Ukraine Situation Report: M1A1 Abrams Tanks Approved For Shipment

The first batch of Abrams tanks that the U.S. is providing to Ukraine was approved for shipment over the weekend, and the tanks remain on track to arrive in Ukraine by early Fall, Army Acquisition Chief Doug Bush told reporters on Monday.

“The last of the set was officially accepted by the U.S. government or the production facility over the weekend. So they are done,” said Bush. The 31 Abrams tanks destined for Ukraine – older M1A1 variants – had been undergoing refurbishment and preparation for shipment for months.

Though the tanks are ready, they still have to be shipped overseas and sent to Ukraine, “along with all of the things that go with them – ammunition, spare parts, fuel equipment, repair facilities,” Bush said. “So it’s not just the tanks.”

The goal, said Bush, remains to get the Abrams tanks to the unit level by “early Fall.” He did not give a specific date or even month. Last month, Politico reported that the tanks would arrive on the battlefield in September.

“I think what’s been said it’s still accurate,” said Bush, without referring specifically to the Politico story. “That timeline is definitely on track.”

President Joe Biden initially approved delivery of the Abrams tanks to Ukraine in January.

During a separate press briefing, the Pentagon’s top spokesman said there was no timetable for a decision on whether Ukraine would also get depleted uranium rounds.

“I don’t have anything to provide, no announcements to make regarding any type of tank ammunition at this point,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder.

In March, the British government disclosed that it is sending 120mm tank ammunition containing depleted uranium (DU) to Ukraine for its Challenger 2 tanks. You can read more about those rounds in our story here.

Though the Abrams tanks have yet to arrive, Ukraine has been using the Challengers and donated Leopard 2 tanks, as well as Bradley Fighting Vehicles, the latter two systems lauded by a commander from the 47th Mechanized Brigade that has been operating them. He recently spoke about their performance in a battle in Zaporizhzhia Oblast.

“We had a Leopard tank as a gift,” the commander said. “In fact, it is a very powerful machine with very modern weapons. Modern optics which destroyed the tank – the one that was supposed to attack our column.”

“The Western equipment we receive is an order of magnitude… higher than the Soviet ones we had,” he said.

Before we head into the latest news from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can catch up on our previous rolling coverage here.

The Latest

On the battlefield, Ukraine is making incremental progress, but facing a new challenge, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Monday on her Telegram channel.

Ukrainian forces had “tactical success” near Robotyne in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, she said. However, the Russians are “seriously strengthening” their defensive lines. “And our troops are now faced not only with mining, but also with concrete engineering fortification of key commanding heights. This significantly complicates” the counteroffensive’s advance.

Maliar did not specify what types of fortifications.

The heaviest fighting, however, remains in the east, she said. The Russians are continuing to try to break through near Kupiansk in Kharkiv Oblast.

“In the Kupiansk direction, the enemy searched for weak points in our defense, unsuccessfully conducted assaults in the area east of Petropavlivka, Kharkiv region.”

Russian forces have attempted to break through near Petropavlivka, Kharkiv, according to Ukraine’s deputy defense minister. (Google Earth image)

The Russian Defense Ministry, meanwhile, said it has made incremental advances toward Kupiansk.

“The Zapad Group of Forces’ assault detachments, in the course of conducting offensive operations on a wide front line, have improved the situation along the front line close to Olshana and Pershotravnyovoye” in Kharkiv Oblast, the Russian MoD reported Monday on its Telegram channel. “Within the last three days, the Russian troops’ advance towards Kupiansk direction has been 11 km along the front line and more than 3 km in depth of the enemy defense.”

Russia fired chemical weapons at Ukrainian troops on Sunday near Novodanylivka in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, Alexander Tarnavsky, the commander of the “Tavria” operational and strategic group of troops claimed, according to the Ukrainian Defense Express publication.

The Russians fired those munitions from multiple launch rocket systems that containing a chemical agent Tarnavsky suggested could have been chloropicrin. That’s a chemical used in agriculture as a soil fumigant, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. “It has also been used as a chemical warfare agent (military designation, PS) and a riot control agent,” the CDC says. 

“The Russians conducted such shelling to stop our troops forward,” Tarnavsky claimed, without offering proof. “The enemy violated all possible international conventions that prohibit the use of chemical equipment ammunition. But it is important that as a result of this attack there are no victims on our side, obviously, both military and civilian residents.”

We cannot confirm the commander’s claim at this time and it must be taken as such until there is further confirmation.

A woman has been detained by Ukraine’s state security service (SSU) for trying to give Russia advanced details about a recent visit to Mykolaiv by President Volodymyr Zelensky, the agency said in a media release Monday.

The woman, who was not named in the release, tried to establish the time and locations of Zelensky’s visit last month so he could be targeted. However the plot was uncovered before the woman was able to pass the information along to her handlers, the SSU said.

If convicted, she faces a sentence of up to 12 years in prison.

“SSU operatives established that the spy had been instructed to identify the location of the [Armed Forces of Ukraine’s] electronic warfare systems and ammunition depots near Ochakiv, Mykolaiv Oblast,” according to the SSU.

Russians “planned to use these data to prepare a new massive air strike on the region,” the SSU claimed, including target Zelensky. “The SSU apprehended the traitor ‘red-handed’ when she was trying to pass intelligence to the invaders.”

To gather intelligence, the woman drove in the target area, taking photos or video footage of Ukrainian facilities. She also tried to obtain intelligence through her connections, “hoping that her acquaintances would unwittingly provide certain information.”

During his nightly address Sunday, Zelensky lauded foreign donated advanced air defense systems.

Systems like the Patriot, National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missiles Systems, or NASAMS and the IRIS-T SLM surface-to-air missile system are proving “highly effective” and had “already yielded significant results,” Zelensky said, according to Reuters.

Zelensky said Ukraine had shot down a significant part of Russia’s attacks over the past week, which included 65 missiles of various kinds and 178 drones, including 87 Shaheds.

Ukraine’s military said later that Russia had launched 30 missiles and 48 air strikes.

“Unfortunately, there are casualties and wounded among the civilian population. Residential buildings and other civilian infrastructure suffered destruction,” the military said in a statement.

Zelensky also condemned what he said was a Russian “guided air bomb” attack late Saturday “against a blood transfusion center in Ukraine. This evening, Kupiansk community in Kharkiv region. Dead and wounded are reported. My condolences! Our rescuers are extinguishing the fire.”

During a visit to a Ukrainian Air Force base on Sunday, Zelensky had the chance to check out a Czech-donated F-16 flight simulator.

“Using this simulator, the Ukrainian servicemen are currently studying the features of modern equipment and its capabilities,” according to the official Ukrainian presidential website. “Volodymyr Zelensky tested the complex’s operation in practice and hit one of the virtual targets, a Tu-95.”

U.K. Defense Ministry on Monday noted what it said was an increase in Russia’s reliance on glide bombs in an effort to avoid Ukrainian air defenses. The MoD also suggested that Russia – which had relied heavily on its rotary wing assets in the early days of Ukraine’s counteroffensive – appears to be generating less tactical air support in the southern section of that advance. You can read more on Russia’s use of Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopters in our story here. But unlike the Ka-52 and other attack helicopters, those crude, guided glide bomb kits can’t hit moving targets, like Ukrainian armor.

Ukraine’s request for Germany’s Taurus air-launched cruise missile seems to be getting closer to fulfillment.

As we noted yesterday, there are increasing indications that German reluctance to provide the weapon is fading. 

On Monday, a top Ukrainian lawmaker announced on his Facebook page that Germany’s legislature has concluded that the missiles should be sent to Ukraine.

“My friends at the Bundestag have just informed me that key parliamentary factions have reached consensus on the transfer of Taurus missiles to Ukraine,” said Yehor Cherniev, Deputy Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada National Security, Defense and Intelligence Committee.

“These rockets can hit 500 kilometers and are able to cover all the occupied territories, including the southern coast of Crimea,” he said. “For a long time we have been working with German parliamentarians to form a support group, and here, finally, the cry has been crossed. We are waiting for an official decision.”

There was no official word yet from Berlin on the matter.

The Russian chemical/oil tanker Sig, struck three days ago by a Ukrainian uncrewed surface vessel (USVs) at the mouth of the Kerch Strait, has still not moved, according to the vessel tracking MarineTraffic website.

The latest tracking information as of 7:30 p.m. Eastern, the Russian tug Merkuriy and dive support vessel Voldolaz Kuzminykh appeared to be near the stricken Sig. That tanker, sanctioned by the U.S. previously for shipping jet fuel to Syria, suffered a flooded engine room and other damage as a result of the USV explosion. It was the second attack on a Russian ship within 24 hours and the latest in an increasing series of Ukrainian aerial drone and USV attacks on or near the Crimean peninsula. You can read more about that in our story here.

Despite the ongoing war, Russia continues to receive raw materials for titanium production from Ukraine, according to the Ukrainian RBC-Ukraine media outlet.

Titanium is used in the production of weapons like the Su-34 Fullback strike aircraft, which has a cockpit surrounded by a titanium alloy ‘box’ that protects pilots flying over hostile air defenses.

Data “obtained by RBC-Ukraine from insiders working in the titanium industry confirm that a significant portion of titanium raw materials exported from Ukraine is in Russia through intermediaries,” the publication claimed in a story published Monday.

Ukraine has significant titanium ore reserves. The state-owned United Mining and Chemical Company estimates, 20% of the world’s total resources of this raw material are concentrated in Ukraine,” according to RBC-Ukraine. However, Ukraine doesn’t manufacture metallic titanium or products from it, instead exporting concentrate from which finished products are manufactured in other countries.

While the concentrate comes in several forms, only ilmenite concentrate is considered dual-use for civilian and military applications, requiring export documentation by the State Export Control Service, according to RBC-Ukraine. The other types of titanium concentrate are exported without such restrictions. 

It was sold to “intermediary companies in Poland, Hungary, Czechia, and Slovakia, which have Russian citizens among their founders and operate with Russia,” the publication reported.

Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Forces (UTDF) released images Monday of an uncrewed ground vehicle (UGV) it says can serve as both an ammunition delivery system and a way to evacuate the wounded. UTDF claims the UGV can carry 330 pounds and has a range of just under two miles.

U.K.’s Defense Ministry (MoD) released more video Monday from Operation Interflex, a U.K.-led effort to train Ukrainian recruits. It show’s the recruits learning combined arms maneuver – working in conjunction with armor – as well as building entry techniques.

Bakhmut continues to be a focal point of fighting by both sides. In this video below, a Ukrainian First Person Video (FPV) drone is seen destroying a Russian observation tower in that devastated city.

A Russian T-90M tank can be seen in this video being hunted down and destroyed by Ukrainian FPV drones in Donetsk Oblast.

Due to the proliferation of drones like FPVs, damaged armor has become even more vulnerable. In the case of this video below, a Russian tank under repairs in a field was hit by an FPV.

Thanks to its range – able to hit targets some 50 miles away – the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (GMLRS) munitions fired by the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS and the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) have given Ukraine a qualitative edge in counter-battery artillery battles. The video below reportedly shows the destruction by GMLRS of two 2S1 Gvovdika 122mm self-propelled howitzers and one 122mm D-30 howitzer.

Ukrainian artillery crews zeroed in on and then apparently destroyed a Russian command post. However, it took several salvos to hit the main target and several Russian troops can be seen escaping.

It seems the Russians are not amused with the decision by Ukraine to swap out the Soviet hammer and sickle on the shield on the shield of the Motherland statue in Kyiv with the Ukrainian trident.

And finally, someone had a little fun with the spate of Ukrainian USV attacks on Russia in this play on the opening credits to the Miami Vice TV series, which ran on NBC from 1984 to 1989.

That’s it for now. We will be back when there’s more news to report about Ukraine.

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Howard Altman

Senior Staff Writer

Howard is a Senior Staff Writer for The War Zone, and a former Senior Managing Editor for Military Times. Prior to this, he covered military affairs for the Tampa Bay Times as a Senior Writer. Howard's work has appeared in various publications including Yahoo News, RealClearDefense, and Air Force Times.