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US General Rejects Ukrainian Complaints about M1A1 Abrams Tank.

In response to recent criticisms from the Ukrainian military regarding the performance of US-supplied M1A1 Abrams tanks, a retired American general has firmly refuted these complaints, while acknowledging the maintenance demands of these Main Battle Tanks (MBTs). We discussed these criticisms on May 31, 2024, on Army Recognition.
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A retired US general has firmly refuted the complaints about the M1A1 Abrams. ( Picture Source: US DoD)

The controversy arose when Ukrainian tank crews voiced concerns about the effectiveness of the Abrams tanks in their conflict, citing issues such as armor inadequacy and engine malfunctions. Ukrainian officials claimed that these tanks were not suited to the terrain and conditions they faced, with crew members specifically highlighting problems with armor, engine reliability, and electronic vulnerabilities due to condensation caused by rain or fog. They also reported instances where targets remained intact despite multiple shots, raising doubts about the tanks' combat effectiveness. Additionally, the Abrams tank is a top priority for Russian forces aiming to destroy US equipment, further exposing the crew.

However, retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling strongly refuted these claims in an interview with CNN. When asked about the supposed underperformance of the Abrams tanks and their suitability for Ukrainian terrain, Hertling bluntly responded, "I would say in one word 'BS.'" Having served for three decades in Europe, Hertling emphasized that the Abrams tanks were designed for NATO environments and dismissed the reported issues as exaggerated or unfounded. He argued that the complaints about condensation, armor, and obstacle clearance were "nonsense," attributing any perceived shortcomings to crew errors in selecting and maintaining the appropriate weapon systems.

Hertling suggested that the grievances from the Ukrainian crews stemmed from typical frustrations associated with mechanical breakdowns, and he noted that despite knowing the maintenance demands of the US-made tanks, Ukraine continued to request them for military support.

The deployment of Abrams tanks, specifically the M1A1 models, aimed to bolster Kyiv’s defenses against Russian forces. Despite hopes for a strategic advantage, the tanks have faced challenges on the battlefield, particularly from Russian drones. Reports indicate that at least five Abrams tanks have been destroyed by Russian attacks, leading to doubts about their effectiveness.

Recent images show Abrams tanks in Ukraine equipped with anti-drone armor screens, known as "cope cages." However, the effectiveness of these modifications in the ongoing conflict remains uncertain. In response to these combat experiences, the US military is accelerating efforts to integrate these lessons into the development of the next-generation Abrams tank.

At the Western military equipment exhibition in Moscow, the Russians displayed a damaged M1A1 Abrams tank from the Avdiivka region, highlighting its vulnerabilities. Brigadier General Geoffrey Norman, director of the Next-Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team, acknowledged the Abrams' limitations against modern threats such as anti-tank-guided missiles and drones. He emphasized the tank's strengths in offensive maneuvers but cautioned against stationary positions that render them more vulnerable.

To address these challenges, U.S. Army leaders have adopted a multifaceted strategy, including reevaluating formation options to better distribute capabilities and protect soldiers. In September 2023, following observations from the conflict in Ukraine, the Army announced a shift in its tank modernization efforts. Instead of the planned moderate upgrade (Abrams System Enhancement Package version 4 or SEPv4), the US Army opted for a more ambitious upgrade, the M1E3 Abrams, which will be designated the M1A3 upon deployment.

The U.S. Army aims for a lighter tank with enhanced survivability and a reduced logistical footprint. While details on the M1A3 are still being refined, General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) will be the prime contractor for this next-generation MBT.

The M1A1 Abrams is a US Main Battle Tank. ( Picture Source: US DoD)

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