Armed Forces

Leopard Tanks Modernization – War Games Excluding the Polish Industry?

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Polish Ministry of Defence is in the process of negotiating the modernization of the Leopard 2A4 tanks with the consortium led by the Bumar-Łabędy facility. According to the audit carried out by the Support Inspectorate of the Armed Forces, the Gliwice-based company currently is not in possession of capability of carrying out complex overhaul and repairs of this type of vehicles. Conclusion part of the document obtained by reads: “Bumar-Łabędy S.A. Mechanical Works are not ready to carry out the F6 overhauls and repairs, when it comes to the Leopard 2A4 tanks.”

Ministry of Defence is in the process of negotiations with the consortium led by the Bumar-Łabędy facility, in order to carry out the procedure which would result in upgrades of the Leopard 2A4 tanks up to the Leopard 2PL standard. Three offers have been initially placed here, by the consortium of the Polish Defence Holding, by the OBRUM Gliwice Sp. z o.o. facility, and finally by the ZM Bumar-Łabędy company, probably in cooperation with Krauss Maffei-Wegmann, Poznan-based Military Automotive Works and Rheinmetall Landsysteme GmbH, and finally an offer placed by PCO along with the Aselsan Elektronik company. MoD decided to start talks solely with the Polish Defence Holding, which is led by the Bumar-Łabędy facility (the consortium has been created before the Gliwice-based company has been included in the Polish Armament Group). Eliminating the competition at the beginning of the procedure, which has been achieved by the Ministry of Defence, stiffened the stance of the Germans as early as at the stage of signing the consortium deal with the Łabędy facility. This led to horse-trading between the Ministry of Defence and the Łabędy-KMW consortium.

The Polish Armament Group, which came to life a few months ago, was to make peace between all of the parties and create a new impulse – also within the scope of the Leopard overhaul. It was, but according to the suggestion submitted by the Ministry of Defence, Bumar Łabędy remained at its position as the leader of the consortium. 

Due to the fact that plans have been made to conduct the overhaul for 46 Leopard 2 tanks maximally at the F6 level, along with repairs, the Support Inspectorate of the Armed Forces has carried out a capability audit at the Bumar-Łabędy facility and at the Military Automotive Works in Poznan, within the aforementioned scope. Contents of the documents which had been obtained by (conclusions drawn from the working visits of the Support Inspectorate representatives at the facility) also include description of the issues related to modernization of the tanks. The documents have been compiled on 19th September 2014 and are signed by Col. Jerzy Jastrzębski, who was the deputy head and head of the logistics department of the Armed Forces Support Inspectorate.  It shall be noted that being capable of carrying out complex overhauls and repairs is one of the important factors, which makes it possible to assess the capabilities within the scope of completing the works on in-depth modernization of the Leopard tanks.

It has been stated, in the conclusions resulting from the research carried out by the Support Inspectorate, that the Gliwice-based facility is "not ready to carry out the F6 overhauls and repairs, when it comes to the Leopard 2A4 tanks.”.It has been also stressed that the actions which were to create the capabilities of carrying out repairs and overhauls “are of conditional character and are tightly connected to the project, aim of which is to modernize the Leopard 2A4 tanks to their PL variant”. It has been noted that the Bumar-Łabędy facility renders the overhauls and repairs dependent on the agreement related to  modernization of the tanks, which in turn is needed to sign further contracts with the cooperators, including a strategic partnership agreement which would be signed with the Krauss-Maffei Wegmann company. In opinion of the representatives of the Support Inspectorate, lack of specialized equipment (MES-3/-4) required, and lack of properly qualified technical personnel means, that the Bumar-Łabędy company is not prepared to carry out the  F6 overhauls and repairs of the  Leopard 2 tanks.

According to the conclusions drawn from the visits of the Support Inspectorate representatives, status of preparation of the Military Automotive Works in Poznan, for the  overhauls and repairs of the Leopard 2A4 tanks used by the Polish Army "indicates a high level of progress", and the status achieved by the Poznan facility confirms the possibility of achieving proper capability within the described scope, in accordance with the planned deadlines. The conclusion stressed that the actions undertaken are “of a planned character”, and that decisions made by the company management are being consistently implemented. In the eyes of the representatives of the Support Inspectorate, using the potential created within the scope of servicing the Leopard 2 tanks in the modernization programme of these vehicles prepared by the Armed Forces, is fully justified. The  Poznan-based company has created its own offer regarding the modifications of the tanks, together with Rheinmetall Landsysteme GmbH.

On 5th December last year,  the consortium led by the Bumar-Łabędy facility has placed an offer related to modernization of the Leopard 2 tanks, which is being currently scrutinized by the Ministry of Defence. Zbigniewa Lentowicz, in his article published by the „Rzeczpospolita” daily, on 8th January 2015, states that the offer may be rejected, due to the fact that it “did not meet the Army’s requirements”. According to the quoted opinion of the head of one of the companies of the Polish Armament Group, the offer is not beneficial within the scope of technology transfer which is to be received by the Polish companies. Doubts related to the procedure have been (unofficially) raised by the persons directly involved in the negotiations process. These people indicated that the rules of cooperation which have been agreed-on do not have satisfactory result within the scope of technology transfer which was to be realized. The new technologies were to be obtained by the Polish defence industry.

Certainly, the process, which is of paramount value for the national security, of overhauls and modernization of the Leopard tanks was not free of errors. Due to the reasons which are hard to comprehend, MoD, at the initial stage, by indicating the exclusive partner, got itself rid of options in the negotiation process involving the foreign subject, both within the scope of the price, as well as regarding the potential technology (documentation) transfer. The Ministry also deprived the Łabędy facility, as well as the Poznan WZMot facility of these options, when it comes to the dialogue which could be carried out with the German partners. Currently, the Ministry of Defence, as it has also been confirmed by the sources  available to, may terminate the negotiation procedures involving the Bumar Łabędy facility. Possible Reason? Negative assessment of the company’s capabilities. Task of preparation of the new offer will probably be assigned to the PGZ. Unfortunately, the whole procedure would be a couple of months longer due to that reason.

In case of the procedure which is of so critical value, the question regarding the involvement of certain agency,  which would be able to warn MoD about lack of preparation of the potential partner arises. Or maybe such agency was there, but nobody really took its opinion into account?

Will the Ministry of Defence continue its dialogue with the Łabędy-led consortium, or would it, regardless of the cost, rather sign the agreement directly with the German KMW company?

Naturally, the Polish Armament Group (Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa – PGZ) mentioned above shall be the leader in preparing the most effective offer within the scope of repairs and modernization of the Leopard Tanks. PGZ, similarly to the Ministry of Defence, has tools at its disposal, which would make verification of the individual plants possible. The unpopular decision regarding the interruption of the deadlock, related to the Krab howitzer, and chassis procurement procedure involving the South Korean Samsung Techwin company proves, that the Pegaz (which is another name for the PGZ) can be the guarantor of determined implementation of works even in the most complicated weaponry development programmes.

We have asked the Ministry of Defence about its plans related to the modernization of the Leopard tanks, should the assessment of modernization and overhaul capabilities of the Bumar-Łabędy facility be negative.

The issue related to modernization of the Leopard tanks is quite complex, however it shall be stressed that we want a Polish subject to be the integrator of all the systems implemented within the scope of modernizing the vehicles – which is understandable. One of the key issues here is related to acquisition of capabilities when it comes to the processes of carrying out repairs, servicing and periodic overhaul on our own. Additionally we should secure the potential needed for supplies of the spare parts. Due to these reasons, until all of the procedures are completed, asking “what if” questions is not desirable. It may lead to false conclusions, which can also have an impact on the decisions made by the subjects involved in the process.

Ministry of Defence spokesperson, col. Jacek Sońta

Modernization of the Polish Leopard 2A4 tanks is one of the priorities in the process of development of the Armoured Forces of the Polish Army. It should be expected that the decisions made here would result in a relevant technology transfer, which would be a reason for expansion of the industrial capabilities within the area of manufacturing heavy combat vehicles and within the context of modernization of the second batch of the Leopard tanks, which may potentially happen in the future.

When decisions regarding the tanks modernization method are made, potential that has been achieved by the Polish companies, within the scope of maintaining and servicing the given type of tank, needs to be taken into account. Without any doubt – such potential surely exists. This may result in reduction of risk of eventual delays in the further implementation of the programme, which is quite important due to the need of quick introduction of the Leopard tanks into realistic use. When such decisions are made, we shall direct our steps towards maximum contribution of the Polish industry within such initiatives.

Juliusz Sabak, Jędrzej Graf