The Pentagon intends to expedite the supply of Abrams tanks to Ukraine, possibly as soon as this fall, according to a U.S. official and a source familiar with the issue.
After months of shunning the idea of sending the difficult-to-upkeep tanks to Ukraine, the Biden administration has now promised to supply Ukraine with 31 advanced M1 Abrams tanks. According to a congressional staffer briefed on the topic, the revised proposal fast-tracks delivery by approximately a year.
“We’re working on that,” White House spokesperson John Kirby told CNN on Tuesday. “There are some changes that you can make to the process to sort of speed that up.”
A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment on the faster timeline since the Department of Defense had not previously offered any specific date for this undertaking to get the tanks into Ukrainian hands, having only said it would take “months.”
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had looked at several options for speeding up the delivery and arrived at a determination that would cut about a year off of the delivery timeline, a congressional aide briefed on the plan told Reuters.
Other options Austin could have considered would be changing positions with the delivery queue or using U.S. tanks that have had sensitive equipment removed so they cannot be captured and examined by Russian troops.
Funds to alter the Abrams tanks would come from the fund known as the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI), which allows for President Joe Biden’s administration to get their weapons straight from the industry rather than drawing from U.S. weapons stocks. A round of USAI funding is being prepared for later this month, according to sources speaking on condition of anonymity.
The General Dynamics Corp. production line currently manufactures about 12 Abrams tanks a month.