The first examples of the 31 Abrams tanks, promised by Washington to Kiev months ago, arrived on Monday September 25 in Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky announced on Monday, welcoming this “good news”.
Baptism by fire
The Abrams is an American assault tank designed by the Chrysler Defense company and put into service in the early 1980s. It owes its name to Creighton Williams Abrams, an American general who distinguished himself during World War II. then the Korean War.
At the end of the Cold War, the armored vehicle was deployed in Europe, facing the T-80 tank owned by the armies of the Warsaw Pact. It experienced its real baptism of fire during the first Gulf War in 1991. The United States launched Operation “Desert Storm” and deployed 1,800 Abrams tanks in Kuwait and Iraq. Only 23 of them will be damaged and none completely destroyed.
Depleted uranium ammunition
Several reasons in the design of the tank explain this success. With four people on board, the Abrams tank has a cruising speed of between 48 km/h off-road and 66 km/h on the road. Although it weighs 70 tonnes, it remains very maneuverable. Equipped with a 120 mm cannon and a range of 4.5 km, it can use munitions made with depleted uranium capable of piercing most armor but controversial due to their toxicity. It itself is protected from anti-tank shells and missiles thanks to composite armor which includes a layer of depleted uranium mesh.
This firepower does not come without drawbacks. The Abrams tank is very fuel hungry. It can consume nearly 1,000 liters per day and its range does not exceed 400 km.
One of the best
The Abrams is considered one of the best tanks in the world, along with the German Leopard, the French Leclerc, the British Challenger 2 or the Russian T14 Armata. “This tank will make a difference when it is delivered,” promised the Chief of Staff of the American Armies, General Mark Milley, in April.
The United States only supplies Ukraine with the first version of this armored vehicle, the M1A1 model. They themselves use a more recent model, the M2A2, with more advanced equipment: panoramic thermal camera, ballistic computer and explosive reactive armor kit intended for combat in urban environments.
Over the years, the United States has produced more than 10,000 Abrams tanks. Seven other countries use the M1A1 version of this armor, including Australia, Morocco, Egypt and Poland.
To make the Abrams tank operational on the battlefield, around 250 Ukrainian soldiers, including technicians, underwent ten weeks of training at the end of spring in Germany to learn how to handle these armored vehicles, reports the Military Zone media.
In an interview with The War Zone, Ukrainian military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov said the Abrams should be deployed “in a very personalized way, for very specific, well-designed operations.”