Jakub Palowski: Polish Ministry of Defence has recently signed several equipment procurement contracts, regarding the hardware for the Polish Armed Forces. How can we assess the last year, within the context of modernizing the Polish Army?
Michał Jach, Chairman of the Parliamentary National Defence Committee, Law and Justice MP: 2016 may be clearly seen as a breakthrough period. The actions undertaken by the Ministry of Defence are a clear proof that modernization has been a focal point of the steps taken. Thanks to the above, the budget is going to be used in full. At the same time, the Technical Modernization Plan for the Army has been redefined, since the document adopted back in 2012 has been overestimated, two-fold. Polish Ministry of Defence had to make a quick decision regarding the changes within the plan, so that the individual programmes could have been initiated without any redundant delay. Decisions, highly relevant from the point of view of securing the national security interest, have also been made. The orders are being received by the Polish industry, thanks to which the industry may get an ability to support operation, overhauls or modernization of the individual types of the equipment in service. This, on the other hand, makes it possible to establish a potential which would secure the use of the given equipment, throughout its service lifetime.
The Ministry declares that air defence system remains a priority task, within the modernization process.
I would like to recall the fact that this year, a decision was made to issue a Letter of Request, regarding the Patriot system integrated with the IBCS command suite, along with a Request for Information, concerning the details of the MEADS system. At the same time, agreements concerning the domestically manufactured VSHORAD systems have also been signed. The steps taken are justified, in my opinion. Polish Armed Forces had no air defence systems at their disposal, which could, to a bare minimum, meet the expectations within the scope of provision of security. The actions made by the Polish Ministry of Defence are a proof, that this issue is treated highly seriously. And the effects are also beginning to show. Just compare the first offer made by Raytheon (Wisła programme), with the current one. In the former offer, the Polish defence industry would have not made a contribution to the manufacturing process, as well as within the scope of future support for operational use of the system. Now, we have come to an agreement, according to which 50% of production is to be carried out by the Polish industry. On one hand, this would secure the needs of the Polish Army, also within the scope of using the system within its lifetime cycle. On the other hand, it would pave the way for the Polish enterprises to reach out for the latest technologies. And this is the way which shall be adopted when procuring the armament if, at a given moment, it is impossible for the domestic industry to deliver it.
Within the public sphere, the issue of imperfections of the currently utilized armament acquisition system often emerges. Some exporters suggest that a new, strong coordinating body should be established to execute the procurement process. The said organ is often referred to as the Armament Agency. Could we expect any changes, within the upcoming year, when it comes to organization of procurement for the Armed Forces?
Yes, I think that relevant changes are highly plausible to happen. Within the Strategic Defence Review, a whole department deals with the system of armament procurement. This is a proof that the Polish Ministry of Defence is aware of the structural problems within that scope. In my opinion, without establishing a new system for procurement of equipment and services (including overhauls and modifications), with a purpose of meeting the needs of the Armed Forces, we will not be able to handle the tasks created by the need of carrying out a comprehensive modernization of the Army.
Polish Ministry of Defence, as well as the President, also announced that changes may be expected within the Polish Army’s command and control system.
Strategic Defence Review confirmed the dysfunctional nature of the system which is being used currently. At the beginning of December, a strategic wargame was organized, providing us with very interesting information, including the data related to the prospective directions of development for the command and control system. Polish MoD announced that soon, a relevant bill would be sent to the Parliament. It is going to be based on the results of the Strategic Defence Review. Introduction of changes within that scope is an urgent matter. Thus, I expect that the parliament begins to proceed with the new regulations soon. Then, decisions should be made quickly to implement the system which would conform with the needs of the Polish Army. It is worth to add that results of the wargame which was a part of the Strategic Defence Review, may be projected onto the prospective changes of structures or dislocation of the units of the Polish Army. The Strategic Defence Review, despite the ambitious shape of the adopted schedule, is being implemented in a timely manner, while Minister Szatkowski shows a high degree of involvement within that scope.
So far, the Polish Ministry of Defence did not make a decision related to procurement of the multi-role helicopters, Kruk attack helicopter tender is also in queue, waiting for its initiation. What are the most important modernization programmes that may come to a conclusion next year?
In my opinion, when compared to other programmes, acquisition of the multi-role helicopters is the easiest one. I also hope that the Kruk programme comes to a conclusion. Moreover, I am waiting for the Ministerial decision related to the method of implementation of the Wisła programme. In line with the assumptions, the aforesaid decisions should be made next year. I also wanted to note the issue of the modernization prospects for the Navy. Currently, intensive work is being carried out, for the purpose of initiating several key programmes. I hope that the said works would make it possible to conclude these programmes next year. Here, I am referring, above all, to the Miecznik and Czapla class surface combatants, as well as to the Orka class submarines.
During this year, the Technical Modernization Plan was appended with a programme covering the area of cyber-security, while equipment for the Territorial Defence component became one of the priorities of the redefined plan.In what way, the aforesaid tasks may be differentiated on the background of the remaining elements of the plan?
When it comes to the equipment for the Territorial Defence branch, the issue is not as complicated, as it is in case of the other programmes. We know what the needs of the Territorial Defence units are, and in its majority, proper equipment may be provided by the Polish defence industry. Here I mean the anti-aircraft weapons, squad and individual firearms, or anti-tank weaponry or communications and observation systems. On the other hand, in the field of cyber-security, Poland is not, contrary to common opinions, a country in case of which the protection level within that scope is low. Cooperation with the Ministry of Digitalization, responsible for development of the domestic IT solutions and IT security, has been good so far We have numerous professionals working for the domestic and foreign companies. I think that proper policy within that scope will make it possible for us to acquire proper human resources for that purpose. The HR is of key value, when it comes to cyber-security. I am optimistic, when it comes to the prospects we are facing, within the scope of protecting the national security in the cyber domain.
And what role may be played by the private companies, when it comes to bolstering the Polish Army’s electronic or cybernetic capabilities?The specific nature of the sector makes these companies involved, to a high degree, in its development.
The private companies may play a key role, when it comes to expansion of the cyber-defence capabilities. Even in the United States which have their security system developed at the highest level, globally, the Department of Defence uses a new method of acquiring the relevant capacities, also known as “third offset strategy”. The Pentagon is monitoring the achievements of even the minor IT companies that achieve successes in the field. Often these companies do not realize that the technologies they provide may be of key value for national security, and that the US authorities are going to make a decision to acquire the solutions developed by those entities. Small enterprises have shown that in the area of IT sector and digitalization, especially when it comes to software, but also in case of hardware, they may be more dynamic than large companies that have significant financial resources at their disposal. Polish IT sector shows that we have an incredible potential at our disposal, since within the global rankings, the Polish IT specialists are placed high. Their capabilities may be used to maintain and provide security for the state and for the citizens.
Thank you for the conversation.