TechFirst glimpse of M1A1 Abrams in action in Ukraine's Kharkiv region

First glimpse of M1A1 Abrams in action in Ukraine's Kharkiv region

M1A1 Abrams Tanks
M1A1 Abrams Tanks
Images source: © 7th Army Training Command

12:52 PM EST, November 27, 2023

The M1A1 Abrams tanks arrived in Ukraine this past September. Their arrival has been highly anticipated by the troops, but until now there had been no photographic proof to suggest that the tanks were in operation. Recently, a picture allegedly showing one of these tanks surfaced online, taken from the Kharkiv region. It seems the Abrams tanks are now in the hands of Ukraine's defenders. Let's revisit the capabilities of these formidable vehicles.

Mark Cancian, an American military expert, speculated earlier that the Abrams wouldn't see action until next year due to the volatile front conditions and unfavorable weather. He suggested that the tanks were likely being kept in reserve as a precautionary measure.

It's plausible that some of these tanks are being stored away from the front line. However, the first photograph reportedly showing Ukraine using the Abrams has surfaced online. A Bulgarian military website reported that the tank is stationed near Kupyansk. Concurrently, Russian blogger Boris Rozhin predicted that the presence of Abrams on the front "will trigger a hunt for American tanks".

There is still a possibility, however, that the photographed tank is at a training ground. Its presence on the front line has yet to be confirmed by either Ukraine or Russia. If Ukraine is indeed deploying these American tanks in combat, we can expect more such sightings.

The Abrams in Ukraine

The plan initially was for M1A2 Abrams tanks to be delivered to Ukraine, but due to expedited delivery schedules, the Pentagon instead sent refurbished M1A1s. The US maintains that these tanks' capabilities closely mirror those of the M1A2.

American tanks, by design, have more effective attack and defense mechanisms than the older German Leopards. In comparison with Soviet constructs used at the front line, the Abrams tanks are much more formidable.

The M1A1 Abrams primarily employs a 120mm cannon and .50 caliber and .30 caliber machine guns. The armor modules provided to Ukraine, traditionally built around depleted uranium, have been modified to use tungsten. The US made this modification out of concern over inadvertently providing sensitive technologies to the Russians.

Although the M1A1 Abrams functions efficiently at temperatures about -4 degrees Fahrenheit, it isn't without its weaknesses. For instance, its rubber track pads, designed to enhance traction and mitigate noise, may lose their effectiveness in winter conditions, particularly on snow-covered terrain.

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