Following up on an earlier Foreign Military Sales (FMS) request for M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks, a second purchase solicitation by Poland for a potential buy has been given the green light by the U.S. State Department. The estimated $3.75 billion sale would involve 116 M1A1 Abrams tanks, plus 12 M88A2 Hercules combat recovery vehicles, eight M1110 joint assault bridges, six M577A3 command vehicles, 26 M1152A1 HMMWVs, and 26 M1279A1 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTVs).
— Reuters (@Reuters) December 6, 2022
Earlier, in February, a Polish request for the purchase of 250 M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams tanks plus associated equipment (counter-IED systems, machine guns, ordnance, spare parts, training, etc.), 26 M88A2 Hercules combat recovery vehicles (CRVs), and 17 M1110 joint assault bridges was cleared by the State Department. That roughly $4.75 billion deal was signed two months later in April. Once delivered, these tanks will be assigned to the Polish Land Forces’ 18th Mechanized Division and deployed along the country’s eastern border.
The latest FMS request is just one of many big-ticket purchases the Polish government has planned or implemented in the current year. Several of these major initiatives are being undertaken in the land domain. Polish defense planners are aware of the historic vulnerability of the country to land attack and wary of the Russian forces situated astride the country’s border in Kaliningrad oblast. Therefore, a heavy emphasis is placed on deterrence by building up ground forces capability and increasing firepower across all domains.
The launch of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February has triggered a sense of alarm in Poland, resulting in the acceleration and expansion of numerous modernization projects. While drawing down much of the Polish Land Forces’ Soviet-era fleets of T-72 main battle tanks, plus an advanced Polish design of the latter, the PT-91 Twardy, defense planners began looking at upgrading and expanding Poland’s tank capability during the replacement process.
Instead of opting for additional purchases of used Leopard 2 main battle tanks from its European partners, Warsaw shifted its focus to the M1A2 Abrams and a fast-track acquisition of 180 South Korean-designed K2 Black Panther tanks (the latter purchase coupled with a second-stage agreement for 820 K2 “PL” tanks adapted for Polish requirements that would see serial production split between South Korea and a new factory in Poland). The first batch of 10 K2 tanks arrived in Poland on December 6, the same day the latest Abrams FMS notification was issued to the U.S. Congress.
Poland’s ongoing efforts to modernize and increase the capability of its armed forces are rapidly pushing it into the upper tier of European militaries. In the current European security environment, Poland is arguably the most defense-oriented nation along with France and the United Kingdom, with its government signing into law a bill in March under which annual defense budgets will rise to 3 percent of GDP starting in 2023 and the number of soldiers in the military ranks will double to 300,000 by 2030.