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Rak Mortars Growing Strong

AWA ammunition carrier is based on the Jelcz 882.53 truck, powered by a 6-cyllinder IVECO turbocharged engine producing a power output of 392 kW. The truck features an armoured cabin for a crew of two, with ballistic protection set at level I, in line with the STANAG 4568 norm. The vehicle may transport and load and unload 6 special pallets with 120 mm mortar rounds, thanks to the MK IV hook loading system. Image Credit: Jerzy Reszczyński
AWA ammunition carrier is based on the Jelcz 882.53 truck, powered by a 6-cyllinder IVECO turbocharged engine producing a power output of 392 kW. The truck features an armoured cabin for a crew of two, with ballistic protection set at level I, in line with the STANAG 4568 norm. The vehicle may transport and load and unload 6 special pallets with 120 mm mortar rounds, thanks to the MK IV hook loading system. Image Credit: Jerzy Reszczyński

Another important agreement was signed in the early afternoon on Tuesday, 13th August, by and between the HSW S.A. company and the Polish Ministry of Defence. The conclusion took place at the newest production hall of the HSW S.A. company, where a robotized welding line and the largest portal milling machine in Poland are both used to manufacture the K9PL platforms for the Krab sph. In the future, the aforesaid assets are also going to be used to manufacture the new generation of the Borsuk IFV. Coming back to the agreement, it pertains to the new elements of the Rak mortar module: AWA support vehicles.

The agreement signed in the presence of the head of the MoD, Mariusz Błaszczak, HSW S.A. employees and the local authorities, by and between Brig. general Dariusz Pluta PhD (Head of the Armament Inspectorate) and Bartłomiej Zając (President of the Management Board at HSW S.A.), concerns delivery of 24 AWA ammunition carriers for the Rak company-level mortar modules involving the 120 mm M120K Rak automatic mortars. Head of the MoD declared that the talks with the HSW management should result, by the end of the present quarter, in conclusion of another agreement concerning delivery of further Rak self-propelled mortar systems.

However, the agreement signed is what should be our primary focus here. It is the second contract of this type that complements the earlier one, signed in April 2016. The former contract had a value of PLN 968.3 million (gross) and concerned delivery of equipment for eight Rak company-level fire modules.

Image Credit: Jerzy Reszczyński

Considering the circumstances emerging back then (with some of the test processes or qualification tests still being unfinished) it was only possible for the agreement to cover the acquisition of Rak platforms (based on the Rosomak APC, eight platforms per module) and artillery command vehicles (AWDs, based on the same APC, four per each module). The proportion between the number of artillery assets and command assets is founded on the grounds of the adopted support company structure - each company would involve two platoons. Each of the companies will also involve one commander AWD vehicle and one deputy commander AWD vehicle, with another two AWD platforms being assigned to the fire platoon commanders.

It was impossible to include the remaining components of the Rak module (AWA ammunition carriers, AWRU repair vehicles and AWR reconnaissance platforms) within the very same contract. An assumption was made back then that the most technically advanced component would be treated with a priority, as its production cycle is also the longest. Here we are referring to the Rak mortar platform. This would make it possible to begin the crew training activities and to develop tactics for using a new type of armament that revolutionizes the close support tactics. 

Image Credit: Jerzy Reszczyński

The schedule of the deliveries assumed that two Rak modules would be handed off in 2017, three in 2018 and another three in 2019. The remaining components were to “catch up” with the artillery “effector” assets introduced. Work on the first series-manufactured M120K Rak system was finished in November 2016. Meanwhile, delivery of the first module was completed, in line with the agreement, in June 2017. 17th “Wielkopolska” Mechanized Brigade (a.k.a. the “Digital” Brigade) became the first user of the new system. 12th Mechanized Brigade and 15th “Giżycka” Mechanized Brigade, and 21st Highland Brigade were next to receive the new assets (two company-level modules each). Delivery of equipment for Modules no. 7 and 8 still needs to take place to finalize the contract signed in 2016. HSW is finishing up the work on this equipment.

This agreement is a guarantee of development of the business. This agreement also is not the last agreement that we would be signing during the upcoming period (...) HSW products belong to the group that may be referred to as state of the art. So it happens, in case of the Rak solution.

Mariusz Błaszczak, Head of the Polish MoD

 Work on the remaining elements of the system was taking place in parallel to production and deliveries of the mortars. Rak modules were first reinforced by the AWRU vehicles arriving at the units. The agreement, valued at 53 million zlotys, concerning delivery of 8 vehicles as such, was concluded in late 2017. The relevant work is almost finished. M120K Rak units have already received the AWRU platforms. The last vehicles of this type will be received by the military along with the equipment destined for the last two fire modules covered by the contract - mortars and command platforms. AWR reconnaissance vehicle program is in the stage of development. The R&D process is scheduled to be completed next year. AWR, meanwhile, will be based on the Rosomak APC as well. 

AWA vehicles are similar to the WA platform designed for the Regina howitzers DMO element. The above refers to a platform based on the 4-axle Jelcz 882.53 truck, with the identical cabin and transport system for a 20-foot container (flat rack). The container accommodates 6 ammunition pallets. Qualification test programme was finalized in late 2018. Following the documentation efforts related to closure of the tests stage, and after the trade negotiation, it was possible to sign an agreement two days ago, concerning the delivery of 24 AWA platforms - three vehicles per fire module. The deliveries shall be implemented by the end of 2020. A separate procedure is planned to acquire a technical recovery vehicle for the Rak modules.

- Whenever possible, I am trying to allocate the orders placed by the Polish military with the Polish defence industry. – Stated Mariusz Błaszczak, head of the MoD. 24 AWA vehicles acquired on 13th August are going to have a pricetag of PLN 129 million.

Mariusz Błaszczak also used the visit at HSW to get acquainted with the welding line and machining centre used to manufacture the K9PL platform. In the future, the latter element of the facility will also be used to manufacture the Borsuk IFV. Błaszczak also had an occasion to inspect the first K9PL platform manufactured at HSW from a scratch. Image Credit: Jerzy Reszczyński

Head of the MoD, during his visit to HSW, also got acquainted with the latest process equipment - robotized welding line and K9PL platform machining assets. Błaszczak also inspected the first Krab hull welded, in its entirety at HSW. Soon, the hull in question will undergo machining, and then the platform is going to become a subject to type certification. If this procedure has a positive result, HSW will begin work on series manufacturing of the platform. Up until recently the Krab howitzer platforms were imported from Korea or assembled at HSW, with the use of subcomponents delivered by the licensor.

HSW, a company that I always visit with a great pleasure, is currently in a very good financial condition. Last year the facility achieved 37.4 million zlotys of profit. The first half of 2019 ended with a result of PLN 26.5 million (...) I am quite convinced that the company would have a significant role to play in the programme aimed at development of a new Polish main battle tank.

Witold Słowik, President at the PGZ Group.

Since many months now, analytical effort and talks have been taking place between HSW S.A. and the military, concerning the option of increasing the number of wheeled Rak mortars that could be series manufactured. However, no specific and official information on that matter was released until 13th August. When signing the AWA agreement Mariusz Błaszczak announced that soon, an agreement would be signed, concerning further Rak company-level modules. Błaszczak did not specify the number of additional modules. However it may be assumed, most probably, that the official referred to two to three elements as such - 16-24 M120K mortars plus the support vehicles.

If the 2016 contract is annexed and more Rak modules are to be acquired, with delivery possible as soon as in 2020, then the annex will plausibly also concern the remaining elements: AWRU and AWA vehicles. So far these vehicles were being ordered separately, with an idea in mind to provide the first eight modules (consisting solely of the mortars and command vehicle at first) with a complete equipment set. The final configuration of the modules, as the MoD recently announced, would also include two AWR reconnaissance platforms and a single WZT ARV.

Jerzy Reszczyński