The announcement that 31 M1 Abrams tanks could reach Ukraine by the fall brings one of America’s most powerful weapons a step closer to the war. But even the quicker than expected delivery would not likely reach the battlefield in time for the start of an anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive, one in which Western allies appear to have fallen short of providing the weapons that U.S. military officials believe Kyiv needs.
Documents that were among leaked classified military assessments of the war show that U.S. military planners believe that 253 tanks are needed for the coming counteroffensive. As of late February, however, only 200 had been committed, and of those, 60 were made by Western manufacturers — the kind of sophisticated weaponry that Ukraine has requested.
The documents, from late February and early March, offer a snapshot in time of preparations for the counteroffensive. More weapons and artillery have flowed into Ukraine in the weeks since the assessments were dated. Still, the documents reveal not just gaps in Ukraine’s arsenal but also the struggles of Western allies to fulfill their pledged deliveries of tanks and other weapons systems.
Here is a look at five key pledged weapons:
The leaked assessments show that 140 tanks being lined up for the counteroffensive, well over half the total, would be refurbished Soviet-era machines, including some from Ukraine’s current arsenal. A document dated Feb. 28 showed that three Ukrainian brigades gearing up for the campaign were short at least a dozen tanks each.
The documents also indicated that 60 Western tanks — from Britain, Canada, Germany, Poland and tank-like reconnaissance vehicles from France — would be delivered to Ukraine by April, before the 31 Abrams tanks are now expected to arrive.
Air defense systems
This week, Ukraine received its first Patriot battery, an American-made air defense system that is considered among the most advanced for shooting down warplanes and cruise missiles. It came 19 months after Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov, said he had first asked for them, and allies have committed to sending only one more.
The United States has sent Ukraine two air defense systems known as NASAMs, and the documents say that six more are to come from the United States, one from Canada and one from Norway. Additionally, Germany recently delivered its second of four IRIS-T systems.
As of March 1, Ukraine was believed to have only about 9,800, American-supplied 155-millimeter rounds on hand and was expected to run out within days. Over the next 12 days, the U.S. delivered another 30,000 rounds.
But at this point, Ukraine’s appetite for 155-millimeter rounds is essentially limitless, and ammunition manufacturers in the United States and Europe say it will take years to catch up with the demand.
This week, officials said, Slovakia finished transferring 13 of its MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, and Poland earlier this month shipped at least some of the four it has promised.
But Ukraine still wants sophisticated American-made F-16s, which the Biden administration has so far refused to send. A Ukrainian lawmaker this week accused the United States of preventing other nations from transferring their own F-16s to Kyiv.
The Biden administration also is adamant that it will not send Ukraine long-range Army Tactical Missile Systems, which can strike targets up to 190 miles away. Kyiv says the missiles could help Ukraine reclaim Crimea, the peninsula Russia illegally annexed in 2014, but U.S. officials are concerned that the weapons could be used to strike targets deep inside Russia.
The United States has offered to send munitions known as Ground Launched Small Diameter Bombs, which have a range of 90 miles. But they must first be built, and production of even a small batch could take months.