22 weeks of abbreviated Abrams tank crew training for Ukraine

PANAGYURISHTE, BULGARIA — January – history will remember the month in which Ukraine was allowed to receive tanks. The British Challenger 2, the German Leopard 2, and the American Abrams will tread the Ukrainian mud. Moscow will no longer face its own Soviet-era derivatives.

22 weeks of abbreviated Abrams tank crew training for Ukraine
Photo credit: DoD

Ukraine requested specific weapons systems – 300 tanks, 500 infantry fighting vehicles, and 500 artillery guns. However, the numbers were not accepted by the Allies and what Kyiv would have to acquire was less than 50% of the requested tanks, less than 50% of the infantry vehicles, and less than 20% of the artillery.

Of course, the weapons promised to Kyiv are good news. The Ukrainian armed forces are allowed to continue their war against Russia. Same Russia that invaded Ukrainian territory last February and has been the occupier for a year so far. However, Ukraine faces a much more complex problem. First – the requested quantity is not the promised delivery, and second – the time.

The time

Ukrainian tank crews will have to go through complex training. Challenger, Leopard, and Abrams tanks are not the tanks they have worked with so far. In the conditions of war, this training will be shortened – logically. But will the time come and how effective will it be.

Berlin continues to give Leopard 2A4 tanks, 15 go to Prague
Photo credit: KMW

Some military-political analysts say the war could end this summer. The abbreviated training course of the American Abrams is 22 weeks. I.e. until the end of June. While the Ukrainian soldiers are being trained, the Pentagon will have to decide which tanks to send and what modifications to make to them.

Actual operational expertise is achieved after a year of training, very often in the second year. The 22 weeks will only give the foundation of the Ukrainian tank crews. This is not enough, despite the experience of the Ukrainians with tanks, be they Soviet.

The training

The first problem is – Soviet tanks are operated by a three-man crew, while Western tanks are operated by a four-man crew. This means one additional person who needs to acquire additional knowledge. This also means disrupting the balance of an existing Ukrainian tank crew.

Second, Western tanks use manual loading of the ammunition of the main tank weapon, while Russian tanks use automatic loading. I.e. the new Ukrainian crews will have to adapt to a dynamic that is different from their previous training and work on the battlefield.

Third – 22 weeks is the optimal training option. Realistically, neither Challenger 2, Leopard, nor Abrams have a unified training course. These are different systems, although they follow western technological development.

The interchangeability

The various training programs that the Ukrainian tank crews will go through immediately highlight another problem – interchangeability. I.e. the interchangeability is missing. This means that if a crew loses its Leopard tank, it cannot immediately switch to commanding and waging war with a Challenger 2 or an Abrams.

Britain is considering sending a dozen Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine
Photo credit: Army Technology

This can affect motivation, although, let’s face it, Ukrainians show strong motivation in using any weapon. But the lack of interchangeability could lead to hesitation and distraction due to Kyiv’s expected quick results.

The support

“Iron bunkers”, as the tanks are called, are as effective as they are ineffective. I.e. a tank can cause big problems for the enemy, but the same tank often breaks down. It is already absurd to think that the Ukrainians will carry out field repairs to the damaged tanks. On the contrary, they will have to be transported back to repair shops near Ukraine and repaired by the specially trained, or original repair crews.

This opens up an even bigger problem – logistic centers need to be built around Ukraine so that the tanks can be repaired.

There is one fact that the average reader does not know – the preparation of the tank. For Abrams, for example, it is known that one hour on the battlefield and carrying out combat actions is worth three hours beforehand in preparation. I.e. not always and not at all times tanks will be available. Serious tactical time preparation is required here.

A possible scenario

If the headquarters of the army of Ukraine follows all the rules of delivery and logistics, the tanks will never enter combat. The logistics of the tanks, their repair processes, and the supply of ammunition and spare parts are planned in advance. Even if this planning is done now, it will not be effective months from now when the tanks go into battle.

22 weeks of abbreviated Abrams tank crew training for Ukraine
Photo credit: DoD

The possible scenario is not good for Ukraine. Kyiv will most likely be forced to field its new Western tanks in the battle for spare parts. Once out on the battlefield and into battle, the familiar old problem of yesteryear returns – spare parts. We’ve already seen delayed munitions deliveries, spare parts being sought worldwide, re-production for spare parts, and cannibalisation of healthy systems to be used for spare parts.

The painful truth, which no one wants to mention for fear of being labeled a “Putinist” or a “Pro-Russian propagandist”, is that with the new tanks, Ukraine will maintain its current level, but not become stronger. Is this suicide? NATO suicide?


Follow us everywhere and at any time. BulgarianMilitary.com has responsive design and you can open the page from any computer, mobile devices or web browsers. For more up-to-date news, follow our Google News, YouTube, Reddit, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook pages. Subscribe to our Newsletter and read our stories in News360App in AppStore or GooglePlay or in FeedlyApp in AppStore or GooglePlay. Our standards: Manifesto & ethical princliples.