A family of Leopard 2 MBTs to be Maintained in Gliwice, and Krab Howitzers Will be Manufactured

Photo. Leszek Chemperek/CO MON

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of National Defence Mariusz Błaszczak recently visited Zakłady Mechaniczne Bumar Łabędy S.A., announcing major plans for the Gliwice plant, focused on retaining critical capabilities and long-term development.

The Prime Minister and Minister of National Defense made a joint announcement that a second production line of 155 mm Krab self-propelled howitzers will be established at Bumar Łabędy. The Krab was designed and developed by Huta Stalowa Wola. As of today, HSW is the sole manufacturer of the howitzer, so in Gliwice a second manufacturing line can be established.

This is a major development for the Gliwice plant. In recent years Bumar Łabędy focused on repairing and modernising existing equipment rather than manufacturing new vehicles. A new production line would signify a major injection of resources, capital and know-how for the state-owned company.

Bumar Łabędy currently maintains and modifies tanks of the T-72 family, many of which have been given to Ukraine as military aid. The company also services and repairs Ukrainian main battle tanks of the T-64 family. Given the Gliwice plant's familiarity with Soviet-era equipment, one should not rule out the possibility of a future modernisation package for these aging vehicles. Ukraine's hard-pressed defence industry is incapable of meeting demand.

A repair facility for Leopard 2 tanks in Ukrainian service will also be established in Gliwice. This will cover the maintenance not just of 2A4 versions supplied by Poland, but also ex-German 2A6 variants. So far NATO states have declared their intent to supply 70 Leopard 2s from the stocks of their armed forces to Ukraine. These will include 39 2A4, 21 2A6 as well as 10 Strv 122, which are advanced Swedish derivatives of the Leopard 2A5. They will be used to equip several tank battalions in the Ukrainian Armed Forces. In addition, Denmark and the Netherlands have recently signalled that they would purchase and refurbish 2A4 variants for Ukraine, with deliveries planned for 2024.

Minister Błaszczak admitted that Bumar, which has been carrying out repairs of Leopard 2A4 tanks for the Polish Army and their modernization to the Leopard 2PL/2PLM1 variant, is struggling with the availability of parts delivered by its German partners. However, he also added that Germany is a signatory of the agreement with Poland and Ukraine for the establishment of a service and maintenance facility in Gliwice. This framework should allow for a smoother coordination of efforts in an attempt to meet these challenges.

The announcement represents a major opportunity for Zakłady Mechaniczne Bumar Łabędy, not just in terms of long-term sustainment of the plant, but also with for the ongoing modernisation drive of the Polish defence industry, expansion of facilities and increased employment in the defence sector.