The type of tank armor the US does not want to give to Ukraine

The unnamed US official said that the M1A2s will be equipped with armor according to the configuration for foreign customers because Washington still maintains a policy of banning the export of Abrams tanks with DU armor.

Armor DU remains one of the US’s most protected military secrets. The development of the first version of the DU armor was classified as a top secret; the suits were often described only as “heavy armor” or “special armor.”

Poor uranium is almost twice as dense as lead and is also much harder, making them well-suited to making tank armor. When the tank is hit, the DU armor causes the shells to lose most of their kinetic energy because they are too dense and too hard.

“If the special armor is penetrated and the internal parts are exposed, the responsible servicemen immediately find a way to cover the location and seal the hole, or take the tank to the maintenance workshop for repair. “, the US military’s declassified security manual says.

The US has only one Abrams tank assembly line at the General Dynamics plant in Ohio. The facility is capable of churning out 12 M1s a month, but the line is running at full capacity to deliver more than 300 Abrams tanks to Poland and the island of Taiwan, leaving orders for Ukraine to wait for a few days. 

General Dynamics no longer manufactures new M1 tanks but reuses previously constructed body frames. When an order is placed, the manufacturer will ship the goods and set them up according to the customer’s specifications.

The issue of armor replacement is the biggest constraint on the supply of M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine. Even if General Dynamics takes the vehicles from the stockpile, they will most likely still carry DU armor and will need to be completely changed.

“The process of replacing this armor is not simple or quick,” said Assistant Secretary of the Army for Procurement and Logistics Douglas Bush.

US military experts said that a solution to shorten the time to supply tanks to Ukraine is to buy back the M1 Abrams that have been sold to partner countries because they have been stripped of DU armor and do not require much change in texture.

Besides the US, the two countries that operate the most Abrams tanks are Egypt and Saudi Arabia, with 1,360 and 370 M1A1s in service, respectively. These two countries are key partners of the US but also maintain close relations with Russia.

“It is very difficult to convince them to transfer the tanks to Ukraine because both countries are concerned about the deterioration of relations with Russia. The US can reach a secret transfer agreement or look to countries that operate a small number of Abrams. More, but will also face similar diplomatic and logistical barriers,” said military expert Joseph Trevithick.

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