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Armed Forces

Ukrainian Media Praise the Polish Piorun MANPADS

Ukrainian National Guard soldier, yielding a Piorun system.
Photo. Ukrainian Armed Forces/National Guard

The Ukrainian experts praise the weapons delivered by Poland to the Armed Forces of Ukraine - including the Piorun MANPADS used to shoot down rotary-wing and unmanned aircraft, as well as fixed-wing assets, such as Su-34 and Su-25.

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Ukrainian Defense Express outlet has published another review of the weapons delivered by Poland and used by the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the war against the Russian aggressor, which has been going on since 24th February. Recently, the aforesaid outlet also published a video depicting the Polish Krab sphs in combat, also unveiling the howitzer's interior - rarely known even to the Polish experts. The outlet mentioned above published a piece on the successful use and technical specification of the latest Polish Piorun MANPADS system designed to act against low-flying threats, such as aircraft, helicopters, or UAVs.

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Defense Express outlined the development of the Piorun system, recalling the joint effort undertaken by the Military University of Technology, and CRW Telesystem-Mesko and Mesko S.A. businesses. Piorun which has been operated by the Polish Armed Forces since 2019 is an in-depth upgrade of the Grom MANPADS that has been in use since 1995. Grom meanwhile has been derived from the Soviet Igla system that used to be license-manufactured in Poland.

Analyzing the Piorun system as a design, the Ukrainians point out some of the distinguishing features that make Piorun unique, when compared to other solutions in its class, including the increased efficiency of the passive GOS IR seeker. As opposed to its predecessor, the Grom system, in the Piorun MANPADS, the signal processing and systems are far more dynamic in the operation, with new spectral ranges and kinematic selection. Thanks to the fact that a new GSN sensor is used, featuring an argon-cooled photodiode, the seeker offers 4-times higher gain, than its predecessors. The missile can detect targets of less exposed thermal signature, at a distance much greater than the previously utilized effectors. Piorun is highly lethal against UAVs, thanks to a laser proximity sensor, alongside the impact fuse, as well as a larger octogen-aluminum warhead.

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Thanks to the increased gain, the range at which the targets can be attacked is greater. The applied solutions also increased the resistance of the warhead to false signals, caused by the countermeasures such as flares. Piorun, contrary to other western designs, even ones offered by well-known manufacturers, can also be used to neutralize threats flying at an extremely low altitude of just 30 feet.

Poland Outlines the Future of Combat-Proven Piorun MANPADS

The possibility to use the system at night, and safety measures preventing unauthorized use, as well as the design allowing for selection of engagement mode, depending on the target movement (target approaching the shooter, or pursuit mode), contribute to the unprecedented lethality that the Piorun system offers. The Ukrainian outlet recalls the fact that Piorun is capable of attacking targets flying at an altitude of 10 to 4,000 meters and speeds of up to 400 meters per second (head-on engagement) and 320 meters per second (pursuit). The missile travels at a speed of 660 meters per second, it is 1,596 mm long, and has a diameter of 72 mm, while the whole MANPADS weighs 16.5 kilograms. The missile, meanwhile, weighs 10.5 kilograms, and the warhead weighs 1.82 kilograms.

This improved envelope has been achieved thanks to the use of a newer, more efficient rocket motor. For the sake of comparison: the Grom missile can neutralize targets flying at altitudes from 10 to 3,500 meters, at a range of 500-5,500 meters. The weight of the whole system is the same, but the Grom's warhead is lighter, at 1.35 kilograms.

[ “Verba” vs “Piorun” - Russian and Polish MANPADS Compared [OPINION] ](https://defence24.com/armed-forces/verba-vs-piorun-russian-and-polish-manpads-compared-opinion)

The Ukrainian Defense Express analysts state that the Polish Grom system, despite its age, is not inferior when compared to the latest Russian Verba MANPADS, with a kill zone at an altitude between 10 and 4,500 meters, and a range between 500 and 6,400 meters.

Praising Piorun, the Ukrainian outlet also mentions some data that may be interesting also for the Polish readers - as so much data is not always made available in open sources, in a synthetic format, regarding the VSHORAD layer of IADS that also includes MANPADS and related weapons systems. The Polish Armed Forces utilize the Piorun missiles in both the regular units (air defence elements of the air defence brigades, and rocket and artillery units of the air defence regiments at the division level), as well as in the Territorial Defence elements. Defence Express also recalls the fact that Piorun missiles are also a part of the Poprad and Pilica air defence systems, or the Biała and Jodek-G solutions. A comprehensive analysis of those systems has also been published by the Ukrainian outlet, recalling the fact that the Poprad system, 79 of which exist, is a SHORAD solution based on the 4x4 Żubr-P platform, and it is equipped with a TV/thermal imaging targeting system, laser rangefinder, 4 Grom/Piorun MANPADS, and can also carry 4 extra missiles.

Piorun Missile: Night Test Launch Off the Pilica SAM

Biała self-propelled system (28 of which are operated by the Polish Armed Forces) is based on the legacy 23 mm ZSU-23-4 "Shilka" AAA solution that received the ZSU-23-4MP upgrade. It now features TV/thermal imaging sensors that replaced the radar, and along with the guns it also utilizes 4 Piorun/Grom MANPADS launchers. Jodek-G (530 examples in service) is the post-Soviet 23 mm ZU-23 system upgraded to the ZUR-23-2KG standard, with a better targeting system and 2 Grom/Piorun launchers. Pilica system, utilizing the ZUR-23-2SP AAA/SAM solution as the primary effector, can also use Grom/Piorun MANPADS in conjunction with two 23 mm guns and optronic sensors.

Photo. mł. chor. Daniel Andalukiewicz

Notably, the contract regarding the delivery of Piorun MANPADS for the Polish Armed Forces has been signed in 2016, envisaging the delivery of 420 launcher units and 1,300 missiles by 2022. The successful deployment of Piorun in Ukraine has led to an increased demand for this weapon, and so, a serious adjustment being made to the manufacturing plans has been announced. In 2022 a contract was signed regarding extra 600 launch mechanisms and 3,500 missiles. It is expected that higher quantities of the system would be delivered every year.

As the Ukrainian outlet stresses, during the war, the Piorun systems have proven to be effective multiple times. They have been used for downing Russian aircraft and helicopters, such as Mi-24, Su-25, or even Su-34. No specific numbers have been published by the Ukrainian outlet though. Back in May, the soldiers of the 95th Autonomous Air-Assault Brigade (ODSHbr, ОДШбр) used Pioruns to shoot down two Russian Ka-52 attack helicopters. Piorun MANPADS also turned out to be highly effective against the Orlan-10 UAVs, which are a challenging target to neutralize, yet also being a significant threat.

"Conclusion: Polish Piorun air defence system is the most modern air defence complex that has only been commissioned in the Polish Armed Forces in 2019. It meets all of the modern requirements for a world-class MANPADS", Defense Express authors summarize.

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