The U.S. State Department has granted approval for a potential $2.53 billion purchase by Romania of M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks. The notification of the possible government-to-government foreign military sale (FMS) by Washington of 54 M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams was sent by the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) to Congress on November 9. The sale also includes four M88A2 HERCULES Combat Recovery Vehicles (CRVs), four M1110 Joint Assault Bridges, four M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicles and four Heavy Assault Scissor Bridges.
Romania’s current main battle tank inventory is comprised of legacy Cold War-design systems, primarily involving its TR-85M1s – an offshoot of the old Soviet T-55 – that entered service in the mid-1990s.
Replacing these tanks has long been a priority for Romanian defense planners.
The original aim was to acquire new tanks and bring them into service by 2024. To meet its objective, Romania joined the European Defense Agency’s (EDA) OMBT-Leo2 project, a pooling and sharing initiative launched in the spring of 2017 and aimed at taking surplus Leopard 2 MBTs from NATO stocks and upgrading them to Leopard 2A7 standard prior to leasing, renting, or selling them to other NATO members.
But by early 2023, a different option began being pursued with intending to acquire a battalion’s worth of M1A2 Abrams tanks. The head of the Armaments Directorate at the Romanian MoD, Maj. Gen. Teodor Incicas, announced the plan in an interview with the MoD’s podcast, Observatorul Militar, in March 2023. Romanian lawmakers granted their approval for the project two months later in May based on a $1.07 billion price tag for the acquisition. While the DSCA notification mentions a higher estimated cost, the Romanian acquisition will fall on a lower price scale due to the reusing of older, reconditioned M1A1 hulls rather than new-build ones.
The latest acquisition forms part of an accelerated military modernization push that gained momentum in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. That process – which involves acquiring new armored vehicles and six very short-range air-defense (VSHORAD) systems, 155mm self-propelled howitzers, as well as 155mm self-propelled howitzers and F-35 combat aircraft – is being underwritten by a defense budget that now equals 2.2 percent of GDP. That figure is expected to grow to 2.5 percent according to a statement by the country’s president, Klaus Iohannis.