.S. Army M1-A1 Abrams tanks are seen firing during a NATO exercise in Latvia in March 2021. The U.S. is preparing to send 31 of these tanks to Ukraine. (REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File Photo)
“And to learn how to use that tank takes a lot of training. Just for instance, the basic training on the Abrams tanks for American soldiers is 16 weeks long. And that’s just the basic training on how to operate it,” Kirby said.
“Then you have to know how to maintain it, and then you have to have a supply chain set up to actually keep the parts and supplies going while you’re in combat, while you’re fighting,” he added. “And why these tanks are no doubt going to be taking some hits. So there’s a lot that has to be considered when we get them an advanced system.”
In late January, President Biden approved sending 31 Abrams M1 tanks to Ukraine just hours after German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz said Ukraine would also receive Leopard 2 tanks from Berlin.
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Instead of sending the newer M1-A2 model to Ukraine, the U.S. will send over an older model of the tank, defense officials said Tuesday, March 21. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Andres Chandler)
The president, joined by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, described the vehicles as the “most capable tanks in the world” and said they “will enhance Ukraine’s ability” on the battlefield.
Biden also said during the announcement that Western aid to Ukraine “is not an offensive threat to Russia.”
“This is about freedom, freedom for Ukraine, freedom everywhere,” he added.
A month after Biden’s comments, Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth said the tanks may not arrive by the end of this year or potentially the next.
The announcement about the Abrams tanks heading to Ukraine comes as Chinese President Xi Jinping, center, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, are having a second day of meetings in Moscow.
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“We’re looking at what’s the fastest way we can get the tanks to the Ukrainians. It’s not going to be a matter of weeks,” Wormuth told reporters at the time.
“None of the options that we’re exploring are weeks or two months,” she added. “There are longer timelines involved, but I think there are options that are less than two years, less than a year-and-a-half.”
Fox News’ Caitlin McFall and Lawrence Richard contributed to this report.
Greg Norman is a reporter at Fox News Digital.