MBT for Poland Without Involvement of the Polish Industry?

Fot. Defence24
Fot. Defence24

Nexter company has disclosed the schedule for the German-French next generation main battle tank project; Poland was willing to participate in the said initiative; The programme is portrayed as a major opportunity for the domestic industry; It still remains an open question, whether Poland would join the effort, which requires a professional involvement, also in the politics domain.

French-German new generation tank programme is rapidly accelerating. The initiative is based upon mutual industrial collaboration.  Poland has been willing to participate in the said initiative, however no signals have been received so far, from the European partners, in response to the Warsaw’s inquiry. It remains an open question whether we will witness Polish involvement here. Nonetheless, one should note that the whole process, should it take place, will require a lot of political effort and will to succeed.

According to Defense News, Stéphane Mayer, the head of the Nexter company, has disclosed the initial schedule for the joint next generation main battle tank programme a few days ago, at a press conference. The new platform would be delivered around 2030, five years after conclusion of the relevant R&D contract. A technology demonstrator/prototype is expected to be created before the date above, with a deadline set around 2020.

The European next-gen. tank programme involves the French Nexter and German KMW companies. It may be said that the whole effort is being carried out as a response to the requirements signalled by the authorities. Governments of Germany and France had previously approved a merger of KMW and Nexter companies which, together, now form the KNDS umbrella company. One of the primary goals of the aforesaid fusion was to design a new tank, known under a working name of “Leopard 3” or “Leoclerc”.

Defence24.pl found out that in the second half of 2016 Poland began talks on potential inclusion in the consortium. Both KMW and Nexter were expressing their readiness to incorporate Poland in the programme, as Warsaw could potentially become a major customer. The issue was being brought up in the dialogue established between Antoni Macierewicz (former head at the Polish Ministry of Defence) and his German counterpart, Ursula von der Leyen.

The Polish involvement would entail manufacturing and assembly of the tank’s structural elements by one of the PGZ companies. According to the unofficial information we have obtained, neither the French, nor the Germans, did issue any specific proposals, with regards to the Polish inquiries. Off-the-record we have found out that French and German manufacturers assumed a stance which is open, however political decisions and declarations are expected first. Thus, a major political pressure is required, to make Poland a part of the project.

This bears a great degree of relevance, as the new generation main battle tank programme may receive EDA funding, or extra funds provided within the framework of other EU instruments, such as PESCO. According to the project presented by the European Commission, at least three entities, hailing from at least two countries, may submit their requests to receive the Fund’s support. Meanwhile, the whole infrastructure used to conduct the subsidies-driven activities is required to be located within the EU territory.

To make sure that Polish industry actually participates in the aforesaid project, it is required that involvement is seen from the very beginning, before division happens with regards to the EU financial support. Key decisions on industrial cooperation need to be made as soon as possible. If the Polish industry successfully joins the European main battle tank programme, then we may speak of a whole new level at which the Polish companies would be perceived.

German Leopard 2A7 tank. Image Credit: Heer/Marco Dorow.

The Polish interest in the French-German initiative was mentioned by Antoni Macierewicz back in 2016, in his interview for Defence24.pl. According to the recommendations contained within the Strategic Defence Review, a document issued by the Polish MoD, market analysis pertaining to acquisition of a next generation main battle tank platform began. The new vehicle would primarily constitute a replacement of the T-72/PT-91 tanks. This is a consequence of resignation from the Gepard close-support vehicle programme, contained in the SDR.