Training of Ukrainians on Abrams tanks should start in a few days
US forces are expected to begin training Ukrainians on M1A1 Abrams tanks “within the next week,” Pentagon press secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder told VOA on Tuesday.
About 250 Ukrainians are arriving in Germany this week for the training, a senior military official familiar with the training told VOA on condition of anonymity to discuss security issues.
The Ukrainians will train on 31 Abrams tanks that arrived in Germany earlier this month. US officials said a different set of 31 M1A1 Abrams tanks were being refurbished in the US and would be delivered to Ukraine by fall.
The training in Germany is expected to last about 10 weeks and will focus on tank operation, maneuvering tanks in combined arms combat and tank maintenance, the official said.
The structure of the course will be similar to previous US-led training on Bradley armored fighting vehicles and Stryker vehicles, which were provided to Ukraine earlier this year, according to the official.
The Abrams tanks, in particular, were a long-awaited addition to combat. The tank’s thick armor and 1,500 horsepower turbine engine make it far more advanced than the Soviet-era tanks Ukraine has used since the start of the war.
The Biden administration announced in January that it would send a newer version of the Abrams tanks, known as the M1A2, to Ukraine after they are acquired and built, a process that could take years.
In March, the administration pivoted to supply M1A1 Abrams tanks instead, to get the tanks “into Ukrainian hands as soon as possible,” Ryder said at the time.
F-16s on the program
News of the Abrams tank training comes as US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin prepares to host another virtual meeting of the Ukrainian Defense Contact Group on Thursday.
Military and defense leaders from more than 50 countries are expected to focus on ground-based air defense, munitions requirements and F-16 training, Ryder told reporters at the Pentagon earlier Tuesday.
Ryder said F-16 training would be conducted outside of Ukraine at European sites, but it could take weeks or months before training begins.
“The F-16s for Ukraine are long term. These F-16s will not be relevant for the upcoming counteroffensive,” he added.
After months of Ukraine advocating for Western fighter jets, US President Joe Biden said on Friday the United States would support a joint international effort to train Ukrainian pilots on modern fighter jets, including F-16s. .
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko responded to the news on Saturday by warning that Western countries would run “colossal risks” if they supplied Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets, the agency said. press releases.