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US to send latest, deadliest version of Abrams tank to Ukraine, Pentagon says

US-owned M1A2 Abrams tanks in Germany. (Daniel Karmann/picture alliance/Getty Images)

The United States will send the M1A2 Abrams tank to Ukraine, which has significantly improved capabilities compared to the previous M1A1 model.

Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh confirmed on Thursday that the M1A2 would be the version of the Abrams issued to the Ukrainians. She said the United States “does not have these tanks available in excess in our American stockpiles” and that it will take “months to transfer” the tanks to Ukraine.

The M1A2 is a significant upgrade over the older M1A1, primarily due to the fact that the A2 operates on a digital system, as opposed to the A1’s analog system.

It’s “the difference between a plug-in phone – a rotary phone – and that iPhone you have in your hand,” said retired General Robert Abrams, a former commander of US forces in Korea, whose father was the namesake of the 70 Ton Tank.

US officials announced this week that 31 Abrams tanks would be sent to Ukraine after days of back and forth between the United States and its allies. Officials had yet to reveal which tank variant they would choose, and Army Acquisitions Chief Doug Bush told reporters Tuesday the decision was still under deliberation.

Learn more about tanks: US President Joe Biden said from the White House on Wednesday that the tanks would “enhance Ukraine’s ability to defend its territory and achieve its strategic objectives”.

In addition to the numerical change with the A2, the new version of the tank is “significantly” deadlier than the A1, Abrams said. It includes a commander-independent thermal viewer. Whereas previously only the gunner had a thermal site, the tank commander now has one as well, allowing him to help search and identify targets. The digital system also allows the tank crew to run their own onboard diagnostics, Abrams said, instead of waiting for mechanics to run tests to determine what problems arise.

Ultimately, Abrams said, the M1A2 is “far superior in terms of lethality, survivability and mobility” to anything Russia has on the battlefield.

It is not known which variant of the A2 tank, of which there are three, will be chosen. Singh declined to say so during Thursday’s Pentagon briefing, and Bush declined to say so on Wednesday.

Bush added that concerns over the logistics and maintenance of each variant — which had often been cited as a reason the United States was hesitant at all to send the Abrams — would not weigh heavily in the decision.

He also explained that the army does not produce new tanks from scratch and rather modified existing old models. “That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy or quick,” he added, but they don’t have to be built from scratch.

CNN’s Michael Conte contributed to this post.

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