M1 Abrams tanks have arrived in Germany, where Ukrainian soldiers will train to use the advanced weaponry. File Photo by Spc. Devone Collins/U.S. Army
May 16 (UPI) -- Long-awaited U.S. Abrams tanks have arrived in Germany, the Pentagon said, with expectations that Ukrainian soldiers will begin training on the advanced weaponry in the coming weeks.
Pentagon press secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder on Monday confirmed that the 31 tanks have arrived in Grafenwoehr, Germany, in preparation for training of Ukrainian crews.
"Those crews are expected to arrive and begin training within the next couple of weeks," Ryder told reporters during a press briefing at the Pentagon. "This extensive training program for Ukrainian crews and maintainers is intended to prepare them for their critical roles ahead in effectively operating the M1 tank and defending Ukrainian people."
The U.S. tanks had long been on the wish list of Ukrainian officials, but the Biden administration had initially been reluctant to arm them with the advanced weaponry due to the difficulty in training to use the machinery, as well as maintaining them, compared to the other armored vehicles the United States had pledged.
In late January, with the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion on the horizon, U.S. President Joe Biden announced he would send 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, along with Germany's vow to send its Leopard 2 tanks.
The tanks that have arrived in Germany are not the ones that will be deployed in the Ukrainian theater, but will be used for training.
When the United States announced the tank commitment in January, it had done so for the M1A2 variant. But in mid-March, Ryder announced a decision to provide 31 refurbished tanks of the M1A1 variant, stating it would "significantly expedite delivery timelines and deliver this important capability to Ukraine by the fall of this year."
On Wednesday, when asked why the Ukrainians can't use the tanks they are being trained on in their spring offensive, Ryder said the tanks shipped to Germany are specifically for training and "don't necessarily have the capabilities that they would need to go into combat."
"The tanks that we will be providing to Ukraine are going through the refurbishment process right now," he said.
"They will be updated, upgraded and prepared for exportability to Ukraine ... and because we're doing this concurrently, we will be able to provide those tanks to them in the fall timeframe to get them into Ukraine before the end of the year."