Poland has already set up an “Abrams Academy” to prepare its military to use the American-made tanks it has ordered. It intends to establish a comparable center to educate European HIMARS rocket launcher pilots.
The US military is planning to establish a training center in Europe to teach NATO allies how to use High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, a voice of America (VOA) told a senior US general, amid growing demand for these systems in Eastern Europe following the weapon’s successes in Ukraine.
“We’re still in the early stages, but it would be an area where we might bring multiple countries to one place,” Lt. Gen. John Kolasheski, commander of the V Corps and responsible for US Army operations, told VOA. Along NATO’s eastern flank, in an exclusive interview late on Tuesday.
It was announced on Tuesday that the State Department had given its blessing to the probable sale of 18 HIMARS launchers to Poland, along with hundreds of Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems and dozens of Army Tactical Missile Systems. The Polish government has asked for this transaction to take place, which is expected to bring in around $10 billion.
The proposed HIMARS program would be available to NATO countries approved for foreign military sales of long-range artillery systems, which include nations like Estonia, Poland, and Romania on the eastern side of NATO.
“They [NATO] see the brutality of what has taken place in Ukraine, and there is a sense of urgency, there is a sense of purpose, and all 30 nations are united in joining this effective defense of NATO turf,” Kolasheski said.
This week, Estonia’s Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur told VOA that “one of the main lessons learned” from the battle in Ukraine is that “long fire is extremely crucial.” HIMARS is widely recognized as the catalyst that shifted the tide of the conflict.
Estonia has purchased six HIMARS units scheduled for delivery in 2024-25. Additionally, Pevkur noted that the US HIMARS platoon is letting Estonian personnel begin training on the rocket systems “today” so that they will be ready to fire them “from day one.”
Abrams Academy of Poland
According to Kolasheski, the planned HIMARS academy would be “a similar construction” to the Abrams Tank Training Academy, which opened outside Poznan, Poland, last year to acquaint Polish personnel with the US-made Abrams main battle tanks.
Poland purchased 116 M1A1 Abrams tanks in January and 250 M1A2 Abrams tanks in December, making it the first European ally to acquire the Abrams.
According to Kolasheski, part of the Abrams program includes an apprenticeship in which Polish forces are assigned to Army tank units for study tank maintenance and firing.
Two Polish tank operators and mechanics classes have graduated from the Abrams academy since it opened last summer.
Poland has quickly become a military hub for US forces in Eastern Europe and has openly advocated sending Western tanks to Ukraine.
On Saturday, Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak announced that his country had begun instructing Ukrainian military personnel on how to operate Leopard 2 tanks manufactured in Germany.
Asked if the Abrams Tank Training Academy in Poland would be used to train the Ukrainians, Kolasheski told VOA that there is “no decision on that at the moment.”
After President Joe Biden announced last month that the United States would provide Abrams tanks to Ukrainian forces, the Pentagon has since said it will have to procure the tanks first because there is no excess available in US stocks. This measure will delay the delivery of the tanks.
However, the British-made Leopard 2 and Challenger 2 tanks are expected to arrive on the Ukrainian battlefield as soon as the training of the Ukrainians is finished. “The tanks are highly anticipated… and I really hope we are not too late for that,” Pevkur of Estonia told VOA.
Kolasheski said, “I suppose so,” when asked if it was reasonable to expect Ukrainian forces to employ Leopard 2 or Challenger tanks in a few months.
“They are very, very motivated. They are very anxious. I mean, this is an existential threat to them,” she said. The Pentagon declined VOA’s request to grant them access to the Abrams Tank Teaching Academy in Poland and the US forces training Ukrainians in Germany.