“Krab” - A New Beginning?
On Monday, 24th August, STALOWA WOLA S.A. ironworks officially presented the “new” “Krab” self-propelled 155 mm howitzer which constitutes the main element of the “Regina” self-propelled artillery system.
HSW S.A. has been working on that system since 1999 – starting from the moment when Poland acquired the rights to manufacture the British-made AS90 turret system, with a 52-calibre long barrel. Poland resigned from procurement of the chassis, hoping that the Gliwice-based armour facility, specializing in designing heavy track-chassis systems, would develop a proper platform which would be capable of accommodating the said turret. As we know, the above led to a complete fiasco, eight “Krab” howitzers based on that platform (also known as “Kalina”, based on an old Soviet design) are a source of persistent technical problems.
In the light of the situation above, and in the light of helplessness of the Gliwice-based partner, Stalowa Wola facility proposed another solution, adopted by the Polish Ministry of Defence – cooperation with a foreign partner. Only in this way, the programme, already facing a two-year delay, could have been saved. HSW executed its part of the works by finishing the assembly process regarding the 16 turrets for the remaining howitzers of the first “Regina” unit.
The selection was made – it was decided that the Samsung Techwin company from Korea would become the contractor. The company offers the K9 “Thunder” howitzers, also known as T-155 “Firtina”. The latter model is a Turkish derivative. The contract, the aim of which is to acquire 36 examples of the ready K9 chassis, and to transfer the manufacturing technology to Poland, has an estimated value of PLN 1 billion. It was concluded in Korea, on 17th December 2014.
HUTA STALOWA WOLA SA company successfully fitted the “Krab” turret onto the first chassis on 17th August 2015. The chassis is a result of the efforts undertaken by the Korean and Polish designers. These 8 months include the time required to ship the chassis to Poland (since 25th June) and the time required to execute the factory test programme in Korea. Realistically, the polonisation works on the chassis which features numerous Polish subsystems, lasted for a little less than 6 months, which is a period matching the initial assumptions. In Mid-September it is planned that HSW receives the second chassis, coming from Korea.
“Krab”, with a new platform, is 3 tonnes lighter than the older version, and the platform features an MTU engine with a power output of 1000 horsepower, instead of the older power-plant, with 850 HP of power. The howitzer’s performance is going to be significantly better than it was in case of the older model. However, this is yet to be proven by a comparative test programme of both howitzers. The test programme is scheduled to begin in September, shortly after the MSPO defence fair ends. According to the agreement signed with the Ministry of Defence, the test programme shall come to an end in mid-2016, however, HSW declares that it would undertake efforts to shorten that deadline. This is quite a serious challenge, since the test programme assumes that the platform is going to cover 3 thousand kilometres of distance during the field tests. Additionally some artillery firing tests, verifying the correctness of operation of the interfaces for both systems (the turret and the chassis) are also going to be conducted.
During his stay at HSW, President of the Polish Armament Group confirmed the fact that after the K9 carrier technology is transferred to Poland, HSW is going to be responsible for manufacturing the chassis, as the company is the leader of the Regina programme, the aim of which is to deliver 5 divisions (120 howitzers) for the Polish Army. HSW facility is finishing the modernization works related to the barrel manufacturing plant. This would make it possible for the plant to take over the responsibility for manufacturing the barrels for the howitzers. They are currently acquired in Germany, however, the remaining elements of the turret are manufactured at HSW.