Abrams, Leopards, Challengers: Which Tank Will Arrive in Ukraine First?

Western nations have announced in recent days that they are sending highly sought-after tanks to Ukraine, but the timelines vary for when the embattled country will be able to deploy them against the Russians.

President Joe Biden said Wednesday that the U.S. will send 31 M1 Abrams tanks, the equivalent of one Ukrainian battalion. Biden's announcement came shortly after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz confirmed Wednesday that Germany would provide 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and that other countries with the German-made tanks would be permitted to send them to the country as well.

Earlier this month, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that 14 Challenger 2 tanks would be delivered to Ukraine as part of a larger military aid package.

The arrival of the tanks is expected to give Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's army a major boost in the war, which is approaching its one-year anniversary. While speaking at a meeting involving dozens of defense ministers in Germany last Friday, Zelensky made an impassioned plea for tanks and other weapons to help Ukraine continue defending itself against Russian aggression.

Besides the U.S., Germany and the U.K., countries such as Portugal and Spain have committed or at least expressed willingness to send tanks to Ukraine. The timeline for many of these potential deliveries remains unclear.

Tanks Heading to Ukraine
A U.S. Abrams tank is seen as troops from Poland, the U.S., France and Sweden take part in a military exercise in Nowogrod, Poland, on May 19, 2022. In the inset, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attends a press conference on January 11. The U.S. is sending 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, but it may take months for them to arrive. Wojtek Radwanski/AFP via Getty Images; Yuriy Dyachyshyn

But with the M1 Abrams, Leopard 2 and Challenger 2 tanks on their way, which ones are expected to arrive in Ukraine first? It may be a tie for first place, or at least a similar timeline, for the Leopard 2 and Challenger 2 deliveries.

A top official in the U.K. Defense Department said Thursday that the "intention" was to have the Challenger 2 tanks arrive in Ukraine by the end of March, according to Reuters. Ukraine's ambassador to the U.K., Vadym Prystaiko, said on January 20 that the Ukrainian military would soon begin training on the tanks in the U.K., according to the Kyiv Independent, an online newspaper. The training itself "will not take much time," Prystaiko said.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said Thursday that its promised Leopard 2 tanks will arrive in Ukraine at the end of March or the start of April, according to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

Poland has promised to send a company of Leopard 2 tanks, which usually consists of 14, to Ukraine. Polish Deputy Defense Minister Wojciech Skurkiewicz told the Polish radio station Plus in an interview published Thursday that he expected the delivery to take place "within a few weeks."

The last to arrive will likely be the U.S. Abrams tanks. CNN, citing unnamed senior administration officials, reported Wednesday that the Abrams tanks will take months to arrive.

While announcing the decision to deliver the tanks, Biden said that getting them onto the battlefield "is going to take time."

That time will be used to "make sure the Ukrainians are fully prepared to integrate the Abram tanks into their defenses," the president said.

Newsweek reached out to the Pentagon for more details on the timeline for the Abrams tanks' delivery to Ukraine.