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Polish Armed Forces Development Programme

The Polish Armed Forces’ modernization priorities

"The Armed Forces Development Programme for the years 2017-2026" - the document was signed by Minister Mariusz Błaszczak in November 2018.  It defines the Ministry of Defence's priorities regarding modernization and purchasing priorities of equipment and weaponry. The acceleration of the new, 18th Mechanized Division formation, construction of cyber defence forces and the continuation of modernisation in the air defence and deterrence systems as well as in the mechanized troops are ranked among the top priorities.

The end of 2018 was the important decisions period regarding the definition and implementation scope for the MOD’s programme for the Polish Armed Forces’ development and modernization. Not only did the Minister sign the “Armed Forces Development Programme for the years 2017-2026”, the document which defines the long term course of action. A number of key decisions were also made, such as the implementation of the 300 km HOMAR programme associated with the American HIMARS system acquisitions. The artillery development includes further provision of self-propelled Krab cannons and automatic Rak mortars.

The second phase of the Wisła air defence programme is being discussed at the moment - not only does this include subsequent Patriot system batteries, but also a wider participation of the domestic industry. In accordance with the current technical modernization program,me the Narew short-range air defence scheme should be launched by 2022. , The need to cooperate with the IBCS command system used in the Polish Patriot configuration is the essential requirement.

The end of 2018 also saw the contracts signing for PGZ-19R unmanned aerial vehicles produced by WZL-1 and PIT-Radwar under the tactical BSL Orlik programme. This was also the purchase of the new version of the Flyeye system manufactured by WB Group and VIS-100 pistols manufactured by the Arms Factory in Radom and designed for the Territorial Defence Forces.

This has been just a prelude to the major modernization programmes planned for 2019-2020 which have been in the pipeline for years. The Defence Ministry intends to resolve proceedings for the Griffin unmanned aerial systems. Starting 2021 the unmanned aerial vehicles of this class are to be delivered to the 4 existing land forces divisions. UAV’s will be used for reconnaissance and the tactical level attack. These will be the largest and most advanced UAV used by the Polish Armed Forces since Zefir. The MALE (Medium Altitude, Long Endurance) class equipment will become operational  in 2022.

The Minister of National Defense instructed the Chief of General Staff to speed up the Harpia fighter programme for air defence; this means a faster introduction of the MiG-29 and Su-22 successor. The Polish Army, according to the plans is to acquire the machines by 2024.Also Kruk's assault helicopter programme is among the General Staff priorities. At the same time the Mi-24 helicopters currently used in the army are to be modernised under the 2019’s contract. These helicopters will be equipped the modern guided missiles.

Anti-tank weapon is another priority, to be implemented in 2019.The Ministry of Defence intends to choose and contract both light-gauged anti-tank missiles Pustelnik as well as rockets (Karabel code name) for vehicles, helicopters and unmanned aerial systems. The procedures related to acquisition of unguided armoured targets combat means for infantry units have already been launched. The post-Soviet RPG-7 grenade launchers are the basic equipment type.

The armoured and mechanized troops are one of the main modernization  directions, the Defence Ministry has included them in both short and long term perspective. In the coming years, the BWP Borsuk infantry fighting vehicles is to prpoduced. The tanks modernization scheme will also be implemented -  both Leopard 2A4 are modified to the Leopard 2PL standard as well as the over 300 T-72 tanks will be upgraded. At the same time, the Armament Inspectorate has initiated the analytical and conceptual procedure for the new generation tanks - Wilk code name. These machines may replace not only T-72 and PT-91 Twardy in future, but also Leopard tanks. The Polish industry’s presence is important in this project.

The situation of the Navy is the most complex and unclear - the operational requirements redefinition for modernization programmes is under way now. As the result the priority may switch from coastal and patrol vessels to more comprehensive, larger, frigates-class units. At the same time, the Orka submarine programme has not been abandoned. The Navy needs for the coming years also include patrol aircraft – (Rybitwa code name) as well as the sea helicopters intended to be used in rescue and anti-submarine missions. The decision to obtain frigates will also require the on-board helicopters, which will significantly determine the operational potentials and versatility of this class’ units. However, this is now a song of a distant future.

One, if wanted to summarise the current situation of the Polish Armed Forces’ technical modernization may say that the Ministry of National Defence has now entered the intense implementation period of the costly programs. This is due to the need to replace the obsolete equipment as well as the to adapt all types of troops to the challenges of the present-day and future battlefield. The latter includes the need to saturate the army with unmanned aircraft as well as to respond to the cybernetic forces’ future need. The Polish Army potentials development through new units creation development of tactical relations is yet another issue - the 18th Mechanized Division and regional brigades of the Territorial Defence Forces are the example. This requires large amounts of equipment and utilities acquisition while maintaining a high cost-effect ratio. Thus this will be the main organizational and financial challenge.