RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — American-made Abrams tanks that Ukrainians will use for training will arrive in Germany in the next few weeks, allowing soldiers to begin learning to use the much-anticipated armor, according to two U.S. Defense Department officials.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is expected to announce the move at a Friday press conference after the 11th meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, a gathering of more than 40 nations dedicated to supporting Kyiv against Russia’s all-out assault, said one of the DoD officials, who was granted anonymity to discuss sensitive operations.
The 31 M1A1 Abrams tanks — a Ukrainian battalion’s worth — will arrive at the Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany by mid-to-late May, according to the officials. The training will begin a week or two later, after the tanks go through a maintenance period.
But the tanks the Ukrainian armed forces will train on in Germany are different from the ones that will eventually arrive in Ukraine for use on the battlefield, the first DoD official added, noting that those are still being refurbished.
The training on how to operate and maintain the Abrams is expected to take up to 10 weeks and may include instruction on how to maneuver in combat, the official said. Some 250 Ukrainians are expected to go through the training program, which is run by 7th Army Training Command.
The U.S. is accelerating the delivery of the Abrams by opting to send older M1A1 versions, rather than the newer M1A2 type originally planned to go to Ukraine. The Pentagon anticipates the tanks will arrive on the battlefield by the end of the year.
During his opening remarks ahead of the contact group meeting, Austin applauded his counterparts for their donations. He noted that Italy, France, Canada and Norway are also providing air defense systems, while Estonia has spent more than 1 percent of its GDP on Ukraine.
“Our common efforts have made a huge difference to Ukraine’s defenders on the battlefield. And they underscore just how badly the Kremlin miscalculated,” Austin said. “After more than a year of Russian aggression and deceit, this contact group is as united as ever and more global than ever.”
The group is also working to deliver defense systems to counter Russian missile and drone attacks on Ukrainian cities and infrastructure, Austin said. Two Patriot missile defense systems, including one from the U.S. and one made up of components from Germany and the Netherlands, arrived in Ukraine on Wednesday.
In total, the members of the contact group have provided more than $55 billion in security assistance for Ukraine since the group’s founding a year ago. The U.S. alone has provided $35 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the full-scale invasion began, including the most recent package of $325 million.