WASHINGTON ― The U.S. National Guard in at least five states is sending aging M113 armored personnel carriers to Europe to support the Pentagon’s race to send equipment to Ukraine.
As of Friday, the governors of Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia announced that, at the request of the Defense Department, they’re turning M113s from their fleets over to Ukraine. The aid stems from President Joe Biden’s announcement April 13 of an $800 million package that included 200 M113s, among more than a dozen other capabilities.
“The governors are the commanders in chief of their respective national guards, and they’re proud to do this,” National Guard Association of the United States spokesman John Goheen said Friday.
The U.S. Army considers the M113, its Vietnam War battle taxi, obsolete and stopped buying them in 2006. As the fighting in the Donbas region of Ukraine faces a rainy, muddy spring, the M113 ― which has tracks and weighs far less than an Abrams tank ― could offer the country’s forces transportation and protection from small-arms fire and the effects of artillery.
“You need mobility on the battlefield, and protected mobility is even better,” Goheen said.
After the Indiana National Guard got the request, it had its technicians at Camp Atterbury inspect, repair and road test their M113s. From there, the vehicles were staged for transport and could be seen leaving atop flatbed trucks.
“We’ve been ordered to ship these out at the president’s directive, to provide military equipment to Ukraine,” the director of the Indiana National Guard’s joint staff, Brig. Gen. Justin Mann, said in a video. “So, we got short notice, the team did a complete technical inspection and we’re able to get all these things ready ahead of time, in less than five days. So a monumental, herculean effort by our maintainers, doing great work and getting this equipment ready.”
The latest announcement on M113s came from North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday.
“The reports of war crimes perpetrated by Russian forces amid their ongoing attacks on Ukraine are heartbreaking and demand serious action,” Cooper said in a news release. “North Carolina stands with the people of Ukraine and is ready to support their fight for democracy and freedom.”
A North Carolina National Guard spokesman said the M113 is an all-around great, utilitarian vehicle that deployed to Iraq with the state’s guard units and is still used.
“They’re not just parked somewhere, they’re all operational,” Lt. Col. Matt Handley said of the vehicles. “The M113′s gone through upgrades over the the years, and they’re still functional.”
In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine announced his state was not only donating M113s, but also that its law enforcement agencies were sending 75 ballistic and riot helmets as well as 840 pieces of body armor, including vests and plates, through the Fund to Aid Ukraine, a nonprofit.
Separately, the Pentagon acknowledged April 29 that a Florida National Guard unit that left Ukraine in February is continuing to train Ukrainian troops in Germany and another undisclosed country on radars and tactical vehicles.
“The National Guard is able to support equipment and training efforts expeditiously,” National Guard Bureau spokesman Wayne Hall said in an email. “The first shipment of equipment flowed two days after the president authorized support on April 13.”
Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He served previously as Congress reporter.