US M1 Abrams vs. Ukrainian T-72 tanks: Here’s how they compare

WASHINGTON — Ukrainian troops will be armed with what White House officials call “the best tank in the world” after President Biden announced Wednesday that Washington would supply Kyiv with 31 M1 Abrams tanks.

Ukraine has relied on Soviet-era T-72 tanks since the Russian invasion began on February 24. The Russians generally use later versions of T-72s developed in the years following Ukraine’s independence in 1991.

US officials have not specified which iteration of the M1 they will send to Ukraine, although the tanks are purchased from the defense industry rather than current stock, meaning they will likely include some of the latest upgrades.

Thousands of tanks on each side were destroyed during the 11-month war, although it is unclear how many remain in play. Ukraine claims to have destroyed 3,161 Russian tanks while Russia claims to have knocked out 7 617 Ukrainian tanks. “tanks and other armored fighting vehicles,” the countries’ respective defense ministries said on Wednesday.

President Biden announced on Wednesday that Washington would provide Kyiv with 31 M1 Abrams tanks.
NurPhoto via Getty Images

Although it could take up to a year for US M1s to arrive in Ukraine, the addition should give the war-torn country a leg up on Russia.

The M1’s superior maneuverability will be invaluable in traversing the vast, flat, open expanses of the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine, where the majority of the fighting has taken place since the early months of the war. American tanks also offer greater lethality and survivability and are equipped with superior guns, barrels and armor compared to the T-72.

The military declined the Post’s request for an interview about the M1’s capabilities as “we await further guidance from the Department of Defense,” but noted that the tanks had outperformed the T-72s in past conflicts, including the Gulf War and the American invasion of 2003. Iraq.

Here’s a more in-depth look at the tank comparison:


A Russian T-72 tank
Ukraine has relied on Soviet-era T-72 tanks since the Russian invasion began on February 24.
Getty Images

Handling

With a range of 290 miles per hour, the T-72 can cover slightly more than the M1’s 265 miles before refueling – although it is also 10 tons lighter than the American tank, which is equipped with heavier armor for better survivability.

While the T-72’s top speed of 47mph is slightly faster than the M1’s 42mph, the system is far less nimble than its American alternative. For example, it is unable to reverse at high speed – a key capability that the M1s and other Western systems such as the German Leopard 2 can provide.

The T-72’s diesel engine offers a slight advantage over the M1’s gas turbine engine – which requires jet fuel, which is harder to find downstream. However, the United States is also sending 8 AM-88 recovery vehicles with the tanks, which could help tow the M1s out of gas.

Lethality

The M1 is equipped with a 120mm XM256 smoothbore gun, a high-velocity and highly accurate weapon that can destroy enemy tanks and other difficult targets. The gun can effectively hit targets up to 1.86 miles away.

It also includes a 7.62mm M240, a medium-sized coaxial belt-fed, gas-operated machine gun. The M240 can fire up to 950 rounds per minute and has a firing range of over 2.3 miles.

In addition, the American tank is equipped with a .50 caliber M2 machine gun, which can fire 850 rounds per minute and hit targets up to 6.8 km away.

In comparison, the T-72 is equipped with a 2A46 125mm smoothbore cannon that has the same 1.86 mile firing range as the M1’s 120mm cannon, as well as a 7. 62 mm similar to the American version.

However, its NSV 12.8mm secondary machine gun spits out around 700-800 rounds per minute at a range of less than a mile, making it far inferior to the M1’s .50 caliber M2 machine gun.

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