Ukrainian troops are set to begin training on U.S. M1 Abrams tanks after 31 of the tracked training vehicles arrived at an American base in Germany, the Pentagon's top spokesman said Monday.
The training will begin within the next couple of weeks, Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said, the latest development in American aid as Ukraine wages a second year of a war with Russia following an invasion in February 2022.
"I can confirm that the 31 M1 Abrams training tanks have arrived at Grafenwoehr, Germany, in preparation for subsequent training of Ukrainian tankers," Ryder said during a briefing to reporters. He said the "extensive training program for Ukrainian crews and maintainers" is aimed at teaching them to operate and maintain the M1A1 main battle tank.
Before President Joe Biden announced the U.S. would provide the much sought-after tank to the Ukrainians in January, American officials spent months arguing that the platform would be too difficult for the forces of the besieged country to keep running. The news also came shortly after Germany announced it would be sending 14 of its Leopard 2 tanks.
Ryder again underscored concerns over maintenance of the Abrams by noting that a key aspect of the training will be maintenance and sustainment.
"You've heard us talk about the fact that the M1 is a complex machine that requires a lot of maintenance to sustain it, keep it operating -- so, that will be crucial," he said.
The 31 tanks that are now in Germany are not the same ones that the Ukrainians will ultimately take into battle. They are intended specifically for training, according to Ryder.
"They don't necessarily have the capabilities that they would need to go into combat," Ryder said.
Meanwhile, tanks intended for Ukrainian combat operations are going through a refurbishment process now and will be updated and upgraded for export to Ukraine.
"We will be able to provide those tanks to them in the fall time frame," Ryder said.
In the last few months, American soldiers have trained thousands of Ukrainian fighters on other weapons systems that the U.S. military has provided to the country. These include the Stryker and Bradley fighting vehicles, as well as the Paladin self-propelled howitzer gun.
Ukrainian leaders have said that they have made gains around the eastern city of Bakhmut -- a site of some of the war's longest and bloodiest fighting -- in recent days. However, it is not clear if this push is part of a larger counteroffensive that is expected to begin soon.