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​Romania Needs Replacement for T-55 Tanks, Leaning Toward Korean K2 Instead of M1 Abrams

Romanian TR-85 M1 Bizonul tanks / Open-source illustrative photo
Romanian TR-85 M1 Bizonul tanks / Open-source illustrative photo
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About the factors that play the deciding role when choosing military equipment, especially in the nowadays' global weapon deficit

Ministry of Defense of Romania, in a comment to Defense Romania, de facto confirmed that they are leaning towards the option of purchasing K2 tanks from South Korea to reinforce its armor fleet, but before making a final decision, this MBT must partake in tests on Romanian territory.

As the journalists of Defense Romania add, the Romanian Ministry of Defense now intends to expand the variety of weapons it's planning to buy from South Korea: in addition to the contracted K9 self-propelled guns and K2 tanks, Romanians are also considering the K21 Redback infantry fighting vehicle.

Read more: The U.S. Gives Ukraine Large Number of M2 Bradley, MRAPs, Other Armored Vehicles in New Military Aid Package
South Korean K2 main battle tank / Defense Express / Romania Needs Replacement for T-55 Tanks, Leaning Toward Korean K2 Instead of M1 Abrams
South Korean K2 main battle tank / Open-source photo

Although this insight seemingly doesn't add much detail and nothing is set in stone until the official contract is signed, this article is interesting in the way how the Romanian military explains their choice, especially if we consider the background of this selection process.

Feeling the urgent need to upgrade its aging tank fleet comprising mostly T-55 Soviet-era tanks and its modernizations, in early 2023, Romania started looking into three options: American M1 Abrams, German Leopard 2, and Korean K2. Later in March 2023, the defense ministry chose Abrams and ordered a battalion of tanks — 54 units.

The Leopard 2 dropped out almost immediately as the queue was long and the tank itself almost twice as pricey. However, the final cost of the Abrams wasn't too appealing either: USD 1.07 billion in total.

Now, instead of scaling up the ongoing order, the Romanian military shifted its focus toward the Korean proposal. That would be logical considering Bucharest is set to acquire at least 300 new tanks to replace the T-55 and its local modernizations, the T-85 and TR-85 M1 Bizonul, so an additional source of materiel would help while the Americans are working on this supply.

South Korean K2 main battle tank / Defense Express / Romania Needs Replacement for T-55 Tanks, Leaning Toward Korean K2 Instead of M1 Abrams
U.S. M1 Abrams during military drills in Romania / Photo credit: U.S. Department of Defense

However, there are more nuances to this decision. It turns out, the Romanian transport infrastructure is simply not designed for such large vehicles as M1 Abrams, it has already forced the government to rebuild the roads and bridges because of that.

Besides, the proactive stance of South Korea played a significant role as well. Seoul is constantly scaling up the production of military equipment and provides incentives to its potential arms customers, sometimes as far as dumping the prices.

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