Responding to our questions, spokesman for the Armament Inspectorate, Major Krzysztof Płatek, stated that Leopard 2PL prototype is still in the testing stage. It is expected that those tests would end in March this year, while the Polish military would receive the first MBTs between the 1st and the 2nd quarter of this year. “The tests of the Leopard 2PL prototype have not come to an end due to the domains that need to be verified within the scope of confirming meeting of several requirements contained within the Specification. The requirements that need to be met by a modernized tank still include several that need to be confirmed. The contractor assumes that the above would be finalized by mid-March this year”, Płatek claimed.
This means that we would experience another delay in deliveries of the modernized Leopard 2PL main battle tanks. Back in January, during the meeting of the Parliamentary National Defence Committee, Col. Waldemar Bogusławski (deputy head at the Armament Inspectorate) said that transfer of the main battle tanks is expected in late January.
The spokesman of the Inspectorate also told us that series modernization of the main battle tanks has begun, in parallel to the tests of the tank. “The contractor has finalized the verification of technical state in which the tanks that he handles find themselves and, at the moment in parallel to assessment of the test results, he is working on series manufacturing of the vehicles. The individual examples of the main battle tanks are at a different assembly stages now.” – he stressed.
In late December last year another (fifth) annex to the agreement has been signed, including resulting overhauls and recovery of the technical status. The original Leopard MBT modernization contract only concerned upgrading of the programme-envisaged elements. Meanwhile, the scope of work required to regain the shape in which the parts that are not subjected to modernization was to be defined during the programme’s duration. “According to the annex to the agreement concluded on 24th December 2019, with a value of PLN 568.9 mln gross, the Contractor obliged himself to recover the original technical condition and carry out modernization of 142 main battle tanks, with a deadline for delivery of all main battle tanks set not later than on 31st July 2023”, major Płatek said.
This means that work on the main battle tanks that are to be upgraded is going on already. Back in November 2019 the MoD announced that transfer of verification protocols for the first batch of 64 vehicles has come to an end on 15th November. Thus, beginning of that work is a result of final verification.
The Annex also defines a new final completion deadline, namely July 2023. This means that Leopard 2PL programme is officially delayed when compared to the original plan already. The agreement signed in late 2015 by and between a PGZ-ZM Bumar-Łabędy consortium and the Armament Inspectorate of the MoD assumed that 128 main battle tanks would be modernized by the end of 2020, another 14 vehicles were to be optionally modernized in 2021.
The annex that covers modernization of another 14 main battle tanks with minor upgrades envisaged for all of the vehicles too was signed in 2018. After it was concluded the value of the agreement went up to 2.7 bn. zlotys, from the level of 2.415 bn. [gross]. At the moment, along with the annex including the overhauls with a pricetag of 568.9 million, the total value is defined as PLN 3.29 billion. Rheinmetall company is the foreign partner of the modernization process. At the beginning of 2016 the company announced that a relevant agreement has been signed with the Polish industry. The consortium is also involved in cooperation with a number of PGZ companies, including the Poznan-based WZM facility, OBRUM Sp. z o.o., PCO S.A. or ZM Tarnów.
The modernization concerns upgrade of the Leopard 2A4 up to the 2PL standard. It applies to the vehicles operated by the 10th Armoured Cavalry Brigade and by the 1st Armoured Brigade stationed in Wesoła. This is to happen through installation of extra armour on the turret, among other elements. The programme also envisages replacement of the hydraulic gun stabilization system and drives with electric counterparts. Rh-120 L44 gun is also to be modernized, so that it can accommodate new types of ammunition, including programmable rounds as well.
The main battle tanks would also be fitted with the Polish III-gen KLW-1 Asteria thermal imaging systems (commander’s and gunner’s observation instrumentation), daytime/night imaging systems, reversing cameras and other upgrades making the operational employment of the vehicles easy. The Leopard 2PL programme also assumes that maintenance base would be established within the Polish industry. It cannot be ruled out that the programme’s scope would be a subject to continuous extension, for instance, communication systems could be upgraded which has not been envisaged in the original project.
One of the reasons as to why the Leopard 2PL programme has been delayed is the conflict emerging between the Polish industry and the foreign partner, pertaining to the scope of responsibility of the latter within the programme, especially in the context of recovering full ability of the tanks. Unofficially we have found out that at least one of the main battle tanks delivered from Germany back in 2018 was not fully capable. Meanwhile, the faults pertained to elements that were not subjected to modernization.
Comments on that matter were made in an interview we conducted with the Vice-President at PGZ and by the current Deputy Minister of Defence, Sebastian Chwałek: “Some of the problems stem from different interpretation of the agreement provisions on the part of partners from different countries. The business cooperation also entails challenges. Each party has its own interest, being driven to maximize the profit and secure the claims (...) It is a complex project of nature that is very specific. Actually, the German partner was dealing with R&D on our solution. During the testing period it turned out that some elements need to be redesigned and changed to meet the requirements of the Ordering Party. As the equipment is not new, it also turned out that some elements that had not been subjected to upgrades in the very beginning are worn out which also had an impact on the work schedule. Undoubtedly, it would be easier if the German partner delivered a readymade, proven and requirements-compliant solution.”
Today we know that deliveries of the main battle tanks are to be conducted until July 2023. The whole program will cost at least 3.29 bn. zlotys. The Leopard 2PL programme is one of the priorities for the armoured and mechanized component. In essence, it is to increase the capabilities offered by the Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks operated by the Polish military. Most of those vehicles, 128 examples to be exact, were sourced from the Bundeswehr’s surplus between 2002 and 2003. Another 14 platforms were received by Poland along with a batch of 105 Leopard 2A5 main battle tanks delivered as a result of an agreement signed in late 2013. The vehicles from the first batch were received by the 10th Armoured Cavalry Brigade while the platforms of the second lot originally became a part of the inventory operated by the 34th Armoured Cavalry Brigade. Then they were transferred to the 1st Armoured Brigade stationed in Wesoła while the 34th Brigade received the T-72 platforms.