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The Difference Between Abrams M1A1 And M1A2 And How the US Accelerates the Tanks Supply to Ukraine

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The M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams / Credits: US DoD
The M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams / Credits: US DoD

The phrase that the M1A1 is an older and worse version of the Abrams tank is weakly true, since it is necessary to follow the modifications of American tanks very carefully, considering that the USA can produce a roughly separate modification for Ukraine

Ukraine will receive 31 Abrams tanks faster than previously expected, which was first announced by the representative of the US National Security Council, John Kirby, and later confirmed by the press secretary of the Pentagon, Brigadier General Pat Ryder, at a press briefing.

He also mentioned the details of such an acceleration and noted that earlier the issue of transferring M1A2 tanks to Ukraine was discussed, but now the choice has been made in favor of the M1A1. And although contributors immediately appeared, saying that the M1A1 is too old, in fact the situation is different.

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The Difference Between Abrams M1A1 And M1A2 And How the US Accelerates the Tanks Supply to Ukraine, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war
M1A1 FEP / Credits: US DoD

There are actually more variations of Abrams than Leopard 2, and everything is more complicated there. And the difference between A1 and A2 is more correct to imagine as separate branches of the same vehicle, the modernization of which proceeded in parallel. Moreover, the US Army has about 650 M1A1s in service, and these tanks were also in service with the Marine Corps in the amount of about 400 units.

Also, M1A1s make up a significant portion of the 3,500 Abrams in storage in the US Army. And if we talk about the latest versions of the M1A1, then it’s the M1A1SA, which is used by the US ground forces, as well as the M1A1 FEP, which marines used to have.

The Difference Between Abrams M1A1 And M1A2 And How the US Accelerates the Tanks Supply to Ukraine, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war
M1A1SA / Credits: US DoD

The SA and FEP versions of the M1A1 are very similar and the main features of the vehicles is a complete update of the sighting devices, including a thermal imaging machine gun sight that plays the role of the commander's panorama, the FBCB2 tactical information system and an updated reservation (the SA version is slightly different from the FEP).

If the basic M1A2 was created in 1992, then the latest modifications of the M1A1 produced in the 2010s are much better, both in terms of armor and sights and all other electronics. The M1A1 SA or FEP actually corresponds to the level of the M1A2 SEPv2 of the 2010s.

The Difference Between Abrams M1A1 And M1A2 And How the US Accelerates the Tanks Supply to Ukraine, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war
M1A2 SEPv2 / Credits: US DoD

Of course, they are inferior to the M1A2 SEPv3, which (like all other M1A2s) has a separate tank panorama, updated television devices, an additional power plant in the armored space, a complex of creating obstacles to counter radio-controlled mines, a new programmer of ammunition for air detonation, as well as a digital control system according to the state of nodes and aggregates. At the same time, the M1A2 SEPv3 is only being deployed in the US Army itself, and the main type is the M1A2 SEPv2.

And the decision to transfer the M1A1 is understandable and was immediately chosen by Defense Express to be faster than the M1A2. The USA transfers tanks under the program of Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI). That is, they were ordered from the manufacturer, not under the Presidential Drawdown program, when the weapons go directly from the reserves of the armed forces. And in case of the M1A2, it would be necessary to wait until the tanks were manufactured "from scratch", considering that the capacity of General Dynamics to manufacture 12 tanks per month. And these capacities have already been assigned to customers.

The Difference Between Abrams M1A1 And M1A2 And How the US Accelerates the Tanks Supply to Ukraine, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war
M1A2 SEPv3 / Credits: US DoD

At the same time, the decision to take M1A1s from stockpiles and restore them can really speed up this process. In fact, the final version of the M1A1 for Ukraine is unknown. According to Pat Ryder, M1A1 "hulls" will be taken, the repair and equipment of which will be carried out by USAI, and for this work General Dynamics will receive $400 million for 31 units.

That is, eventually, the M1A1s received by Ukraine will definitely be deeply modernized and may differ from both the M1A1SA/FEP version and the M1A2 SEPv2/3. Including the production of even a separate "Ukrainian" version, which is quite actively practiced by the USA for foreign customers.

But the fact is that even such an "acceleration" means that Ukraine will receive tanks not in a few weeks, but, as reported in the Pentagon, only "until the fall." Although, this is faster than the blurred deadlines for the M1A2, which were mentioned to be in 2024.

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