WASHINGTON — The State Department has approved an estimated $6 billion sale of M1 Abrams tanks and other equipment to Poland as tensions on the eastern flank of Europe remain high over Russian aggression aimed at Ukraine.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency on Friday notified Congress of the potential sale.

Poland has requested to purchase 250 General Dynamics Land Systems-manufactured M1A2SEPv3 Abrams tanks, 250 AN/VLQ-12 CREW Duke counter-improvised explosive device systems, 26 M88A2 HERCULES Combat Recovery vehicles and 17 M1110 joint assault bridges.

Poland also plans to buy as part of the deal 276 M2 .50 caliber machine guns, 500 M240C 7.62mm machine guns and other equipment and parts needed to operate the weapon systems.

Other contractors involved in the sale are BAE Systems, Leonardo DRS, Honeywell, Raytheon Technologies and Lockheed Martin.

Last month, top Republicans in Congress pushed to accelerate the proposed sale of Abrams tanks, which had been pending since last summer, in light of the escalating crisis with Russia.

Polish officials had said they expected the first delivery of the tanks in 2022, while GDLS said the deal could take two years to close.

After meeting with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in October 2021, Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak said Austin thought “equipping the Polish Army with Abrams tanks is absolutely justified as it builds interoperability between American and Polish forces.”

Poland, whose brigades are currently equipped with Leopard 2A4 and Leopard 2A5 tanks, is seeking to replace the Soviet-designed T-72 and PT-91 tanks, to counter the most modern Russian T-14 Armata tanks.

In a conflict, it’s unlikely Poland would deploy its heavy forces to Ukraine or Belarus, but improving Poland’s ability to defend itself could blunt a potential avenue of attack for Russia. And those maneuverable, protected forces would have a better chance of standing up to Russian artillery, Stacie Pettyjohn, director of the defense program at the Center for a New American Security, recently told Defense News.

Poland has purchased or planned to purchase a number of American weapon systems over the last several years, including the Raytheon-made Patriot air-and-missile defense system along with the Northrop Grumman-developed Integrated Battle Command System.

Joe Gould, Defense News senior Pentagon correspondent, contributed to this report.

Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College.

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