Land Forces

Poland to Accelerate the Abrams MBT Procurement?

Photo. US Army

The Pentagon is scrutinizing the option of a potential acceleration of the sale of the Abrams MBTs to Poland. Accelerated deliveries of newly manufactured MBTs are on the table, along with a transfer of existing examples, until the final variant is available.

Responding to an inquiry made by Mike Turner, a member of the Republican Party, who was pointing to the necessity to replenish the military equipment stocks, as some of that equipment has been transferred to Ukraine, Douglas R. Bush, assistant of the US Army secretary responsible for procurement said that "options" remain on the table, regarding the potential acceleration of the delivery of MBTs to Poland. One of those options is seen in a redefinition of priorities for the Abrams deliveries, with that priority being shifted to an earlier transfer, that would precede a transfer to further US Army units or other US allies. However, decisions within that scope can be made not at the Army level, but the Office of the US Defense Secretary.

What is already happening is an accelerated training programme. Within the framework of that programme, as it was announced when the procurement contract was being concluded, the Polish Armed Forces would receive 28 M1A2 SEPv2 MBTs, while the subsequent training would involve US Army representatives.

However, the transfer of a larger number of existing vehicles is also on the table. Douglas R. Bush said that options are being considered, taking into account the potential use of the new Lend-Lease scheme, with the officials creatively looking for ways to provide Poland with MBTs during the transitional period, also pointing out that these talks have a preliminary profile, and adding that at the present stage the remainder of the information is confidential.

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Poland has decided to procure 250 M1A2 Abrams SEPv3 vehicles, along with accompanying platforms: 26 M88A2 Hercules ARVs and 17 M1074 Joint Assault Bridge platforms. The procured package also includes ammunition, spares, logistics support, and simulators. The contract value has been defined as USD 4.74 bn. (net). When the agreement was signed, it was announced that deliveries of vehicles that would match the agreed configuration would begin in 2025, with finalization planned in 2026. Talks are underway, on the potential acceleration of the deliveries.

The information released at the Congress suggests that this is just one of the options that are given relevant consideration. Transfer of existing vehicles is another possibility here. In a situation as such, these could be either the SEPv2 MBTs (used for training and replaced by the SEPv3 variant in the US Army) or the legacy M1A1SA. The former option would be far more beneficial from the point of view of the operational capabilities and training, as the M1A1 differs greatly from the newer main battle tanks. The talks are in their early stages though. The Lend-Lease act has been signed in early May, defining the new rights, when it comes to lending the equipment from the US Army stock to Ukraine, and its allies.

The fact that the Act is used here has not been a subject of the contract signed in early April and may result on the ground of the fact that Poland has transferred some of its T-72 main battle tanks to Ukraine. Warsaw, however, is discussing several replacement options here, as Germany was also asked to deliver the Leopard 2 MBTs.

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General Dynamics Land Systems is the main manufacturer of the Abrams MBT. Poland has signed a G2G agreement. That means that the individual elements of the procurement would be contracted by the Pentagon directly, with relevant contracts signed with the actual manufacturers. This procurement scheme is usually used in the case of any other similar agreements. Poland is the second country that decided to acquire Abrams SEPv3, following Australia.

The MBTs would be operated by the 18th Mechanized Division. Nowadays that unit operates the Leopard 2A5/2PL MBTs (1st Armoured Brigade based in Wesoła), along with 2 T-72 MBT battalions, the latter are to be ultimately subordinated to the 19th Mechanized Brigade. The procurement is carried out in line with the urgent operational requirement (PPO) procedure. The relevant FMS request was submitted in July 2021. The State Department issued its approval in February this year, while consent issued by Congress followed in March. Wilk new generation MBT programme is to be pursued in parallel with the Abrams procurement, as per the Technical Modernization Plan. Wilk is a programme that is expected to see a major involvement of the Polish defence industry.