Armed Forces

Polish Army Headed East: Units from Giżycko, Rzeszów and Węgorzewo will have Krab Howitzers Subordinated

Photo: MON/Wikimedia Commons.
Photo: MON/Wikimedia Commons.

The Polish Armed Forces are willing to significantly bolster the Land Forces stationed close to the Eastern Border of Poland. The adopted programme is to provide more human resources and is to introduce the Krab self-propelled howitzers into use in case of the 15th Mechanized Brigade and 21st Highland Brigade.

According to the information released during the meeting of the Parliamentary National Defence Commission, which was done by the MoD Secretary of State, Czesław Mroczek and by the 1st Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Polish Army, General Anatol Wojtan, the expanded capabilities in case of the units stationed in the East are related to the adopted plan of reinforcing the national security level.  The plan aims to refine the human resources structure and to introduce modern equipment into use in case of selected units, within the framework of the Technical Modernization Plan.

The key objective of the undertaken activities is to raise the completeness of the human resources structures, especially in case of the units that are stationed close to the Poland’s eastern borders. This is applicable particularly when it comes to the 9th Armoured Cavalry Brigade from Braniewo, 1st Warsaw Armoured Brigade from Wesoła, 7th Coastal Defence Brigade based in Słupsk and the  11th Artillery Regiment based in Węgorzewo. According to General Anatol Wojtan, the implemented measures are to make it possible to undertake defensive operations that would involve solely the peacetime-maintained forces, along with effective expansion of the relevant units.

The human-resources for the P-time would be, in total, quantitatively expanded, up to the level which would make it possible to carry out effective defensive operation during the P-time (...).

I Deputy Chief of the Polish Army’s General Staff, Gen. Anatol Wojtan

Bolstering the combat readiness is also to involve the 20th Mechanized Brigade stationed in Bartoszyce. Wojtan, responding to a question asked by MP Michał Jach, specified the issue stating that the unit is considered to be combat ready, should its inventory and human resources be complete at the level of 70%. Complementing the elements stationed at the “eastern flank”  is going to be realized through optimization of the structures, review of the jobs and a process of provision of the tasks to the members of the National Reserve Forces.

Secretary Mroczek stressed it however, that no decrease in the combat  potential in the remaining regions of Poland is expected. Potential transfers may occur e.g. within the command structures. General Wojtan claims that the implemented measures are going to make it possible to set an appropriate level of readiness for 5 tank battalions,  8 mechanized battalions and 2 motorized battalions (within the structure of the 15th Mechanized Brigade in Giżycko – see below).

According to the information released by the Polish Press Agency, the general number of 120 thousand troops (including members of the National Reserve Forces) will not include the soldier-candidates (in 2015 – 2650 soldiers per year, on average). This may mean that additional job positions would become vacant and recruitment would have to be carried out. The process of increasing of the human resources is to be two-staged – the first stage is to happen within the period between 2015 and 2016, and the second one is to be completed by 2018.

Rearming the Eastern Flank

15th Mechanized Brigade from Giżycko, which is to receive the Rosomak APC’ss with unmanned turrets, equipped with the Spike anti-tank missiles, is one of the units which is to undergo the rearming procedures. Delivery of the new vehicles is to start from 2017. The Rosomak APC’s will become the basic equipment for two motorized battalions stationed in Orzysz and Giżycko. The Brigade will also receive the Krab self-prropelled howitzers and Poprad anti-aircraft systems. It is assumed that the unit would be viable to become a part of the NATO “spearhead” quick reaction force (VJTF) in the period between 2019 and 2025. It would be also possible for the Brigade to become a part of the combat groups formed within the structure of the European Union.

Modernization of the equipment is also related to other units stationed in the East. This concerns the 11th Artillery Regiment from Węgorzewo, which is to receive the Homar rocket launchers and the 155 mm Krab self-propelled howitzers. The Krab howitzers and Homar launchers will also be provided to the 21st Highland Brigade. Information that had been released earlier also suggests that the unit would also receive the Rosomak wheeled APC’s.

Capabilities of the reconnaissance units are also to be expanded, both within the scope of use of the UAV’s, as well as in case of the radio-electronic operations. Equipment used by the 15th Anti-Aircraft Regiment is also going to be modernized – the unit is to receive Poprad and Piorun (Thunderbolt) VSHORAD anti aircraft systems, along with new radars. Reports regarding creation of a reconnaissance unit in Białystok are still valid, the process is still on the go, same applies to a UAV base which is to be located in Mirosławiec. Deliveries of the armament for the units based in the eastern part of Poland are to be realized primarily by shifting the priorities of rearming the Armed Forces. And these are defined by the technical modernization programmes.

Realizing the MoD’s plans would have a significant impact on increase of the combat potential of the Polish Army units stationed near the Eastern border. However, this process would be time-consuming, and for a relatively long period these units would still be using the post-Warsaw Pact equipment, either manufactured by the Soviets or based on the Soviet technology, such as the BMP-1 IFV. Some of that equipment is modernized – e.g. the artillery systems equipped with the Topaz fire-control system.

The current situation is stemming from an equipment crisis dated far back to the times of the People’s Republic of Poland and the 1990’s. It is also partially resulting from defence spending at the level which is much lower than 1.95% of GDP – and such situation was present between 2008 and 2013 – this had made the modernization process slower. In order to reverse the results of the cuts it seems that raising the funding level above 2% of GDP would be appropriate. This would make it possible to expand the scope of the modernization, in order to introduce modern armament in the East, without limitation of the modernization initiatives regarding the other units (including the delays regarding the initial plans). Finally, acquisition of light ATGW’s and anti-aircraft weaponry should also meet the needs of the mobilized units, including the local territorial defence elements.