Thursday, 18 August 2022

A European Powerhouse: Polish Military Aid To Ukraine


By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Few countries have offered Ukraine even half the extent of military support that Poland has provided. Polish military aid to Ukraine has so far encompassed well over 300 armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs), including over 230 tanks and some 110 pieces of self-propelled guns and multiple rocket launchers, amongst a host of other weapon types. Poland also serves the important role of central transit hub for arms donations to Ukraine, and the majority of Western military aid enters through Poland. Even though Poland does not disclose details of most of its arms deliveries, a great number of armament types have meanwhile been spotted or reported on by authorities in Ukraine.

Arguably the most significant Polish arms delivery consists of some 230+ T-72M(R) and T-72M1(R) MBTs. While Spain and Germany considered but ultimately refrained from sending ten Leopard 2A4s and 88 Leopard 1A5s, Poland (along with North Macedonia) showed little hesitation in transferring a significant portion of its combat-ready T-72 tank fleet to Ukraine in April, where they were subsequently up-armoured through the addition of Kontakt-1 explosive reactive armour (ERA). A number of these T-72s previously underwent a modernisation programme in Poland that saw the fitting of new (night) sights and communication systems, greatly increasing their effectiveness on the plains of Ukraine. [1]
 
In July 2022 it was further announced that Poland would supply Ukraine with a number of PT-91 MBTs, a significantly improved local version of the T-72M1. [2] Rather than outright replacing the 250 or more MBTs lost by Ukraine since February 24, the vast majority of the Polish-delivered T-72s (and likely also the PT-91s) are currently held back for use with newly-established mechanised brigades in future offensive actions throughout Russian-occupied Ukraine. [3] These units are the recipients of most of the AFVs currently delivered to Ukraine, and provide the Ukrainian Military High Command with a strategic reserve for both offensive and defensive operations.

Contrary to the T-72s, all of the Polish Army's PT-91s are currently fielded by active-duty units. The resulting shortfall in Polish military capabilities after their delivery to Ukraine is to be made up by deployment of British Challenger 2 MBTs to Poland and the delivery of 116 M1A1 Abrams MBTs from the United States, in addition to the 250 M1A2 SEPv3s ordered in April 2022. [4] Their acquisition is part of an immense rearmament programme that is to see the purchase of up to 1000 K2PL MBTs and 672 K9 SPGs from South Korea and up to 500 M142 HIMARS from the United States. [5] [6] A constant inflow of new armament allows Poland to retire increasing amounts of Soviet-era weapon types that can then be transferred to Ukraine, ensuring Poland's status as an arsenal of freedom for years to come.

Polish PT-91 MBTs in the field.

Perhaps even more important than the T-72/PT-91 MBTs and BWP-1 infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) is the delivery of long-range artillery assets such as the 155mm AHS Krab. Poland has donated eighteen of these modern SPGs in June 2022, with another 54 examples purchased by Ukraine to be delivered in the coming year(s). [7] The AHS Krab combines the turret of the British AS-90M with a Rheinmetall 155mm/52-caliber barrel and a Polish Topaz fire-control system mated to the chassis of the K9 Thunder SPG to give its cannon a range of 30km (or 40km when using base bleed rounds). A total of 72 of these advanced artillery pieces would certainly make it amongst the most numerous modern SPGs in Ukrainian service, serving alongside smaller numbers of PzH 2000s, French CAESARs and Slovakian Zuzana 2s.

Equally impressive have been a number of Polish crowdfunding actions organised by journalist Sławomir Sierakowski and the Army of Drones, the cumulative efforts of which have resulted in the purchase of one Bayraktar TB2 from Baykar Tech (which subsequently gave the drone free of charge, with the $5 million raised to be used for charities helping Ukrainian citizens), 20 WB Electronics FlyEye reconnaissance UAVs and 20 WB Electronics Warmate loitering munitions. [8] This substantive military aid coming from the Polish private sector demonstrates Polish citizens are firmly united behind Ukraine's cause, in so doing impacting the course of the war to a greater extent than some entire nation states have done.

As the Russo-Ukrainian War currently shows no sign of abating, further military aid to Ukraine is undoubtedly being contemplated. This could include additional BWP-1 IFVs, SAM systems, SPGs and MRLs, engineering equipment, Mi-8/17 and Mi-24 (attack) helicopters and drones. Another asset highly sought after by Ukraine that is currently in service with Poland is the MiG-29 fighter aircraft. Though an earlier plan to donate 20+ of Poland's MiG-29s to Ukraine ultimately did not come to fruition, a prolonged conflict in Ukraine might well see their eventual transfer to the country in return for secondhand F-16s from the U.S. Air Force. Whether such a donation is to materialise would ultimately have little impact on Poland's well-established status as one of the staunchest allies of Ukraine.

A LPG WDSz command vehicle that was delivered to Ukraine along with the AHS Krab SPGs.

The following list attempts to keep track of military equipment delivered or pledged to Ukraine by Poland shortly prior and during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. The entries below are sorted by armament category (with a flag denoting the country of origin). Due to the confidential nature of some arms deliveries they can serve only as a lower bound to the total volume of weaponry delivered. This list will be updated as further military support is uncovered.
 
(Click on the vehicle or equipment type to get a picture of them)
 

Tanks

Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs)

 

Infantry Mobility Vehicles (IMVs)

 

Command Vehicles

  • LPG WDSz [June 2022] (Command vehicle for the AHS Krab SPG)

Self-Propelled Artillery

 

Multiple Rocket Launchers (MRLs)


Air-To-Air Missiles (AAMs)

  • 100 R-73 (For Su-27 and MiG-29 fighter aircraft) [February 2022]
 

Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs)

  • 1 Bayraktar TB2 [To be delivered] (Crowdfunded by the Polish public. Subsequently given to Poland by Baykar Tech free of charge with the €5 million collected used for aid)

Reconnaissance UAVs

  • 20+ WB Electronics FlyEye [February or March 2022 and August 2022] (An initial batch was delivered by the Polish Armed Forces with 20 more FlyEyes acquired through the Army of Drones crowdfunder)


Loitering Munitions


Man Portable Air Defence Systems (MANPADS)

 

Mortars

  • 100 60mm LMP-2017s [February 2022] (Delivered along with at least 1.500 rounds)
 

Small Arms


Ammunition


Protective Gear



[1] MSPO 2021: Modernized T-72M1R main battle tank on display https://www.armyrecognition.com/mspo_2021_news_official_show_daily/mspo_2021_modernized_t-72m1r_main_battle_tank_on_display.html
[2] Poland has transferred to Ukraine a batch of PT-91 Twardy main battle tanks. https://www.ukrinform.net/rubric-ato/3536351-poland-delivers-batch-of-pt91-twardy-tanks-to-ukraine.html
[3] Attack On Europe: Documenting Ukrainian Equipment Losses During The 2022 Russian Invasion Of Ukraine https://www.oryxspioenkop.com/2022/02/attack-on-europe-documenting-ukrainian.html
[4] Poland Buys 116 Used M1A1 Abrams Tanks From US https://www.thedefensepost.com/2022/07/18/poland-m1a1-abrams-tank-us/
[5] Poland purchases 1,000 K2 tanks, 672 K9 howitzers https://mil.in.ua/en/news/poland-purchases-1-000-k2-tanks-672-k9-howitzers/ 
[7] Poland Sells Its Krab Howitzers to Ukraine: A Record-Breaking Contract https://defence24.com/industry/poland-sells-its-krab-howitzers-to-ukraine-a-record-breaking-contract  
[8] Українські захисники отримають 20 дронів-розвідників Fly Eye від Армії дронів http://www.vin.gov.ua/news/ostanni-novyny/48941-ukrainski-zakhysnyky-otrymaiut-20-droniv-rozvidnykiv-fly-eye-vid-armii-droniv
 
Recommended Articles:
 
Answering The Call: Heavy Weaponry Supplied To Ukraine