After Leo 2 and Challenger 2 Losses, Ukrainian Intel Chief Warns Incoming Abrams Tanks May Not Last Long in Combat

The head of the Ukrainian Army’s Main Intelligence Directorate Kirill Budanov has warned that M1A1 Abrams tanks set to be delivered by the United States next week may not last long in combat unless reserved for use in very specific kinds of operations. If the American tanks are deployed “on the front line and just in a combined arms fight, they will not live very long on the battlefield,” he stressed, adding that they should instead be reserved for “very specific, well-crafted” breakthrough operations. Budanov further indicated that the usefulness of Abrams tanks could be limited, stressing that the widespread enemy use of artillery and mines had “reduced the possibility of using armoured equipment in practically all of the main directions to the minimum.” Concerns regarding the survivability of Abrams tanks being delivered to Ukraine follows the destruction of Western tanks from all other classes fielded by the Ukrainian Army, all of which have been confirmed by drone footage. This has included German Leopard 2A6 and British Challenger 2 tanks, the former which has protection levels comparable to if not superior than the M1A1 Abrams and the latter which has significantly superior armour. Both classes were pulled straight out of the stockpiles of the countries operating them, while the Abrams tanks have been heavily downgraded with no depleted uranium armour installed and with capabilities limited to the Cold War era M1A1 level – where the U.S. Army has for decades operated the M1A2 variant. 

M1A1 tanks have in the past proven highly vulnerable even to relatively basic anti tank weapons, most notably in Iraq where vehicles of the class were acquired by the Iraqi Army after the U.S.-led invasion in the 2000s. The United States was notably initially reluctant to export Abrams tanks to Ukraine, with the expectation of heavy losses potentially seriously damaging the class’ reputation at a time when no more capable tank designs had been developed in the Western world. With German officials indicating that Berlin would supply Leopard 2 tanks only if the Abrams was also supplied, Washington’s pledge in January to eventually supply the Abrams provided an effective means of applying pressure on Berlin over the issue. American Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, however, have since taken extreme losses in combat in the theatre with higher estimates indicating over 80 have been neutralised. Even lighter Russian anti tank weapons such as handheld Kornet missiles have proven capable of neutralising Ukraine’s best armoured Western tank so far the Challenger 2, which has forced reassessments of the survivability of Western armour against Russian weaponry including downgraded Abrams tanks. Weapons such as Lancet drones and Vikhr-1 helicopter launched anti armour missiles are all expected to be capable of penetrating the vehicles, and have taken a very heavy toll on Western armour since Ukraine initiated mass offensives in early June.