Polish ZSSW-30 Unmanned Turret System - Almost Ready for Deployment

ZSSW-30 turret on the Rosomak APC - this configuration is involved in the qualification tests programme in 2020. Image Credit: PGZ
ZSSW-30 turret on the Rosomak APC - this configuration is involved in the qualification tests programme in 2020. Image Credit: PGZ

We have unofficially obtained information that suggests a milestone has been reached last Tuesday and Friday (19th and 20th November), for the ZSSW-30 unmanned turret programme. The progress made is bringing the turret one step closer to the completion of the qualification tests stage. ATGM launch tests have been executed, among other procedures.

One of the three ZSSW-30 systems in existence, involved in the qualification tests programme and integrated on the Rosomak APC is currently being live-fire tested. The tests concern the Spike LR2 ATGM launchers installed on the turret and they are taking place at the Dęba range. Live fire tests, involving the ATGM took place last Thursday. Six live missiles were launched during the test event. The results have been assessed as “very satisfying”.

We were not provided with any commentary, or information on that matter by HSW (working with WB Electronics as a consortium, on the unmanned turret). The entity explained that the release of information as such is prohibited by the agreement signed by and between the consortium and the end-user. The equipment Administrator (i.e. the MoD) is the sole entity authorized to publish information on the test results.

The last week’s field tests had been preceded by theoretical training organized by Rafael for HSW S.A. and WB. It could happen that the Polish specialists would work on future testing of the ZSSW-30 turret integrated with the Spike ATGM. However, no final decisions have been made here so far. This is quite relevant in the current circumstances, conditioned by the pandemic.

The most important issue related to the finalization of the ZSSW-30 test programme is not related to technicalities. It is tied to the restrictions imposed by the measures adopted by Poland and Israel to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The arrival of Rafael’s team that was to be involved (as an international agreement specified) in the first ZSSW-30 tests, also concerning the Spike ATGM (as a part of the qualification tests programme) has been delayed by a few months. There was a risk that this phase of the qualification test programme would happen in the most adverse weather conditions that the PGMs may face (humidity, temperature, visibility, strong winds). This would not be a negative factor, ultimately, since it would make it possible to test the weapons in the most challenging conditions possible. The above would prove the effectiveness and quality of both the ATGM, as well as the turret systems.

The first ZSSW-30 turret tests, with the standard Spike ATGMs (available at the time), took place in July 2016, a year after the preliminary testing of the prototype of the turret had begun. The tests were successful. This made it possible for HSW and WB to look towards a bright future and the official qualification tests programme that would involve the more modern and far more advanced Spike ATGMs, also offering a much greater set of combat capabilities. The hopes were very much justified.

The Thursday test event in Nowa Dęba finalized yet another phase of the ZSSW turret test programme, related to testing of the weapons (ATK 44 Bushmaster II S cannon, 7.62 mm UKM 2000 GPMG and Spike ATGM). The weapons testing followed the vehicle mobility tests phase. The turret now only has to pass the EM compatibility, low temperature/hot conditions and other similar tests. At this stage, no surprises are expected, as the turret has already gone through its paces during the factory tests programme. The qualification tests programme aims just at formally confirming the results that had been achieved already. It could happen that the qualification test programme finalization protocols would be developed before the end of 2020. Before the year 2021 even starts, HSW S.A. and the Polish Ministry of Defence could launch the trade negotiation preceding the final preparation of the series manufacturing of the turret.

Bartłomiej Zając, President of the Management Board at HSW S.A, has been telling us repeatedly that there is an actual necessity to equip the Rosomak APCs and Borsuk IFVs with the ZSSW-30 turrets, in a quantity of up to 1,000 examples. The launch of the manufacturing and assimilation in the military would both become one of the major challenges of the Polish Armed Forces’ modernization process.

The Rosomak APC would probably become the first platform to be integrated with the ZSSW-30 turret system. Before that happens, the NPBWP Borsuk IFV test programme should also come to an end. Borsuk IFV is the most important platform expected to use the new turret system mentioned above. Borsuk is currently engaged in traction capabilities test programme at the manufacturing facility. When Rosomaks were launching the Spike ATGMs at the Nowa Dęba range, the Borsuk IFV prototype was involved in performance tests. The procedures here addressed the top speed, acceleration and braking capacity. Further testing is expected to begin shortly, in the domain of slope traction, water obstacles, manoeuvrability and associated areas. It would take another few months of testing. The tests need to be accomplished before the third ZSSW-30 prototype, installed on the Borsuk platform, begins the live-fire testing.

The ZSSW-30/Spike ATGM combo tests results, that have been positive, as well as the fact that the HSW/WB specialists have been trained in handling the system, both translate into major progress made in another two domains of strategic importance. First, the turret manufacturer and the manufacturer of the turret electronics would obtain know-how required to train the future users of the system - the soldiers who, so far, have been working with the Rosomak APC’s Hitfist-30P turret, or personnel that is entirely unfamiliarized with similar weapons systems of this class. This would play a key role when the ZSSW-30 implementation programme enters the final phase - the series production and the handing off. It is plausible that this phase would begin in 2022 at the latest. It could even start in late 2021. The result of the trade negotiation between the HSW and the MoD is the main decisive factor here. The official information resulting from the agreements signed suggests that the qualification tests program should last from late January until December 2020. The ZSSW-30 R&D programme should be finalized in 2021 Q2. Series delivery, meanwhile, should begin in 2022. Officially, the 208 turrets would be delivered in the first lot. The quantity is rumoured to go up to 300. HSW was suggesting that it is capable of rapidly accelerating the planned work. Let us recall, so far the company has invested an amount of PLN 88 million, to fund the programme.

The experience gathered during the ZSSW-30 project, including the ATGM integration process, is invaluable. The know-how would be useful for HSW in its effort that has been going for a few months now, aimed at developing another, light open turret system derived - design-, and function-wise - from the ZSSW-30. As the HSW representatives assure, work on documentation of the aforesaid turret is in progress now. This seems to be a confirmation of the assumptions made a few months ago, suggesting that a prototype could be rolled out in mid-2021.

Jerzy Reszczyński