In a recent tweet, Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak announced that Poland would acquire 250 M1A2 Abrams SEPv3, currently the most advanced version of the venerable M1 Abrams in production. Błaszczak minced no words when describing the usefulness of the Abrams platform, stating that the “Abrams will be stationed in eastern Poland. This is the best way to strengthen our defense potential.”
Old but Gold
The Abrams made its combat debut during the 1991 Gulf War. During that conflict, the Abrams more than proved its worth when pitted against Iraq’s old Soviet-era T-55 and T-62 tanks, as well as the much more modern and substantially more capable T-72 tank.
The Abrams’ lop-sided kill ratio against Iraqi armor (no Abrams was lost due to direct enemy fire) was thanks to the large 120mm main gun as well as the depleted uranium armor-piercing ammunition American tanks could fire. Not only could American Abrams engage enemy armor from outside the Iraqi’s maximum engagement distance, but the American DU ammunition was arguably the most potent armor-piercing ammunition in existence at that time.
Although that conflict occurred thirty years ago, the Abrams has nonetheless remained battlefield relevant thanks to numerous upgrades that steadily incorporated platform improvements, to the tank’s armor package in particular. Explosive reactive armor — essential blocks of outward-facing explosive that destroy incoming projectiles — have been incorporated onto the platform greatly increasing crew protection.
Compared to the previous Abrams variants, the SEPv3 is by far the most protected. The Israeli Trophy system has been incorporated onto the SEPv3, which fires small projectiles that intercept incoming enemy projectiles before they can hit the tank’s explosive-reactive armor. It is considered one of the best active protection systems in the world.
Location, Location, Location
“These tanks will be on the first line of defense, if such a need arises of course,” Błaszczak explained in a Polish Defense Ministry statement. More specifically Błaszczak explained, the 250 brand-new Abrams main battle tanks would be based in Lublin, roughly 75 kilometers from Poland’s border with Ukraine and Belarus. Błaszczak stated that the Abrams tanks should arrive in Poland sometime next year.
Ultimately the new Abrams tanks will allow the Polish Army to phase out their Soviet-era T-72 tanks as well as Poland’s own PT-91 essentially a T-72 modernized with Polish components. They won’t come a moment too soon — Poland will in essence be exchanging part of their obsolete tank force for some of the best tanks in existence.
Caleb Larson is a Defense Writer based in Europe. He holds a Master of Public Policy and covers U.S. and Russian security, European defense issues, and German politics and culture.