Ukraine Situation Report: M1 Abrams Tanks Withdrawn From The Fight, Officials Say

After at least five losses from a fleet of 31, Ukrainian Abrams tanks have been temporarily withdrawn from operations, according to reports.

byThomas Newdick|
M1 Abrams Ukraine
Via X


Reports suggest that Ukraine has withdrawn its U.S.-supplied M1 Abrams tanks from frontline operations — for the time being, at least. It’s said that the reason for the move is their vulnerability to drone attacks, although the reasoning is somewhat hazy. Most likely, the tanks have been pulled since they are considered especially valuable assets, and having more examples knocked out — or, worse still, captured — by Russia would be a significant propaganda and materiel loss for Kyiv.

Two U.S. military officials confirmed the move to the Associated Press, stating that Russian drone operations, in particular, mean that the Abrams cannot operate effectively without detection or coming under attack.

The proliferation of drones on the battlefield means “there isn’t open ground that you can just drive across without fear of detection,” a senior defense official told reporters yesterday.

Imagery that looks to show one of Ukraine’s prized U.S.-supplied M1 Abrams tanks having suffered significant damage. via X via X

“When you think about the way the fight has evolved, massed armor in an environment where unmanned aerial systems are ubiquitous can be at risk,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Adm. Christopher Grady told AP this week.

Of course, this argument applies to any kind of tank or armored vehicle operating on the front lines and there is no indication that the Abrams is considered more vulnerable than any other (almost certainly, the opposite is true).

However, with five of the 31 Abrams provided to Ukraine already having been lost to Russian attacks, it makes sense to preserve the dwindling force for when it is needed most, for example during particular breakthrough operations, or when more examples of the M1 become available.

At the same time, the risk of having an Abrams fall into Russian hands was made glaringly obvious recently, with evidence that a U.S.-donated M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicle (ABV), a variant of the M1A1 Abrams, was captured by Russia, as you can read about here.

Russia recently captured a U.S.-donated M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicle, which is a variant of the M1 Abrams. via X Via Twitter

Before diving into more developments from the conflict in Ukraine, The War Zone readers can review our previous coverage here.

The Latest

The United States today announced a new security assistance package for Ukraine, this one specifically tailored to “address Ukraine’s ongoing battlefield needs and demonstrate unwavering U.S. support for Ukraine.” Valued at up to $6 billion, this is the biggest package of its kind announced so far and also includes significant additional air defense equipment.

The latest package will be provided through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) using funding appropriated by the national security supplemental that President Joe Biden signed into law yesterday.

The package includes the following:

  • Additional munitions for Patriot air defense systems;
  • Additional munitions for National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS);
  • Equipment to integrate Western air defense launchers, missiles, and radars with Ukraine’s air defense systems (the so-called FrankenSAM);
  • Counter-UAS equipment and systems;
  • Munitions for laser-guided rocket systems;
  • Multi-mission radars;
  • Counter-artillery radars;
  • Additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS);
  • 155mm and 152mm artillery rounds;
  • Precision aerial munitions;
  • Switchblade and Puma Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS);
  • Tactical vehicles to tow weapons and equipment;
  • Demolition munitions;
  • Components to support Ukrainian production of UAS and other capabilities;
  • Small arms and additional small arms ammunition; and
  • Ancillary items and support for training, maintenance, and sustainment activities.

On the battlefield, Russian forces are making more rapid gains in an area west of the city of Avdiivka, the eastern Donetsk region, which fell into Moscow’s hands in mid-February, after months of fighting.

“The advance of Russian forces west of Avdiivka, Donetsk Oblast, has accelerated within the past week,” the U.K. Ministry of Defense stated in a recent intelligence update.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense’s Main Directorate of Intelligence (GUR) has published footage that it claims shows a Russian Ka-32 helicopter being set on fire at an airfield near Moscow. The Ka-32 is not operated by the Russian military, but examples are flown by the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations and other state organizations.

According to the GUR, the Ka-32 was targeted while it sat at the airfield of Ostafyevo last night. The same source claimed that the airfield is jointly operated by the Russian Ministry of Defense and Gazpromavia, the airline of the Gazprom company.

While there have been sabotage raids, including arson attacks, against Russian military aircraft at different airfields and maintenance facilities across Russia, this would seem to be the first time that an aircraft has been targeted so close to the center of the capital.

Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu has said Russia is ready to expand military and technical cooperation with Iran, Reuters reported, citing Russia’s state-run RIA news agency. Shoigu said this after meeting his Iranian counterpart Gharaei Ashtiani today and he also confirmed that contacts between the two countries’ armed forces have increased significantly recently.

As well as Iran, China has been a major supporter of Russia since it launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Now, after a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has threatened Beijing with actions if it continues to back Russia.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense today thanked Norway for recent aid.

According to the Norwegian Ministry of Defense, donations valued at around NOK 1 billion ($90.7 million) were made in recent months.

The aid includes artillery shells, anti-tank weapons, minesweepers, and support for the maintenance of tanks. Among the donations were 5,000 M72 anti-tank missiles and artillery shells to be used by the M109 self-propelled howitzers previously donated by Norway.

“The war in Ukraine continues with high intensity,” Norwegian Minister of Defense Bjørn Arild Gram said. “Norway has provided critical material to Ukraine to support them in their fight against Russia. We and our allies are clear about our long-term support for Ukraine. Ukraine can count on Norway’s steadfast support.”

A report in The Kyiv Post suggests that Russian troops took enormous risks when fighting near the former Chornobyl nuclear power plant at the start of the full-scale invasion.

Drawing upon the testimonies of eyewitnesses and nuclear scientists, it’s reported that, back in February 2022, Russian soldiers ignored station worker warnings to avoid radiation-contaminated terrain near the site.

According to the article, between 300 and 600 Russian soldiers lived for more than a month in trenches dug into ground that was saturated with potentially lethal isotopes. These same troops were reportedly also camping and burning fires.

Furthermore, Russian aircraft ignored longstanding no-fly rules and operated in the airspace above the plant, as low as around 100 feet, while Russian armored columns used roads that crisscrossed the exclusion zone, ignoring barbed-wire fences and radiation warning signs.

There are also accounts of Russian soldiers looting houses and offices that had been abandoned after the 1986 accident at the nuclear power plant, “taking furnishings, chairs, and even carpets.”

An article in the Spanish EL PAÍS newspaper paints a bleak picture of the progress of the Ukrainian 47th Brigade, regarded as one of the elite formations within the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The report states that the brigade is hampered by a lack of weapons and that its leadership has also made key errors on the battlefield. Partly due to this, the brigade has had four commanders in the space of just one year.

One soldier told the newspaper that, in her company, only three of the 11 U.S.-supplied M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles they had in 2023 are left. Of these, one is being repaired.

“They are old vehicles that have arrived used and here they last only a few months,” the same officer said. She added that for every armored infantry vehicle the Ukrainians have, the enemy has 10; for every Ukrainian soldier defending the Avdiivka front, there are 30 Russians attacking them.

Russian ‘turtle tanks’ continue to appear on the battlefield, including the example seen being put through its paces in the following video.

The ‘turtle tank’ in the next video was damaged and abandoned. Tactics developed for these specially protected vehicles seem to involve them leading columns of standard tanks, with their additional anti-drone protection including electronic warfare equipment intended to help make a breakthrough. While more likely to be targeted at the spearhead of a column, the fact that they can draw more Ukrainian fire before being knocked out serves as a valuable protective measure for the armor that follows them.

A third and final Russian ‘turtle tank’ is up next, this one including a notably shed-like construction as well as chains to prevent small drones from being flown within the apertures at the front and rear. When these monstrosities first appeared we posited that they would use hanging chains to add some protection for their open ends from highly-maneuverable FPV drones.

The Ukrainian-operated M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) remains in the thick of the action, too, as the next two videos confirm.

In the first, we apparently see HIMARS attacking the radar and command post of a Russian S-400 air defense system.

Whether related to the same engagement or not, the next video shows the fragmentation effects of a purported M31 rocket attack on a Russian 96L6E detection radar, a type that is also associated with the S-400 system. The location is said to be Kreminna, in the Luhansk region and the strike reportedly killed at least one Russian serviceman.

The intended successor to the S-300 and S-400 is the S-500 air defense system, which is planned to be delivered to the Russian Armed Forces before the end of this year. The new system will be deployed for two mission applications, as a long-range anti-aircraft system and for missile defense, Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu confirmed.

Next up, some interesting remarks from a Russian perspective about the perceived advantages that the Ukrainians have in terms of how they operate first-person-view (FPV) drones.

“An analysis of the battlefield shows that the enemy is many times superior to the Russian military in the FPV use,” the account claims. “At the same time, the Ukrainians have an increased FPV range — up to 30 km [18.6 miles] — due to the installment of repeaters on hexacopters (‘Baba Yaga’) and fixed-wing UAVs.”

The same account notes that Russian electronic warfare systems are not always able to jam the required frequencies. It further notes that each day, the Ukrainians use between 500 and 700 FPV drones and “are capable of using several drones at once, which indicates that they are controlled at different frequencies.” This latter point suggests that this is something that Russia has not necessarily been able to master.

“Such a massive drone use on different control channels neutralizes the work of Russian electronic warfare systems, even if they are available and properly operated,” the account adds.

In its ongoing fight against nighttime attacks by Russian drones, the Ukrainian defense industry has developed a new kind of searchlight that is combined with thermal imaging and laser targeting, to direct fire as well as detect incoming threats. The plan is for the searchlights to be fielded by mobile fire groups, the work of which you can read more about here.

More footage has emerged of a captured Russian Courier uncrewed ground vehicle (UGV) that was used in combat in eastern Ukraine. Previously, these same types of tracked vehicles had been noted operating near Bakhmut, fitted with AGS-17 grenade launchers. A variety of other weapons options can be fitted as well, including machine guns and mines.

While plenty of video footage of Ukrainian FPV drones has become available, Russian equivalents are less commonly seen, especially at close quarters.

According to this account, the captured Russian FPV drone in question is known as Boomerang and is now in series production. While the drone features a thermal-imaging camera, it is judged poorly overall by the Ukrainians on account of its inferior manufacturing quality and other rudimentary features including a power source of AAA batteries for its payload. The price of the drone is estimated at between $1,000 and $1,400.

The growing importance of FPV drones for the Russian military is also evidenced in the following footage, which shows a training event involving a Bekas FPV drone attacking a fixed-wing drone, by ramming it. Reflecting the reality of drone warfare over the front lines in Ukraine, such scenarios are now reportedly a regular feature of counter-uncrewed aerial vehicle training in Russia.

The influence of drone warfare also continues to be seen in terms of vehicle protection. Case in point, this Russian BMPT armored fighting vehicle fitted with an unusually abbreviated anti-drone ‘cope cage.’ The shortened area of protection will reduce the efficiency of the cage, but also ensures that the main gun has an unobstructed arc of fire.

The aim of delivering 100,000 artillery shells to Ukraine per month is back in sight, the U.S. Army says, according to a report from Defense One.

Thanks to the new $1-billion package of arms for Ukraine announced on Wednesday, the U.S. Army should be able to triple its monthly production of 155mm shells.

“With the supplemental that just thankfully passed last night, we’ll be at 100,000 rounds by next summer,” Gen. James Mingus said. This month, U.S. Army factories will produce around 30,000 shells, Mingus said.

The target of 100,000 rounds per month will represent a sixfold increase since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Even with this boost, however, Ukraine is expected to lag behind Russia for most of the rest of the year, due to the time that it will take to ramp up production in the United States and Europe to the required levels.

Moreover, Russia continues to manufacture more weapons and ammunition than it needs for the war in Ukraine. This is the assessment of German Minister of Defense Boris Pistorius in a recent interview with a German TV channel. “Most or part of what is being produced is no longer going to the front, but is ending up in warehouses,” Pistorius said.

The United States is testing artificial intelligence (AI) for image processing in the war in Ukraine.

Under Project Maven, American, British, and Ukrainian officers, plus military contractors, are reportedly experimenting with AI to “find and exploit Russian vulnerabilities.”

The Pentagon-led Project Maven uses AI to distinguish people and objects in drone videos and to do so without human involvement.

A report in The New York Times suggests that, so far, the results have been mixed.

The Pentagon announced recently that it may send additional military advisors to the U.S. Embassy in the Ukrainian capital. The move is apparently a response to concerns that Russia may launch another major offensive in the east of the country. The military advisors would not be deployed in combat but would assist the Ukrainian Armed Forces with logistical planning and oversee the use of U.S.-supplied military equipment in Ukraine, according to Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder.

Examples of Western-made weapons captured in Ukraine have been presented in Russia before now, as we have discussed in the past, but an apparently new display at Victory Park in Moscow includes examples of the M2 Bradley and German-supplied Marder infantry fighting vehicles, as well as a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle.

Unconfirmed reports, emanating from Russia, suggest that Ukraine recently employed the ADM-160 Miniature Air Launched Decoy (MALD) en masse, in an alleged effort to stimulate Russian air defenses in occupied Crimea.

Such an operation would typically be carried out to help build an order of battle for hostile emitters, as well as to geolocate those same emitters. With more Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) now available to Ukraine, the use of the MALD in this context could also be a precursor to planned destruction of enemy air defenses (DEAD) missions using these U.S.-supplied ballistic missiles.

More details have emerged of the U.S. efforts to get additional examples of the ATACMS short-range ballistic missile into Ukrainian hands.

According to The New York Times, over 100 examples of the ATACMS were secretly sent to Ukraine last week. Some of these were immediately deployed and used to strike the Russian airfield at Dzhankoi in occupied Crimea, as you can read about here.

Finally, an unhappy outcome for a group of Russian troops, as they tried to remove a mine from the road ahead of a tank. In the process, the mine was accidentally triggered, with violent results. Viewer discretion is advised.

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