The Romanian Land Forces have announced their intention to procure a battalion of US M1 Abrams main battle tanks.

News of the intended procurement emerged in a 3 March 2023 podcast interview with Lieutenant General Teodor Incicaș, Head of the Romanian Ministry of National Defence’s General Directorate for Armaments. Local publication Defense Romania, which has previously suggested that a Romanian M1 purchase was likely, has reported that an intention to purchase the tanks has already been submitted to the US government.

Gen Incicaș mentioned the M1s in a list of intended military equipment purchases that are being sent to the Romanian parliament for approval. He also mentioned the intended procurement of self-propelled howitzers, infantry fighting vehicles, short- and very-short-range air defence systems and two types of missiles for Romania’s F-16 fighters, according to Defense Romania.

An M1 Abrams MBT from the US Army’s 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team on exercise in Romania in July 2017. The Romanian Land Forces now aspire to having M1s of their own. (Photo: US Army)

No details on pricing have emerged, and the particular variant of M1 sought was not mentioned, but Gen Incicaș did say that a battalion’s-worth of M1s would be requested, equating to around 54 tanks, and that the MBTs would feature upgraded systems as requested by the Land Forces.

It is understood that the German Leopard 2 MBT was also being considered by the Romanian Land Forces. Asked in the podcast why the M1 Abrams had been chosen, Gen Incicaș replied, “Because the Land Forces General Staff considered that for the mission of the brigade it wants to reinforce with this type of tank, the Abrams is the best means and has a uniqueness in carrying out missions”.

The Romanian Land Forces currently operate an MBT force consisting of 220 T-55AMs, 103 TR-85s and 54 TR-85M1s, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Military Balance 2023. The TR-85s are a Romanian development of the Soviet designed T-55, with the TR-85M1s being tanks upgraded to NATO standards with a Romanian powerpack based on a German V8 830 hp diesel engine.

While Romanian procurement programmes can often proceed at a very slow pace, Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine may lend some urgency to a bolstering of the Romanian Land Forces’ armoured formations.

Peter Felstead