I could sub-head this article “Maybe you don’t get what you want, but you get what you need.”
These last posts about the Ukrainian War are turning into a bit of a kick around here. But it’s in the headlines a lot. And I used to be a soldier, so I’ve got a little knowledge about this subject. Yes, I will get to writing about other subjects. But not today.
You can’t get away from news about the war. It’s everywhere. And sometimes people say really stupid or ill-informed stuff. Some people make unbelievable statements, like the head of the Russian mercenary organization, the Wagner Group. Check out his guidance for recently released convict-soldiers:
You can’t make this shit up.
So, it caught my eye when I saw that the US was considering sending Brads (the Bradley IFV) to Ukraine, and the same article mentioned that we might also send the M1 Abrams there.
While it would be great to see an M1 smoking some Wagner pukes, I have a few issues with sending the M1 to Ukraine.
First, our NATO allies in the east need armored upgrades. They should get the first priority. In fact, the Poles are first on the list and receiving shipments as we speak. NATO allies- first in line.
Second, there is a steep learning curve with maintaining and operating the M1. It is not a simple machine by any means. The mechanics and crew would take many months to train, and the Ukrainians needed armor now, not later.
Finally, and most crucially, there is the tyranny of logistics and finance. I’ll talk about finance first. The M1 is seriously expensive, and the Ukrainians aren’t exactly flush with cash. Either we’d have to pony up the greenbacks for the tanks, or they would. Now let’s talk logistics. The M1 slurps down JP-8 fuel, and something tells me the Ukrainians don’t have oodles of that, which the M1 requires. Just getting gas to the fighting units on the vast Eastern Front would be a nightmare. Let alone the parts because the M1 breaks a lot. And let’s not forget munitions. It’s a nightmare. Seriously.
This is why I think that providing the Ukrainians with the M1 is, while well-intentioned, not the best idea.
I have a better one.
We can give the Ukrainians the very capable and suitable M60 Patton. They are in service worldwide, have seen lots of action, and we have an unknown, probably large, amount (think thousands) of them sitting in mothballs, doing nothing.
Why. I’ll address this point by point, using the bullet statements above as a guide.
First, our NATO allies don’t want the old M-60. They want the latest and greatest, and this is understandable. However, the M-60 had no problems smoking Sov armor in several wars, most notably with the USMC in Gulf One. Yes, the M-60 isn’t cutting-edge, but it doesn’t need to be. It needs to kill Soviet designs, and it has and will. We can probably supply thousands of these tanks in a shortened timeline. Perfect is the enemy of good enough.
Second, the M60 will look familiar to Ukrainian mechanics and crews. It is powered by a reliable diesel, there are minimum electronics, there is no turbine engine. Also, crews used to the T series Soviet tanks will think they’ve died and gone to heaven with the roominess and user-friendly Western crew compartment and controls. Also, the tech on the M60 will be easier to soak in for crews used to the T series tanks. Mechanics and crew will take to the old M60 like a fish to water, speeding up integration into the front line. And the Ukrainians need speed with a looming Russian offensive this winter.
Finally, let’s talk finance and logistics. The finance is the best part! All the money for the M60 was spent decades ago. We can give the things away with few qualms. These days the only thing that gets done with the M60 is free donations to war museums. How about sending them to a worthy cause instead? I’d also wager there’s a mountain of old munitions sitting around for the tanks that are just taking up space in a depot. Ship it. The tanks, munitions, and parts cost more to store and maintain than sending them over the pond. The logistics? Ukrainian diesel will work just fine in the M60. Also, we already have a parts and munitions chain in place for the war- there would be no increased burden for maintaining the M60, unlike the M1 Abrams.
So there’s my brainstorm of the day.
Send the M60 to Ukraine.
It’s ugly, but it works.
Postscript: A friend saw this article and responded by emailing me this youtube link of some random tanks on a former or current back range somewhere in the southern United States. I reviewed the link and a few things struck me. First, the tanks had not been demilitarized. Second, they were not as bad as you would think. Finally, there were sixteen of them (!) in just this one spot at one installation. This suggests to me that there are many hundreds of these examples just sitting around rusting. OK, fine. As is, the tanks in the video need some work. Fine. Look a this video, a demo of what can be done with an old M60 hull. Send these tanks to Raytheon, I say.
Then send them to Ukraine.