Thursday, 10 November 2022

A 21st Century Powerhouse: Listing Poland’s Recent Arms Acquisitions


By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
The 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine has seen NATO countries scrambling to strengthen their defensive posture by acquiring additional weaponry. For no country is this more true than for Poland, which has embarked on a military shopping spree unprecedented in modern European history. This has so far included the purchase and planned purchase of 1,000 K2 MBTs, 672 K9 SPGs and 288 K239 MRLs from South Korea and 366 M1 Abrams MBTs and 92 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters from the United States. Meanwhile, domestic defence producers are to provide the Polish Armed Forces with almost 1,500 IFVs and hundreds artillery pieces in addition to systems such as drones and tank destroyers.

Rather than acquiring weaponry from its traditional arms supplier Germany, Poland has found new suppliers in South Korea and the United States. Poland has grown increasingly agitated over Germany's delayed response in providing military support to Ukraine and the speed (or lack thereof) with which it wanted compensate Poland for its supply of MBTs to Ukraine under the 'Ringtausch' programme. [1] The truth is that German arms manufacturers lack the capacity to fullfil all of Poland's orders in the first place, with Poland's choice for South Korea not only being a preference but simply also a necessity in order for it to receive the ordered equipment within a reasonable timeframe.
 
The choice for South Korea as the primary supplier of arms and equipment has the added advantage that it doesn't overburden U.S. production lines for military equipment, which could otherwise have left other NATO countries and Taiwan struggling to receive their equipment in time, with production lines already barely coping with Poland's huge orders. Another benefit of cooperation with South Korea is the fact that it has included Poland in its future K3 tank and K9A3 howitzer programmes, which will take into account Polish experience and could one day be produced in Poland. [2]

To put the size of Poland's arms orders into perspective, it is insightful to consider attempts by other NATO countries at strengthening their defence. The Dutch Army, having retired and sold its 24 M270 MLRS in 2004 due to budget cuts, has attempted to reintroduce this lost capability after witnessing the devastating use of multiple rocket launchers (MRLs) during the 2014-2015 War in Donbass. A lack of funding meant it would take until 2022 until a decision for their purchase was made, with an order finally expected in 2023. But while Poland has ordered 288 K239 MRLs from South Korea, the Netherlands is not expected to acquire more than 18 MRLs. Similarly, the Dutch Army (logically) squashed its plans to acquire additional tanks beyond the 18 it currently operates, compared to the some 1,500 MBTs to be operated by Poland.

The cumulative result of Poland's investments will ultimately be an army that is both quantitatively as well as qualitatively superior to any ground force in Europe. In fact, 1,500 active tanks is not only twice more than what Germany, France and the United Kingdom operate combined, but also more than fielded by all European NATO members together. Future arms acquisitions to complement this absolutely massive basis of arms are certain to follow, setting the stage for the rise of one of the 21st century military powerhouses. The constant inflow of new armament will also allow Poland to retire increasing amounts of Soviet-era weapon types that can then be transferred to Ukraine. This not only ensures Poland and NATO's defence, but also Poland's status as an arsenal of freedom for years to come.
 
This article attempts to list equipment acquisitions by the Polish Army, Navy and Air Force. This list focuses on heavy weaponry and doesn't include ATGMs, MANPADS, small arms, command vehicles, trucks, radars and ammunition. This list will be updated as new acquisitions are reported.

Army - Wojska Lądowe


Tanks (1394, of which 574 on order and 820 planned)

  • 180 K2s [To be delivered between 2022 and 2025] (To be upgraded to K2PL standard at a later date)
  • 820 K2PLs [To be produced in Poland from 2026 onwards]
  • 116 M1A1 SAs [2023] (To be upgraded to SEPv3 standard at a later date)
  •  28 M1A2 SEPv2s [2020] (Leased from the U.S. for training)
  • 250 M1A2 SEPv3s [To be delivered between 2025 and 2026] (Deal also includes 26 M88A2 ARVs and 17 M1110 AVLBs)
 

Tank Destroyers (Unknown Quantities)


Infantry Fighting Vehicles (1470)


Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles (300)

 

Artillery And Multiple Rocket Launchers (1150, of which 690 on order and 460 planned)


Air Defence Systems


Helicopters

 

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

 

Air Force - Siły Powietrzne


Fighter Aircraft

  • 32 F-35As [Will Be Delivered From 2024 Onwards]
  • 12 FA-50 Block 10s [Will Be Delivered In The Second Half Of 2023]
  • 32 FA-50PLs [Will Be Delivered Between 2025 And 2028]

 

Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles

  • 24 Bayraktar TB2s [Will be delivered from October 2022 onwards]
  • Several MQ-9A Reapers [Leased from 2022 onwards until the delivery of the MQ-9Bs]
  • An Undisclosed Number Of MQ-9B Reapers [Will Be Delivered From 2024 onwards]
  • Missing flag.png Gryf Programme For Additional UCAVs [Bayraktar TB2 and Watchkeeper X believed to be the favourite contender]
  • Missing flag.png Zefir Programme For MALE UCAVs [Bayraktar Akıncı and MQ-9B believed to be the favourite contenders]


Transport Aircraft

  • C-130Hs [Will be delivered until late 2024] (Will replace 2 C-130Es and supplement 2 C-130Hs already in service)

 

Advanced Jet Trainers

  • M-346 'Bieliks' [Will be delivered in late 2022] (Will supplement 12 M-346s already in service)

Navy - Marynarka Wojenna


Frigates


Submarines

  • Missing flag.png Orka Programme [Significantly delayed programme to acquire three submarines] (Will replace one barely operational Kilo-class submarine)

Minehunters

  • 3 Komoran-2-Class [Will be delivered in the late 2020s and early 2030s] (Will Supplement 3 Komoran-2s already in service or under construction)
 

Signal Intelligence (SIGINT) Ships

 

Helicopters


[1]  Flawed But Commendable: Germany’s Ringtausch Programme https://www.oryxspioenkop.com/2022/09/flawed-but-commendable-germanys.html
[2] Poland’s massive tank, artillery and jet deal with S. Korea comes in shadow of Ukraine war https://breakingdefense.com/2022/07/polands-massive-tank-artillery-and-jet-deal-with-s-korea-comes-in-shadow-of-ukraine-war/
 
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