Polish defense minister Mariusz Blaszczak announced on July 15 that his country would be purchasing 250 M1A2 Abrams SEPv3 battle tanks from the United States. The deal, worth $6 billion, will also include logistical and training packages, ammunition, and infrastructure upgrades. The new tanks are expected to bolster Poland’s defenses, primarily in a potential conflict with Russia.
“Of course this is a response to the challenges we face in terms of international security… Our task is to deter a potential aggressor. We all know where that aggressor is,” Blaszczak said at a news conference. Poland has been on guard ever since Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
During a military ceremony in Wesola, Blaszczak stated that the M1 tanks would be deployed in Poland’s eastern areas “in the first line of defense.” The tanks are expected to be delivered beginning next year. He said that the M1 tanks would serve as effective match for “modern Russian T-14 Armata tanks.” The new tanks will replace the outdated Soviet-designed T-72 tanks currently in service with the Polish military, as well as local development of the T-72, the PT-91 Twardy.
Some see Poland’s purchase of M1 Abrams tanks as ironic since the United States had originally developed them in the Cold War to combat Polish and Soviet forces in Western Europe.
In a write-up at The National Interest, Dan Goure, vice president at the public policy research think tank, Lexington Institute, says that the sale of M1 Abrams tanks to Poland will work in America’s favor. Poland’s army currently operates around 500 Russian-designed tanks, which are over three decades old.
By arming Poland with new tanks, the country’s capabilities for high-end heavy combat will “substantially improve.” A strong fleet of Polish tanks will be a deterrent to Russian aggression, and the sale will support interoperability between American and Polish forces. Furthermore, arming Poland with M1 tanks sends a message to Russia that Washington “intends to back up its words in support of NATO with deeds.”
“Providing Poland with a version of the M1 Abrams tank and encouraging its industry to be involved in sustaining U.S. and Polish Abrams tanks would be a significant statement of NATO’s commitment to the defense of its eastern flank,” Goure writes.
The M1 Abrams tank, which debuted in 1981, currently serves as the main battle tank of the U.S. Marine Corps and Army. The tank features a computer fire control system, nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) protection for crew members, and a multi-fuel turbine engine.
Currently, three versions are operational: M1, M1A1, and the latest model, M1A2. Despite being four decades old, the U.S. military continues to operate the M1 series of tanks and has committed to using them in the future with upgraded armor, firepower, and optics.
“The latest version of the M1, the M1A2 SEPv3, adds a remotely operated .50-caliber machine gun, improved protection from remote-controlled roadside bombs, and an ammunition data link that allows the tank crew to issue specialized commands to main gun rounds. The 73.6-ton tank has a crew of four and can go 42 miles on a road and 30 miles per hour cross-country,” according to Popular Mechanics.
The first military unit to receive M1A2 SEPv3 tanks was the 1st Cavalry Division of the U.S. Army’s 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team last year. Poland will receive the tanks even before some of the U.S. Army units.
In addition to the Soviet-era tanks, Poland also has 250 German-made Leopard 2 A4 and A5 battle tanks. After integrating 250 M1A2 SEPv3 tanks, Poland will control one of the strongest tank forces in continental Europe.
Poland’s government aims to encourage American companies to work with Polish defense firms via joint ventures and cooperation agreements. The technical expertise of American companies would synergize with the relatively cheaper cost of Polish manufacturing.