Polish Parliament Discusses Financing of the Abrams MBTs Procurement and the Budget

4 listopada 2021, 09:46
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Image Credit: U.S. Army, Spc. Tyler Kingsbury

Parliamentary National Defence Committee assembled to consider and issue an opinion on the 2022 budgetary bill (draft act), within the scope of the national defence spending, and to submit that opinion to the Committee of Public Finance. Not only was this an opportunity to get acquainted with the record-breaking defence budget, but also with other pieces of information tied to the modernization and development of the Polish Armed Forces.

The information on the 2022 budget was presented by the Undersecretary of State at the Polish Ministry of Defence, Wojciech Skurkiewicz, on behalf of the head of the MoD. As the official announced, the budget was drafted in line with the assumption of using 2.2% of GDP for defence. Next year, this would translate into a record-breaking amount that would be used to finance the defence expenditure - PLN 57.7831 bn. The remaining portion of the budget would be complemented with the use of the Armed Forces Modernization Fund.

The material expenditure, within the Central Material Plan, would amount to PLN 17.87 bn., personal expenses would cost PLN 13.452 bn., while training would cost PLN 9.342 bn. PLN 10.1 bn. would be allocated to retirement pay and benefits for former officers and professional soldiers.

The indexation rate for retirement/pension benefits is at the general level of 104.89%. Skurkiewicz said that benefits, in 2022, would be received by 157,800 beneficiaries. On average, following the indexation, 4413.23 zl would be the average retirement pension, while the average disability allowance would be as high as PLN 3705.33. The family allowance would be, on average, as high as PLN 3473.2. 13th retirement pension payment funds have also been envisaged.

In 2022 the Polish military is to employ 124,500 troops - 115,500 professionally employed troops, 8,000 candidates, 1,000 troops belonging to National Reserve Forces, 2,821 soldiers serving in Military Intelligence and Counterintelligence, 3,600 in preparatory service, 2,779 reserve soldiers, and 700 troops in the Academic Legion. The Territorial Defence Component is to employ 35,00 troops. Overall, the military is also to employ 48,430 members of civil personnel.

16.216 billion zlotys of the central material plans would be spent on modernization, 2.93 billion would be spent on NATO-related construction works, while 1.93 bn zlotys would be allocated to material procurement. All of the funds are to be used to accomplish the following objectives:

  • Improved operational capabilities of the Polish Armed Forces in the easternmost region of the country;
  • Technical Modernization of the Polish Armed Forces;
  • Increase in troops number;
  • Establishment of conditions for allied forces to operate in Poland - in particular, the US military;
  • Establishment of structural framework and increase of operational capabilities of the Territorial Defence component;
  • Establishment of structural framework and increase of operational capabilities of the Cyberspace Defence component;
  • Training in the Armed Forces;
  • Increasing the capabilities of the Polish Armed Forces, to combat the threats caused by epidemic factors.

This is to reinforce Poland's position as an international partner in military cooperation within NATO, EU, and other international frameworks. Pro-defence stance in the society is also to be enhanced.

After the speech by Wojciech Skurkiewicz, the stance adopted by the Polish Ministry of Defence was endorsed by Leszek Dobrzyński, Chairman at the Standing Subcommittee for the Armed Forces Budget and Finances.

The discussion following the presentation involved numerous inquiries submitted by the MPs that revealed further budget-related details. Anna Siarkowska MP (PiS, Law and Justice), was asking why the modernization funds allocated to the Territorial Defence component in 2022 are lower than last year (186 million zlotys would be spent on procurement of new equipment, plus 959 million would be allocated to fund this branch of the military). The response was: this branch of the military was receiving the highest financing at the formation stage, now it is well saturated with equipment and does not exhibit so expansive needs. At the same time Skurkiewicz suggested that, maybe, in 2023, funds would be needed to establish extra three brigades. The budget may be increased then.

Paweł Poncyliusz MP was asking about the causes of the problems in the TYTAN future combat ensemble programme. He only received acknowledgement of the existence of the issues. The complexity of the programme was the main cause, as the ensemble consists of several elements. Poncyliusz was also asking questions referring to the HIMARS acquisition. The response suggested that the procurement in question is progressing according to the schedule and that no delays are expected. Skurkiewicz provided some specifics on delivery dates: HIMARS would be commissioned in 2023, Patriot and Abrams MBTs in 2022, while F-35s would appear in Poland starting from 2024.

Responding to questions on the selection of HIMARS, as an option preferred over the competing design, a representative of the Armament Inspectorate said that the offer submitted by a PGZ-led consortium here was exceeding the financial assumptions made by the MoD. Furthermore, the Armed Forces wanted to acquire a system common among NATO member states, that could be supplied with effectors as fit. The representative of the Armament Inspectorate added that HIMARS is the cheapest in its class - based on his experience since he has been dealing with the matter for a few years now.

Responding to question stated by MP Poncyliusz, regarding the potential further manufacturing of Rosomak APCs, and pairing them with the ZSSW-30 turret, the representative of the Armament Inspectorate said that the military currently has around 100 base-Rosomak APC platforms at its disposal, and all of these may receive the ZSSW-30 turret system. He admitted that when it comes to brand-new platforms, there are no Rosomak APC power-packs available, thus the MoD is working on scrutinizing the matter, and the possible solutions. He also assured that there is no danger that "we would not be able to make it on time", as the solution should become available before the ZSSW-30 turret is installed on the last of the owned base platforms.

Paweł Poncyliusz also asked questions regarding the increased spending in the M-346 Bielik AJT programme. However, it turned out that the expenses are related to the commissioning of 4-optionally acquired aircraft. The spending increase here was insignificant anyway.

Responding to a question asked by MP Grzegorz Braun, Wojciech Skurkiewicz listed the expenditure elements planned by the Polish Ministry of Defence to support the US military presence in Poland. The related construction works and investments are to have a price tag of PLN 421 million in 2022. The ongoing spending to support the US operations in Poland would be as high as PLN 504 million (146 million to maintain infrastructure, utilities and perform repair works, 169 million to procure materials and equipment, 189 million to acquire fuel, food supplies, means of transportation and tanker trucks). The allied presence would entail a total price tag of PLN 925 million.

MBTs were also a burning matter, during the debate. Responding to a question asked by Poncyliusz, Skurkiewicz announced that 250 M1 Abrams MBTs would be procured (with training, logistics support, and support vehicles package), for PLN 23.3 bn. He also confirmed that the programme is financed outside the defence budget spending, within the general state budget. The first instalment of PLN 6.3 bn. would be paid this year, if the agreement is signed. It has been reserved within the 2021 Armed Forces Modernization Fund.

Responding to questions asked by Czesław Mroczek, regarding the status of the Leopard MBT modernization, the Armament Inspectorate's Col. Romuald Maksymiuk said that 18 of 64 vehicles were destined for the upgrade have been modernized to the Leopard 2PL standard. The assumption is that 54 vehicles would be modernized by the end of 2022. The last 10 would be modernized in 2023. A decision on the transfer of further A4 MBTs for modernization is to be made after the 32nd tank is received - theoretically, this would happen next year.

Responding to the question on tailoring of the Bayraktar UAVs to work within the Polish communication networks, Col. Maksymiuk said that first, they shall be delivered. He noted that the first system, or systems, would appear in Poland in exactly one year, in late October 2022.

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