MBTs, Howitzers, Munitions Procured from Korea To Be Delivered This Year. Executory Agreements Concluded
Head of the Polish Ministry of Defence, Mariusz Błaszczak has approved executory agreements on deliveries of 180 K2 MBTs and 212 K9A1 howitzers. Both vehicle types are procured with a training/logistical package and major quantities of munitions. The agreements’ total value is defined as more than USD 5.7 bn. These constitute just the first stage of the Polish procurement made in Korea.
The executory/performance agreements signed in Morąg are the first ones following the framework agreements concluded in July, regarding the delivery of the K2/K2PL main battle tanks, K9/K9PL howitzers, and FA-50/FA-50PL light combat aircraft. Each of those programmes has been divided into phases. On one hand, this would make it possible to meet the assumption of rapid commissioning of that equipment in the Polish Armed Forces. On the other, it would allow for the achievement of the target operational requirements but also domestic manufacturing in Poland - for main battle tanks and howitzers.
Mariusz Błaszczak stressed that the agreements are signed just a quarter after the negotiation had been launched. The Minister added that the first troops of the 16th Mechanized Division would be deployed for training in Korea in October, while the first main battle tanks and howitzers would be delivered to the 16th Division in 2022. The above refers to 10 K2 MBTs for the 20th Mechanized Brigade based in Morąg, and 24 K9A1 howitzers, for the 11th “Mazurski” Artillery Regiment, based in Węgorzewo. He added that there are prospects in sight, to expand the industrial cooperation with South Korea.
Sebastian Chwałek, President at the PGZ Group, recalled the fact that further performance agreements on howitzers and main battle tanks would also envisage the participation of the domestic defence industry in the manufacturing process. He hopes for joint development of manufacturing, as well as modern technologies for the new weapons systems. He added that one of the elements of the process would be aimed at greater independence from a human operation - which could be interpreted as a drive towards further automation of the military products. He also mentioned the fact that talks specifically referring to the placement of main battle tanks in the Wilk programme (with K2/K2PL procurement being associated with that undertaking), would begin soon.
The first performance agreement signed refers to 180 K2 Black Panther main battle tanks delivered by Hyundai Rotem. These modern MBTs weigh around 55 tonnes. They are armed with 120 mm/L55 guns. Coupled with an advanced fire control system, this armament produces serious fire-power. The MBT is protected by layered armor. The mobility is enhanced by a 1,500 HP engine coupled with a hydropneumatic in-arm suspension system. The vehicle complies with the NATO Generic Vehicle Architecture guidelines, which would make any future upgrades much easier.
The contract also covers the procurement of tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition for the main gun, along with ammo for the machine guns, as well as the training/logistics support package. No support vehicle procurement is expected within the scope of that contract (ARVs, assault bridges). Relevant decisions on those would be publicized soon. The deliveries of the MBTs are planned between 2022 and 2025. The agreement has a value of USD 3.34 bn. Notably, the Morąg-based 20th Mechanized Brigade would be the first to receive the K2 MBTs. It was also the first unit that was equipped with the modified T-72M1R MBTs, based on an agreement signed back in 2019.
The K2PL variant expected to be manufactured in Poland, as of 2026, would feature changes that would make it fully compliant with the set of requirements defined by the Polish military. This refers to increased protection levels and extra armour. It is also envisaged that the K2PL would be fitted with hard-kill and soft-kill active protection systems, physically destroying anti-tank munitions, and disrupting the operation of their guidance systems. The whole programme would also involve a broad transfer of technologies.
The second of the signed agreements concerns 212 K9A1 self-propelled howitzers manufactured by Hanwha Defense. Similarly, as in the case of the main battle tanks, the agreement includes howitzers and training/logistics packages, but it does not cover any procurement of support vehicles. The howitzers would however be fitted with a Polish internal/external communications suite integrated with the ZZKO Topaz automated fire control system. The assumption for those howitzers is to use the Polish command vehicles - also those that form the Regina fire modules with the Krab howitzers. The agreement has a value of USD 2.4 bn. The deliveries, meanwhile, are expected to happen between 2022 and 2026. The training package also includes, as the Armament Agency assures, simulator kits.
The K9A1 is a modernized variant of the K9 howitzer operated by Korea and Norway. The base platform for this system is licensed and manufactured at the Polish HSW S.A. facility, and it is also a component of the Polish Krab gun-howitzer. The platform features a modernized, automated fire control system that allows for use of special ammunition of a range extended to 54 kilometers. It also features an APU, and INS/GPS positioning system, along with an enhanced observation suite for the crew. The barrel is 52 calibers long which makes it possible to engage targets at a distance of more than 40 kilometers with the use of common ammunition types, and up to 54 kilometers for special purpose rounds.
Up to 672 howitzers are to be delivered, in line with the provisions of the framework agreement. Most of the howitzers would be delivered in the K9PL variant that is to be manufactured in Poland. That variant could be based on the K9A2 platform with an autoloader. Originally, 48 K9A1 systems were to be procured, with the remaining ones coming in the K9PL variant. From the very start, the Armament Agency has been announcing that the first K9PL howitzers were to be made in Korea, based on the K9A1 system.
The framework agreements signed last week are the first step on the path towards the acquisition of K2 MBTs and K9 howitzers. The completion of those agreements would allow for rapid reinforcement of the potential remaining at disposal of the Polish Armed Forces and fill in the gaps inventory left after relevant equipment has been transferred to Ukraine. The second stage would be much broader, and much more costly, and it would also involve the necessary transfer of technologies. And this stage is still ahead of us.