WARSAW, Poland — Drawing lessons from the ongoing war in Ukraine, several Eastern European allies are aiming to buy new tanks after years of neglect in this capability area.

German, South Korean and American producers are intensively competing for orders from the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, among others, amid a spike in demand for tracked platforms across the region.

Slovakia recently unveiled plans to buy new tanks, and local observers say the country wants to acquire up to 104 such vehicles. The potential purchase could radically increase the capacities of its land forces, which currently relies on about 30 outdated Soviet-designed T-72M1 tanks as well as second-hand, Germany-donated Leopard 2A4 tanks.

Germany gave 15 Leopard tanks to Slovakia following the transfer of its 30 BVP-1 infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine.

“The Slovak Defence Ministry plans to acquire tanks — a main battle tank,” a spokesperson for the ministry told Defense News, noting that “an internal analysis of the market and possible methods of the acquisition is underway.”

The spokesperson said the ministry “does not currently have any offers, as it has not yet announced any selection process or public tender for the acquisition of tanks.”

The latest announcement comes as one of Slovakia’s neighbors, the Czech Republic, is advancing negotiations with Germany to carry out a joint acquisition of Leopard 2A8 tanks.

In December 2023, Czech Defence Minister Jana Černochová declared the government is seeking a more affordable price tag and quicker delivery time from KNDS, the Franco-German producer.

On June 12, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala announced his government approved a plan to order up to 77 Leopard 2A8 tanks for the country’s armed forces.

“The Army of the Czech Republic could have a heavy brigade armed with more than 120 Leopard 2A4 and 2A8 tanks after 2030. The government has approved the intention of the Ministry of Defence to implement the purchase of 61 Leopard 2A8 tanks with an option for a further 16 tanks,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement.

“In addition, the Army already has 15 Leopard 2A4 tanks, the same amount will be received as a donation from Germany in the near future, and the Czech Republic intends to buy a further 15 under favorable conditions,” the office noted.

For Slovakia, joining the planned German-Czech purchase of Leopard 2A8s could provide potential benefits compared with an individual acquisition of tracked platforms. Local media reported that Slovak Defence Minister Robert Kaliňák has already discussed involving his country’s defense industry in manufacturing these tanks.

Meanwhile, Romania is gearing to acquire the M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams for its Land Forces after the U.S. State Department approved a potential foreign military sale of 54 such tanks, made by the American firm General Dynamics Land Systems, along with related combat recovery vehicles, assault breacher vehicles and other gear.

The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency said the planned procurement is worth about $2.53 billion. However, Romania-based observers expect its final value will be significantly lower.

In April 2022, Poland signed a deal worth about $4.75 billion to also buy the M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams with related equipment. It plans to acquire a total of 250 of these tanks.

In addition to the Abrams, Romania is also considering the purchase of South Korean-made K2 Black Panthers manufactured by Hyundai Rotem. Poland has also purchased this tank type.

Alexandru Georgescu, a Bucharest-based security and defense analyst, told Defense News it is likely Romania will decide to acquire South Korean tanks following recent trials of the vehicle.

“Romania has had a tendency — that is often criticized — to also spread its orders around instead of concentrating them for logistical purposes. Ultimately, it depends on the results of the requirements formulation of the Armed Forces and how the various actors meet them. We had recent exhibition trials in the Smârdan firing range near the city of Galați,” Georgescu said.

“The K2 Black Panther MBT [main battle tank] was tested on May 17. The tendency of Romania to follow in Poland’s footsteps as a form of coordination for improved synergies in logistics also speaks in favor of the K2,” the analyst added.

Poland has recently demonstrated a strong preference for American and South Korean tanks, leading Warsaw to purchase used M1A1 and new M1A2 Abrams as well as K2 Black Panthers. However, the swearing in of a new centrist government in December could pave the way for more European tank projects. In May 2024, OBRUM, a subsidiary of the Polish government-run defense giant PGZ, announced its readiness to join a European Defence Fund-backed program aimed at developing a new main battle tank for Europe.

Defense News has reached out with requests for comment regarding Eastern Europe expansion plans to General Dynamics Land Systems, the maker of the M1A2 Abrams, KNDS, which manufactures the Leopard 2A8, and Hyundai Rotem, the producer of the K2 Black Panther.

Jaroslaw Adamowski is the Poland correspondent for Defense News.

Share:
More In Europe
Biden drops out of 2024 race
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin praised Biden for his "profound and personal commitment to the Department of Defense and the American military" on Sunday.