Prepping: Polish Defense Modernization

Background

Poland’s historically based fear of Russia’s influence over the Eurasian region is being agitated by the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. Historically, Russia’s greater military capacity has repeatedly ended poorly for the Polish people and is epitomized by the Polish Partition between Russia, Prussia, and Austria in the 18th century and Soviet occupation following WWII. The domestic anti-Soviet Solidarity movement led Poland out of Soviet orbit in 1989, a mere 25 years ago, and many still recall the oppression faced under their Soviet aligned communist leadership.

Following the events in Ukraine since November 2013, many Poles are once again fearful that Russia may push westward. Similarly, they question NATO and the EU’s willingness to intervene if such a scenario occurs. In response, Poland is rapidly modernizing its military capabilities and quickly becoming the West’s bulwark against the Russian Federation.

 

Poland’s Defense Budget

Poland’s government is determined to meet NATO’s required military expenditures rate of two percent gross domestic product (GDP), a goal that few NATO member countries meet and a substantial increase from previous expenditures of 1.8% GDP. Approximately 38 billion USD will be allocated to defense, mostly targeting the modernization of forces and the replacement of Soviet-era military equipment. All of these changes must comply with European Union regulations as well as the Public Procurement Law introduced in 2013 or the Offset Act of June 2014

 

Modernization

This year, the Polish Ministry of National Defense will begin a series of steps to drastically modernize the country’s military force. Such steps include:

  • Choosing a supplier of medium range air and missile defense for its WISLA ballistic missile defense (BMD) program, a component of the “Shield of Poland” air defense system. The ministry is deciding between French Eurosam and American Raytheon. The French company offers Aster-30 surface-to-air missiles with operational range 120km. They can simultaneously track up to 300 objects, track down 60 and provide guidance for 16 objects. American Patriot has a range of 160km, can track up to 125 objects, and provide guidance for 9 targets.
  • The delivery of new versions of Rosomak armored personnel carrier to Poland. This vehicle includes technical reconnaissance car and 120 - mm automatic mortar. Rosomak will have to be integrated with unmanned transporter towers and guided Spike anti-tank missiles.
  • The introduction of the new NAREW defense system that is designed for short-range defense. The implementation of this system will leave a total of 11 batteries without anti-ballistic missile capabilities. Several companies are competing to fill in these gaps. Choices include Diehl (IRIS-T SL), MBDA-Bumar (VL-MICA), Israel’s RAFAEL (SPYDER & Iron Dome), and Raytheon (NASAMS). Procedures aiming at acquiring missiles will start in 2016.

In 2017, Poland will receive Lockheed Martin’s AGM-158 JASSM missiles for their F16 fleet. The JASSM is a tactical maneuvering missile capable of firing at a distance of 370km and is designed to strike high-value targets. The procurement of these weapons will cost the Polish government approximately 250 million USD.

Within next three years, Poland intends to raise a fleet of 70 new utility helicopters and 40 attack helicopters to replace its existing Soviet-era Mi-24 Hinds. The possible choices of attack helicopters are AW-129 Mangusta and AH-64 Apache. Initially, they were to be acquired by 2020 but the new date has not been specified. Polish companies will manufacture the utility helicopters domestically, while attack helicopters will be imported. The decision on who will produce these utility helicopters has not been made, however the announcement is expected by the end of February 2015 and the delivery date for the aircraft is expected in 2017. Prospective models include AgustaWestland’s AW149, Airbus Helicopters’ EC725 Caracal, and Sikorsky’s UH-60 Blackhawk. They will consist of 48 multi-role transport, 16 Search And Rescue, and 6 anti-submarine helicopters.

Additionally, Samsung Techwin penned a deal with Huta Stalowa S.A. to export 120 K9 chassis for Armatohaubic Krab. The AHS Krab is 155-milimiter tracked combination cannon/howitzer with an auxiliary machine gun and 81 mm 902A grenade launcher.  The ammunition for the Krab will come from Polish ZM Dezamet.

By 2030 Ministry of National Defense is planning on buying 64 multi- purpose 5th generation aircraft. It is suspected that these will be F-35, however, Poland may not be able to afford them. It is unknown whether other options are, or may become available. Until new fighters become available, priority will be placed on modernizing Poland’s existing Soviet-made Su-22s.

 

Moving Forward

Modernization is one of Poland’s top defense proprieties that is based on a philosophy built around both collective security within NATO and individual capability. The historic failure of Western allies to aid Poland contributes to a strong policy dedication to domestic military preparedness. As a result, Polish military security is unlikely to depend entirely on NATO allies, but rather contains contingencies related to a variety of scenarios involving Russia.

Similar to several other former-Warsaw pact states in NATO (e.g. Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania), military modernization efforts constitute a long lasting process that will take years to complete. Poland strives to become a strong military power in Central Europe that meets international and NATO standards. The modernization involves an increase in spending within already limited national budget and it remains to be seen whether Poland will be financially able to introduce all of the desired changes because of these constraints. Nevertheless, modernization and adaptation is central to the Polish military strategy moving forward and has been heavily influenced by the Ukraine Crisis and strained relations with Russia. Poles know all too well how volatile their region can be, and are preparing to defend themselves should they need to, with or without Western support.