US President Joe Biden, on January 25, pledged to send 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, apparently to pursue or put pressure on German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to supply Leopard 2 tanks to the war-ravaged country.
“And today, I’m announcing that the United States will be sending 31 Abram tanks to Ukraine, the equivalent of one Ukrainian battalion,” Biden said in the presence of Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
Biden said, “this is about helping Ukraine defend and protect Ukrainian land. It is not an offensive threat to Russia.”
As of present, which variant of the M1 Abrams will be sent to Ukraine, whether the M1A1 or the M1A2, has not been specified.
As recently reported by media, the reaction from Russia to the US decision to send Abrams to Ukraine has been critical yet calm. There seems to be confidence within the Russian leadership that Abrams will not pose a significant strategic threat.
“If a decision to transfer M1 Abrams to Kyiv is made, American tanks without any doubt will be destroyed as all other samples of NATO military equipment,” said Russian ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov. He issued this warning a day before President Biden pledged the heavily armored tanks to Ukraine.
It seems that Moscow has been expecting the provision of Western tanks to Ukraine for some time, considering the recent appointment of Russian Chief of Staff General Valery Gerasimov, a tank expert, as the Ukraine war commander, perhaps in anticipation of an imminent ‘tank war’ in Ukraine.
In another sign of Russian preparedness to take on the Western tanks, in particular the US-made Abrams tanks, an image is being floated around by Russian netizens that depict vulnerable sections of an Abrams tank and contain a set of instructions on how to engage these tanks.
The image seen above is quite old and famous within the Russian blogosphere, accompanied by a detailed write-up of how to destroy or damage an Abrams tank.
Guidelines To Destroy M1 Abrams Tanks
In the diagram, there are many instructions, with the first one recommending hitting at guidance systems or the tank’s main gun with small arms or/and machine guns.
The second instruction is to hit the large gap between the hull and turret, while the third instructs to hit the bay on the sides of the hull, which can be pierced even using the older grenades for the RPG-7 grenade launcher like the PG-7, PG-7V, PG-7 VM grenades.
The above instructions are based on the assertion that the M1 Abrams, both M1A1 and M1A2 models, are highly protected in the frontal section but not as well armored in the side and rear sections.
Also, Russian-language reports recommend hitting the fuel tank, located in the front section on both sides of the driver. This burning fuel is expected to fall into the engine compartment, causing the engine to catch fire and explode.
However, for situations like this, the M1 Abrams has a fire extinguisher system for the engine compartment, reportedly comprising two bottles and a couple of portable fire extinguishers.
Apart from that, Russian commentators also suggest using the landmines to blow up the M1 Abrams, which would be a very cost-effective solution.
For example, in October 2003, an Abrams tank was disabled by an anti-tank mine in Iraq, combined with other explosives and several 155mm artillery rounds to increase its effect.
The explosion underneath the tank knocked off the turret and resulted in the death of two American soldiers, marking the first time deaths had occurred from a hostile assault on the M1 tank.
To counter landmines, the M1s are equipped with a mine plow to push mines out of the tank’s path, clearing the way for other armored vehicles to follow.
Furthermore, Russian commentators also provide some recommendations to ambush a column of tanks, such as creating special teams of ‘armor-piercers,’ including a machine gunner and a sniper, to protect against infantry covering an enemy tank.
Notably, the Russian army did not employ foot infantry with its main battle tanks in Ukraine, which was the reason behind such heavy tank losses for Russia, as Colonel Rajendra Bhaduri (retd), an Armored Corps officer, previously pointed out.
“It was puzzling, amateurish, and surprising. Both foot infantry and tanks complement each other, and the Russian logic in using their tanks this way is mysterious,” Bhaduri said.
Therefore, Russia would do well to factor in foot infantry in Ukrainian tank assaults, considering Ukraine has learned from the Russian mistake.
Also, the Russian military is recommended to carefully select places for ambushes that would cut off escape routes for the armored column.
In urban areas, the netizens recommend using several teams placed at different levels, including in basements and on the first or third floors of buildings, to simultaneously fire around five to six shots using RPGs from different directions, targeting the top, flanks, and the rear section of the tank.