US likely to give Ukraine depleted uranium tank shells – WSJ

13.06.2023, 12:48
US likely to give Ukraine depleted uranium tank shells – WSJ - Photo
An M1A2 Abrams tank. Photo by Nathan Franco / US Army

The Biden administration is expected to provide Ukraine with depleted-uranium armour-piercing tank rounds, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, citing US officials.

A senior administration official quoted by the WSJ said there appeared to be "no major obstacles" to approving the ammunition.

The decision comes after "weeks of internal debate about how to equip the Abrams tanks the US is giving to Kyiv".

The Pentagon has urged that the Abrams tanks be armed with depleted-uranium rounds, which are regularly used by the US Army and are highly effective against Russian tanks, per the WSJ report.

"Fired at a high rate of speed, the rounds are capable of penetrating the frontal armour of a Russian tank from a distance," it reads.

Some White House officials that debated the proposal have expressed concern that sending the rounds might open Washington to criticism that it was providing a weapon that may carry health and environmental risks.

Depleted uranium is a high-density metal – about three times the density of iron – used in the military industry to produce combined armour and armour-piercing sub-calibre shells.

While depleted uranium is a byproduct of the uranium-enrichment process, it doesn’t generate a nuclear reaction. The United Nations Environment Program said in a report last year that the metal’s "chemical toxicity" presents the greatest potential danger, and "it can cause skin irritation, kidney failure and increase the risks of cancer."

According to Scott Boston, a defence analyst at the Rand Corporation and a former US Army artillery officer, the projectile "hits like a freight train".

"It is very long and very dense. So it puts a great deal of kinetic energy on a specific point on an enemy armour array."

"Tank-on-tank fighting hasn’t seemed to be very common in this war. But to the extent that it happens, we’d like the Ukrainians to win at it."

The Biden administration is yet to approve the transfer of cluster munitions to Ukraine, despite the critical need on the battlefield in battles like Bakhmut and the ongoing counteroffensive.

Also, there has been no progress with the provision of ATACMS missiles, with a range of up to 300 kilometres, for M142 HIMARS and similar MLRS systems.

The UK was the first to provide Ukraine with armour-piercing depleted uranium tank rounds back in March, which Russia baselessly castigated as posing a "nuclear" threat.

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