Polish Army to be equipped with Abrams Tanks by next year

Poland will buy 250 U.S. M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams main battle tanks (MBT), in a deal worth 23.3 billion złoty ($6.00 billion). These will join Poland’s Leopard 2s in enhancing the countries aging T-72 and PT-91 Twardy fleet.

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On the 14th of July, on the grounds of the 1st Warsaw Armoured Brigade, Deputy Prime minister Jarosław Kaczyński and Minister Mariusz Błaszczak handed over details of the contract for the acquisition of M1A2 Abrams SEPv3 tanks by the Polish Armed Forces.

“Our army in a short time - the first deliveries, if everything goes well, as early as next year - will be enriched with a large number of the most modern Abrams tanks”, said Jarosław Kaczyński, vice president of the Council of Ministers, chairman of the Committee for National Security and Defence Affairs. “There will be so many of these tanks, that it will be possible to create at least four tank battalions, that is more than what is needed to establish a tank brigade.” Despite the project's considerable cost, the minister considers it necessary: “the times we live in, the situation we live in, the place we live in requires it and that is why we want to do it.”

“These tanks will be located in the east of our country, in the 18th Mechanised Division, the youngest one, established in 2018. These tanks will be on the first line of defence, if, of course, there is such a need”, noted Błaszczak. The tanks would be “the best-equipped version, battle-tested tanks, tanks designed as a counterweight to the most modern Russian T14 Armata tanks.”

The M1 Abrams has been the American MBT ever since phasing out the M60 during the 1980s and has received upgrades ever since. While having seen its own fair share of combat in U.S. service, as it is used by both the Army and the Marines, it is also used by Australia, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Morocco. The Republic of China (Taiwan) is also slated to receive M1A2T variants of the tank this year.

The M1A2 SEPv3 (System Enhancement Program version 2) variant of the Abrams tank, is the latest version currently in production and finalising testing. This version rectifies many of the space, weight, and power issues identified during Operation Iraqi Freedom and will be the foundational variant for all future incremental upgrades. It features a 120mm smoothbore cannon (the same design used in Leopard 2), as well as a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun and a 12.7mm machine gun in a common remotely operated weapon system (CROWS). The tank is fitted with improved forward-looking infrared (IFLIR) to detect targets and an ammunition data link (ADL) onboard the tank ensures the programming of the rounds. The hull and turret integrate a new armour package for superior protection against threats from improvised explosive devices (IEDs). These are also combatted by the CREW Duke V3 counter remote-controlled IED (RCIED) electronic warfare system. The tank can be hinged with reactive armour and slat armour. The 66.8 t vehicle is propelled by a 1,500 hp engine and features an auxiliary power unit (APU) under the armour, enabling the tank to operate on-board systems with a reduced probability of detection during silent watch operations.

Along with the tanks themselves, Poland will also receive a logistics and training package, which includes the purchase of a simulator. The Ministry of Defence emphasized that the financing of the Abrams purchase program will be implemented outside the Ministry of Defence budget under a Resolution of the Council of Ministers and will not affect other modernisation programs for the Polish Army.

This is likely in reference to the efforts of modernisation of Poland’s existing tank fleet, consisting of T-71s, PT-91 Twardys, and Leopard 2. The Twardy is an indigenous development of the T-71M1, an upgraded export variant of the T-72 produced in Poland. Produced since 1995, the Twardy is also exported to Malaysia as the PT-91M Pendekar. Poland’s Leopard 2s are of the A4 and A5 standard, which had been purchased from the Bundeswehr. The 2A4s are being upgraded to the so-called Leopard 2PL. This upgrade features modernisations of the sighting, fire control, and monitoring systems, as well as the implementation of an APU. As of 2020, around 12 of Poland’s 247 Leopards are upgraded to the 2PL standard, with a total of 128 upgrades being covered by the contract.

By Kevin Klemann

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