How many M1 Abrams can the US produce in a month, and where did the tanks go from the reserves of the Marine Corps

In its publication concerning “three people familiar with the course of negotiations on the supply of tanks,” the American Politico tried to find an answer to why Ukraine would wait several months for M1 Abrams tanks. And why the White House simply cannot give these tanks from the reserves of the US armed forces, even if, for example, the Pentagon cannot explain where more than 400 M1 Abrams machines are from the US Marine Corps “vaporized.” The picture looks as follows.

Journalists of the publication say, in particular, that now only one tank factory in the city of Lima, Ohio, is operating in the USA. This plant is a state-owned enterprise under the management of the General Dynamics company.

 Its capacity allows the production of only 12 tanks per month. Even if we assume that this factory completely switched to the order of the White House for Ukraine, it will take three months to produce only the battalion set.

But now General Dynamics has a contract for 108 M1A2 tanks for Taiwan, to be manufactured and delivered in 2024, and a contract for the supply of 250 tanks for Poland, the delivery of which should begin after 2025. 

M1 Abrams manufacturing process at the General Dynamics plant in Lima, illustrative photo from open sources

As Politico points out, these contracts are also important for the White House in supporting US allies. Therefore, it is hardly worth expecting that all available (albeit small) Abrams production capacity will immediately switch to orders for Ukraine.

There is one more important point, which was emphasized by the authors of Politico, and which at the same time explains where Abrams “disappeared” from storage. American industry has not produced new tanks for a long time. And to manufacture vehicles for US allies, General Dynamics uses tanks from storage warehouses.

The company directly admits that it has several M1 Abrams in its possession that can be used as “parts donors.” But it seems that actually a much larger number of M1 Abrams were taken from the US Army storage warehouses; it’s just that Pentagon officials prefer not to admit it, even privately.

After all, if we look at the figures for The Military Balance, we will see such a mismatch. In 2016, the US Army had 2,384 Abrams tanks of various modifications in service, “about 3,500” tanks in storage, and 447 tanks in service with the Marine Corps. 

In 2022, there will already be 2,645 tanks in service and 3,450 vehicles in storage in the US Army, and not a single tank in the formation of the US KMP. 

It turns out that the number of tanks in storage remained unchanged “on paper” with an increased number of military vehicles, which is nonsense, to say the least.

Politico’s publication also provides a partial answer to where the four hundred tanks with the formation of the US KMP “evaporated” in the end. To supply Poland with 116 used M1 Abrams under a contract from January 2023, the US will use the very machines that have been retired from the Marine Corps.

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