EU: Establishing a Large Munitions Cooperation

Photo. Jerzy Reszczyński/Defence24

ZM Dezamet yet again hosted a group of important guests, following Gen. Rajmund Andrzejczak, Chief of the General Staff, who visited Nowa Dęba on 21st March. It was on Monday, 27th March, when the Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki, and Deputy PM, and Head of the Polish Ministry of Defence, Mariusz Błaszczak visited the facility, meeting Thierry Breton, the EU Commissioner for the Internal Market. The guests got acquainted with the facility, met the employees, made their statements during a press briefing, and then began a conference inaccessible for the media, during which the ZM Dezamet facility was presented.

Poland is one of 11 locations that the Commissioner intended to visit during his EU tour. His goal is to get acquainted with the potential aimed at increasing the manufacturing output of defence industries, especially when it comes to munitions. T. Breton also made visits to other leading munitions manufacturers: Czech Republic, France, and Bulgaria; the Commissioner's plans regarding his visit to Poland also included a personal meeting with PM Mateusz Morawiecki - it was arranged in Nowa Dęba.

Photo. J. Reszczyński/Defence24

The agenda as such, and the in-person visit that the Commissioner made at the facility manufacturing munitions are a testimony to the importance of this event. This is an action directly tied to the agreement made by EU nations and Norway, on a unified front of efforts aimed at joint procurement of munitions for Ukraine. The said memorandum was concluded on 20th March - initially, it involved Norway, and 17 EU member states (Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, and Sweden). Further nations, including Poland, joined the memorandum a few days later. Warsaw had been/was making efforts towards the establishment of such a coalition long before.

The baseline content of the memorandum defines the support paths for the Ukrainian Army. Due to the unprecedented intensity of the conflict, which includes the use of artillery, the Ukrainians report on problems that could emerge on the grounds of an insufficient number of munitions for the 155 mm artillery systems delivered - operationally, and quantitatively.

PM Mateusz Morawiecki
Photo. Jerzy Reszczyński/Defence24

"Ammunition remains the most urgent of the needs of the Ukrainian theater", PM Mateusz Morawiecki said, "And thus, as we arranged this during the last meeting of the European Council, we are going to be delivering those munitions. The Council of Ministers, over the upcoming days, would adopt a special, long-term programme aimed at supporting munitions manufacturing throughout the country". As declared by the PM, the programme in question has been designed for both state, as well as private entities. "Today we know it perfectly, there is too little ammunition in Europe, in NATO as a whole. It is not a secret that our guards were a bit down, due to the safe, peaceful times," he added.

It is a priority for the EU Munitions Alliance, to launch a programme aimed at joint procurement of 155 mm rounds, with an estimated budget of EUR 1 bn. Another important component of the memorandum (with an identical 1 billion euro price-point) is the financial compensation scheme for the nations that decided to provide their munitions to Ukraine. The third path is related to the establishment and implementation of a 7-year-long programme aimed at boosting the EU manufacturing capacity in the munitions department. As the Ukrainian experience has shown, the European NATO member states and EU member states possess quite a modest stockpile in that domain.

That status results on the grounds of the reset in the Russian-EU relations which resulted in defence budget cuts, also in the lowered tempo of restoring equipment availability and reserves. The above applies to the munitions stockpile as well. In this area of security policy, no groundbreaking changes have been made even post-2014, when the Russian Federation carried out the annexation of Crimea, and went towards a hot war in eastern Ukraine. The omissions here vary in scale, depending on the state. And Poland is not an exception, even though Warsaw quickly implemented a quick boost of military spending beyond 2% of GDP. Some countries did not even reach half of this level.

Thiery Breton said that Poland spending 4% of its GDP on defence is a significant contribution to European security. He expressed a lot of gratitude towards Poland, and the Poles, for their solidarity with Ukraine, and for their involvement in helping Poland's eastern neighbour He also added that Europe needs to get ready for a long conflict. Breton said that the EU has been able to prepare a relevant package of solutions at a record-breaking pace. After getting acquainted with the facility, the Commissioner praised the quality of Dezamet's products, the manufacturing facility, and the tempo at which the factory functions. He stressed in his Twitter content, that ZM Dezamet is working in 3 shifts, 5 days a week, and further extension of work hours is expected, as this is an expression of the wartime economy. He declared, on behalf of the EU leadership, that the EU wants to support the enterprises involved in the EU's intense munitions manufacturing programme.

Commissioner Thierry Breton
Photo. J. Reszczyński/Defence24

European Defence Agency using the EPF funds would be coordinating all three elements of the programme aimed at rectifying the backlog - as the signatories arranged.

The observers and analysts see Poland playing an important role here - as it is engaged in ambitious, accelerated artillery development programmes of its own. It is assumed that munitions manufacturing programmes shall be synced with procurement of the artillery assets. Despite the acquisition of large numbers of 155 mm K9 howitzers in North Korea that goes hand in hand with munitions delivery (50 thousand rounds, as the Armament Agency informed), nobody in the right state of mind could assume that a partner that remains 15 thousand kilometers away would be the primary munitions supplier for the Polish Army - as the 155 mm rounds remain fundamentally important. The deliveries from that source may bear some relevance during the initial phase of cooperation. It is obvious, however, that a proper manufacturing potential should be also available in the domestic industry, along with the relevant technical know-how.

The industry needs to deliver munitions in quantities that are proportionally aligned with the target number of 800 155 mm artillery assets (K9, Krab, and their successor). If plans on procurement of the wheeled 155 mm howitzers are accomplished (the Kryl programme, which has been less than impressive for now), the demand for the 155 mm munitions would be even higher. Based on the Ukrainian experiences, it may be assumed that three hundred 155 mm systems would be in service in 4 years. At least 10 thousand rounds would be needed to engage in combat effectively. Per one day of operations.

Speaking of the needs that the Polish Armed Forces may have in the munitions department, we need to take into account the basic HE rounds, and the PGMs - ZM Dezamet does not handle that matter however. The same applies to inert and training rounds, required to rapidly train a proper number of artillerymen. The manufacturing of a sufficient quantity of training munitions is also important for the artillery, in attaining the assumed combat readiness, no less than the manufacturing of live rounds. The above refers both to the 155 mm rounds, as well as the 120 mm mortar bombs, for the Rak system.

Head of the Polish Ministry of Defence, Mariusz Błaszczak
Photo. Jerzy Reszczyński/Defence24

"Our support for Ukraine will be even more efficient, thanks to the investments that would be made here, in collaboration with the European Commission. Poland's defence capabilities would also grow, thanks to the said investments. The Polish Armed Forces are growing, and the Polish Armed Forces receive modern weapons, daily. At the same time, we are a member of NATO and the European community, and this is why we strive to reinforce the Polish defence capabilities". Mariusz Błaszczak, Deputy PM, Head of the Polish Ministry of Defence

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki
Photo. J. Reszczyński/Defence24

Morawiecki assured that replenishing the domestic artillery munitions stockpile is at the foundation of the undertaken actions. However, establishing a manufacturing capacity that would make Poland safe, and able to deliver munitions for others, remains equally important. Morawiecki noted that the Russians fire 20 to 50 thousand artillery rounds per day, targeting the Ukrainian defenders and civilians. The Ukrainian response, he said, involves 2-6 thousand shells a day - including PGMs, and rounds fired by more precise assets. "And this is where the western assets have an advantage.", he added.

The ZM Dezamet facility of the PGZ Group dates back to the Wytwórnia Amunicji Nr 3, established in 1939. It is the biggest munitions supplier in Poland when it comes to large and small calibres. The company is employing around 700 persons and manufactures primarily 155 mm howitzer rounds, 120 mm, and 60 mm mortar munitions, and 98 mm mortar munitions of some types. The manufacturing offer includes hand grenades, rifle grenades, PG-15W 73 mm rounds for the 2A28 BMP-1 gun, and 40 mm grenades. In the past, the company was also manufacturing 122 mm cluster munitions for the 2S1 Gvozdika howitzers (Polish Hesyt-1 round, 15 km of range, 20 GKO submunitions).

Jerzy Reszczyński/Defence24

As the company management informs, the business has implemented a 2019-2022 business plan aimed at the expansion and modernization of the manufacturing and storage facilities, and procurement of modern machinery. This would directly support the adoption of a manufacturing profile so that large and medium calibers can be included in the portfolio. Further development plans, defined before the idea of EU/EDA/EPF sector reinforcement was born, cover a timeline until 2026 and assume that the manufacturing potential would be further expanded, while the key 155 mm sales - increased. It remains very plausible that after the munitions euro coalition is established, those plans would be adjusted (upwards).

ZM Dezamet is manufacturing the 155 mm munitions based on a license obtained from ZVS Dubnica in 2011. The manufacturing efforts per se have been launched in July 2014, when the first order regarding 2,000 OFd MKM rounds was placed, along with 1,000 rounds with base bleed. Then, the facility followed through with another order, concerning 11 thousand rounds as such (the deliveries were finalized in 2019), and another contract on 24 thousand rounds (including 6 thousand with a base bleed system), based on a long-term contract signed in 2019, with delivery deadlines set in 2021 and 2022.

We will closely follow the impact that the Monday visit of the Polish government officials and the EU commissioner had on the specific actions - including rapid investment at ZM Dezamet, as more information is publicly available on the "explosive covenant".