Polish Ministry of Defence: 2022 - Year of the Drone?
Yesterday the Polish MoD made some historic decisions, when it comes to the introduction of modern unmanned systems - not only due to the procurement of the Wizjer UAVs. Defence24.pl found out that the Armament Inspectorate has sent out invitations today, addressed to Polish contractors, within the framework of the medium-range tactical UAV procurement named Gryf. MALE UAV procurement is also scheduled to begin soon.
Earlier this year, in July, information emerged on works undertaken by a commission that was to prepare and carry out the Gryf UAV acquisition. Information released today means that the Gryf programme has finally been launched, and it would take on a form of negotiation involving multiple bidders. No information has been released on the specific bidders or designs however. One could speculate, however, that entities involved include the PGZ Group, previously offering a Polonization of the Israeli Elbit Hermes 450 platform, as well as the WB Group - with its joint offer based on a memorandum of understanding signed with Thales, regarding the Watchkeeper UAV. After this time, the cooperative network could have been modified though. Other entities may also be involved in the process. IAI Tactical Heron or Textron Nightwarden have been marketed in Poland, with the Gryf programme in mind.
Head of the Polish MoD, Mariusz Błaszczak, was the first to release information on the launch of the Gryf programme, via his Twitter account. "Agreement concerning the WIZJER reconnaissance UAVs and the planned purchase of major quantities of loitering munitions is just the start. A procedure was launched to procure armed unmanned platforms in the GRYF programme, next year procurement process is going to be initiated, to acquire the first armed, operational MALE UAVs", the Minister stated. When it comes to the latter class, dubbed Zefir, the Armament Inspectorate is getting ready to launch the procurement process - the official announcement is imminent.
According to the information released during the meeting of the Parliamentary National Defence Committee, back in March 2018, by the Deputy Head of the MoD Wojciech Skurkiewicz, the programme above was to involve the delivery of 6 systems (4 UAVs and a control station in each of the systems) between 2020 and 2022. Another 6 systems could be procured in the unspecified future. These platforms would be used at the division level.
The Ministry plans to acquire 2 Zefir systems (packages), 3-aircraft each, as such until 2022 and another two later, optionally.
Currently, a series of procurements of unmanned systems is underway. Yesterday, 25 systems with 100 UAVs have been acquired, within the framework of the procurement process concerning mini-UAV platforms, named Wizjer. Błaszczak also announced the procurement of FlyEye mini-UAVs for the artillery units, and Gladius loitering munitions. The invitation was published yesterday, concerning submissions of bids in the Ważka VTOL UAV programme.
UAV shopping stems from years of work and preparations, stressed the spokesman for the Armament Inspectorate, Major Krzysztof Płatek. He also mentioned that a coordinator has been appointed, to handle the UAV system procurements. The situation on the Belorussian border probably also plays a role here - the Orbiter and FlyEye UAVs greatly contribute to the establishment of situational awareness in the area.
Notably, many of the planned procurements have been delayed by a couple of years, compared to the original plans. Despite the announcements, some of which had been made 7 to 8 years ago, some procurements were not launched until today. So far, the minor tender concerning the micro VTOL UAVs came to an end - with the Asseco company placing the winning bid, along with the Orlik UAV acquisition. In the latter case, PGZ was awarded the relevant contract in November 2018, proposing the PGZ-19R systems. The said programme is, however, delayed. The third of the concluded programmes is the Wizjer procurement contracted today. Poland also acquired 24 Bayraktar TB2 UAVs outside the aforesaid framework, to meet the urgent operational requirement. The Polish Armed Forces also had taken deliveries of the Israeli Orbiter mini-UAVs, as well as the Polish FlyEye system - the last batch of which was procured between 2018 and 2019, for the Territorial Defence Forces. Poland also operates the US-made tactical UAV systems - ScanEagle and BlackJack.