The United States will not send M1 Abrams main battle tanks to Ukraine, despite repeated requests from the Kiev government, according to a report in the US media.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday, quoting a US official, that the Abrams tanks’ heavy fuel consumption and propensity to break down make them unsuitable for the Ukrainian military.
Ukraine's President Vladimir Zelensky, in his speech at the US Congress on Wednesday, cited tanks as one of his army's main requests from the US, saying Ukrainian forces were “capable of operating American tanks and aircraft.”
The United States, which has vowed to continue arming Ukraine, till now sent about $50 billion worth of weapons to the Kiev forces to fight against Russia.
M1 Abrams is one of the heaviest main battle tanks in service worldwide which weighs in at 60 tons, with the latest M1A2 variant increasing this heft to more than 73 tons, according to the report.
An M1 Abrams tank reportedly costs more than $450 per mile (1.61km) in fuel and repairs.
The report states that after a decade in service with the US military that the average M1 Abrams needs its track replaced after as little as 710 miles, with engines typically suffering catastrophic “blowouts” after 350 hours of operation.
The US military however insists that the latest M1A2 variant “is the most reliable Abrams tank ever produced.”
This is despite the fact that the Pentagon said the US may provide “NATO compatible” tanks to Ukraine's military to replace aging Soviet-era gear, a step towards deeper participation in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
A Pentagon spokesman was asked in September whether the administration of US President Joe Biden was considering heavy armor in future aid packages to Ukraine, and that Ukrainian officials recently visited Washington to specifically appeal for tanks.
“Tanks are absolutely on the table along with other areas,” the official said, noting that while Ukrainian troops are more familiar with “Soviet type tanks,” the Pentagon recognizes “that there will be a day when they may want to transition and may need to transition to NATO compatible models.”
Last month, the United States agreed to send more weapons to Ukraine as the European Union was to add 2 billion euros ($2.1 billion) to a fund used to help arm Kiev.
The arms package to Kiev will include anti-drone and air defense systems.
The aid package which reportedly includes rockets for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), 155mm ammunition, Humvee vehicles, and generators, is estimated to be worth $275 million.
According to the US Department of Defense, the top priority for Ukraine is supporting Kiev with air defense systems as Russia targets the country’s energy infrastructure.