Błaszczak: Legacy Abrams MBTs to Replenish the Polish Armour Stockpile
“We will have our units inventory replenished with the legacy Abrams MBTs”, said the head of the Polish Ministry of Defence Mariusz Błaszczak, during his interview for Polsat News on 14th July. He emphasized that even though the deliveries of the latest M1A2 Abrams SEPv3 MBTs are scheduled to begin in 2025, the training of the Polish crews would begin this month.
During his appearance on the Polsat News programme, Błaszczak broadly discussed the reinforcement of the Polish Armed Forces, also referring to the delivery of MBTs expected to bolster the capacity of the armoured component, suffering from a minor loss of potential, following the delivery of MBTs to Ukraine. Poland has sent more than 200 T-72 MBTs east. Some rumours suggest that PT-91 Twardy MBTs could potentially share the fate of the T-72s.
The brief statement made by Błaszczak did not include any details, given its profile. It inspired some interest nonetheless. What the "legacy Abrams" refers to seems to be especially puzzling. The United States operates a varied fleet of M1 Abrams MBTs, coming in a variety of variants, serving both in the Army, as well as the Marine Corps. There are major differences between the individual variants.
Poland, meanwhile, has procured 250 M1A2SEPv3 MBTs - the latest type of platform. The procurement has been made in April, at a price tag of USD 4.74 bn. The deal also includes support vehicles - bridges and ARVs - ammunition, spares, training, and a logistics support package. All of the MBTs covered under the said contract are to be delivered by 2026. The Polish Army is bound to receive 28 Abrams SEPv2 MBTs this year, to accelerate the training process.
The United States has a certain number of M1A2 Abrams MBTs in storage, belonging to the US Army. However, a majority of these need to be overhauled and modernized. Most probably reintroduction of the recently decommissioned couple of hundred USMC M1A1s would be quicker. These vehicles were decommissioned along with the reorganization of the USMC structures. Despite the upgrades, these MBTs differ very much from their US Army counterparts. The US Army mostly operates the M1A2 SEPv2 with an advanced FCS, alongside the M1A2 SEPv3 variant, procured by Poland - featuring further upgrades.
The USMC’s Abrams MBTs also feature weaker armour. Their fire control system and observation suites are also inferior. The upgrades of the USMC’s Abrams were implemented in parallel, but to a major extent independently from the same process pursued by the US Army. These MBTs have also seen more intense operational use.
One shall hope that the Minister would share more details on the legacy Abrams deal. Does it refer to extra US Army M1A2 SEPv2 that would be transferred to the Polish military? Or is the statement related to other, legacy Abrams MBTs that would act as an urgent gap-filler in Poland? This may seem like a good move that boosts national security. However, in the long run, this decision may entail a costly maintenance requirement tied to the legacy, worn-out vehicles. No clear information has been published on the number of MBT. Does the above refer to several MBTs, or 200, or more - a number somewhat proportional, in relation to the number of the Polish MBTs transferred to Ukraine? As usual, the statement made by the Minister leaves us with more questions than answers.