Krab Howitzers to get Korean Chassis. PGZ Decision Ends the Crisis.

Huta Stalowa Wola [Stalowa Wola Ironworks] facility has signed an Agreement, according to which chassis for the Krab howitzers is to be license manufactured in Poland. License has been granted by the South Korean Samsung Techwin company.

Today President of the Board of the HSW S.A. [Huta Stalowa Wola S.A. - Stalowa Wola Ironworks] company, Krzysztof Trofiniak, who just recently has also been selected to be the member of the Board in the Polish Armament Group [Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa S.A] has signed an agreement regarding production and polonisation of the chassis for the Krab howitzers. 120 examples of Samsung Techwin Type K9 chassis are planned to be manufactured.

Acquisition of the chassis which is used by the Korean-made K-9 Thunder howitzers will be executed as a technology transfer. PGZ is to be the recipient. The first phase of the programme, which is to be completed until 2017, will include transfer of 24 examples of chassis, which is to be delivered to the Squadron. The second stage assumes that, within the period between 2018 and 2022, another 12 examples will be delivered. The remaining ones are to be manufactured by the Polish Armament Group. Polish Armed Forces are to receive 120 Krab howitzers in total.

The programme regarding the Regina fire modules based on the Krab howitzers is one of the most important points, when it comes to modernization of the Polish artillery capabilities. MoD wants to get the lengthy implementation works finally completed. Hence, with a reference to the statement made by the Stalowa Wola Ironworks, who is the contractor, according to which the facility will not be able to execute the project using the chassis proposed so far, I have taken a decision, thanks to which the programme is to be completed with the use of the licensed chassis. This has been a difficult, decision, but it would have been eventually required. Acquisition of modern and proven K9 chassis will let us introduce the Krab howitzers into service quickly, and Krab, which is based on the K9 platform, will become an important product for the Polish industry.

MoD Secretary of State, Czesław Mroczek.

Decision related to procurement of the chassis for the artillery system from Korea has been made on the grounds of delays that occurred in the programme, caused, among other issues, by the defects detected in the vehicles which have been supplied by the Bumar-Łabędy facility. Czesław Mroczek stressed that in the light of the statement made by the Stalowa Wola Ironworks, according to which there is no option of supplying 24 howitzers for the land forces with Bumar-Łabędy chassis until 2015, the Ministry of Defence had to either choose acquisition of a ready-made solution abroad, which would eventually lead to cancellation of the Krab programme, or acquire the new chassis in cooperation with an external contractor.

Solution which has been adopted will make it possible to continue the development of the Polish howitzers, and the chassis is to be supplied by an external partner, along with a provision of technology transfer for the state arms industry. According to Minister Mroczek, elements of the K-9 Thunder howitzer have been proven in “hundreds of howitzers” so far. This will make it possible to introduce the new artillery systems into use in the Polish Army in a relatively short period of time, and, at the same time, capabilities of the national defence industry are to be significantly improves.

We have analysed all pros and cons and we have decided to undertake cooperation with a foreign partner. Contract signed by and between HSW and Samsung Techwin company, besides the fact that it settles all the issues related to the manufacturing process better, also means that the PGZ companies are to receive more modern technologies from abroad.

PGZ President, Wojciech Dąbrowski.

Krab chassis will also have a new power-pack implemented; cost per unit will be PLN 6 million higher than it has been initially assumed. K-9 Thunder artillery systems are being introduced into service within the South Korean Armed Forces as a replacement for the US-made M-109 howitzers, belonging to the K-55 family. Thunders are equipped with a cannon, barrel length of which is equal to 52 calibres (same the one used in the Krab howitzer). Their power-pack is based on the German MTU engine, with power output of 1000 HP. The Korean systems are equipped with a fire control system, which makes them capable of striking targets at distances of up to 40 km. Mass production of Thunder howitzers has been started back in 1999.

Derivative version of the K-9 howitzer is license manufactured in Turkey as T-155 Firtina. In total 350 examples of these are to be supplied. By the end of 2009 the Turkish had no less than 150 howitzers at their disposal. According to the information which is publicly available, the T-155 howitzers are manufactured at a pace of 24 pieces per year. Azerbaijan has also signed an agreement, according to which it is to receive the Turkish derivatives.

Despite the fact that the license for manufacturing the Turrets for the Krab howitzers has been purchased back in 1999, ever since then the Polish Army has received only 8 vehicles, most of which faced defects in the chassis. MoD Secretary of State, Czesław Mroczek, claimed that he will not tolerate any further delays in the Krab programme. The issue has been thoroughly analysed by

PGZ President, Wojciech Dąbrowski, stresses the fact that realization of the programme is going to be carried out in accordance with three assumptions. Firstly, Polish Armed Forces are to receive the newly purchased equipment quickly. The equipment is to be modern and it is to meet the requirements of the modern battlefield. Secondly, as the contract is realized, the Polish industry is to receive a technology transfer, which would improve the national defence and industrial potentials. At the same time attempts will be made to maintain constant number of job positions within the companies of the Polish Armament Group.

On 15th December a request has been sent to the Gliwice facility, regarding polonisation of the newly acquired chassis for the Krab howitzers. The offer is to be placed until 31st January next year. President Dąbrowski stated that no decision has been made, whether manufacturing process is to be carried out by the Bumar-Łabędy facility. The company needs to prove that it is in possession of suficient skills and qualifications within that scope. As Wojciech Dąbrowski stated, declarations will not be enough here. He also claimed that PGZ is to implement a new policy within the scope of cooperation carried out between the industry and the army. He additionally claimed that the deadlines referring to the research and development works need to be kept. Integration, assembly and tests of all of the 120 manufactured howitzers will be executed at the Stalowa Wola Ironworks [Huta Stalowa Wola] facility.

Within the context of the activity carried out by PGZ, Minister Mroczek hoped that the group will provide new level of quality within the area of execution of the key arms industry projects. He noted that the industry needs to realize that deadlines should be kept, and equipment delivered should have its full declared capabilities. He also stated that delaying research and development programmes is out of any question.

What’s next?

Decision of the authorities of the Polish Armament Group has been made in order to eliminate the pathology, in a form of delays in one of the key modernization programmes, which is of significant value for the Polish Army. Situation in which defence industry activities (also activities carried out by the state industry) are ineffective cannot occur. Due to such situations the Armed Forces do not receive equipment on time or they receive equipment which does not live up to their expectations.

As it has been stressed by Wojciech Dąbrowski, technology transfer is to improve the capabilities of the Polish industry, as it happened e.g. in case of the Rosomak APCs, which have been successfully used in combat, in Afghan theatre. Statements made by the PGZ president mean that deadlines related to the research and development works must be kept. We should hope that the issue of Krab howitzers will become an example of definitive activities carried out by the PGZ, which would make it possible achieve a new quality level in the field of relations between the industry and the Polish Armed Forces.