The state of implementation of the Polish air defence program
Last month during the three events: the meeting of the subcommittee for the Polish defence industry and the technical modernization of the Armed Forces, the press conference of Deputy Defence Minister Czeslaw Mroczek and his meeting with the Parliamentary Committee of Defence there was a piece of information presented that shows the current state of the modernization of the Polish Armed Forces in the medium and short range of air defence. The first case concernes the system codenamed Wisla (the range up to 100 km, the ability to destroy ballistic missiles), the second one concernes the system codenamed Narew (range up to 25 km).
The Air defence is a priority of Polish army modernization plan for the years 2013-2022. We must reject soviet-era systems (like SA-3 in the picture) and acquire missile defence capabilities.
Wisła (Vistula – Polish river) is the most important task of the air defence program. It is to provide the national capacities in the fight against ballistic missiles with a range of 1000 km. In 2013, the Inspectorate Armament conducted with potential bidders the first technical dialogue to verify the expectations of tactical-technical parameters with the offer capabilities of the industry. In the spring 2014 the second phase of the dialogue was conducted in the range of the industrial cooperation. The four entities took part in it:
brought to life in March 2013, the consortium, whose leader was the Polish Defence Holding (PHO) and the European company MBDA, the French Thales - offering polonized version of SAMP/T.
US company Raytheon offering Patriot system,
The US-German-Italian consortium MEADS International offering the MEADS (Medium Extended Air Defence System) system,
The Israeli government representing its own producers of air defence systems.
Finally, on 30th June 2014, Armament Inspectorate announced the completion of the dialogues and intention of invitatiing for participation only two bidders: European consortium Eurosam (Thales and MBDA-France) offering SAMP/T and the American company Raytheon offering Patriot system. The Polish government forced the Polish Defence Holding (Polski Holding Obronny) not to represent any of the offers, as included in its content companies (mainly manufacturer of rocket systems Mesko SA) were to be the beneficiary of the economic offer. The role of the Polish Defence Holding is marginalized from several months for a newly established state solution, Polish Armament Group (Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa).
Giving reasons for choosing only Eurosam and Raytheon offers, the Ministry of Defence explains it with operability of Patriot and SAMP/T - as a base for Polish variant, their presence in the military arsenals of NATO armies and the broad economic proposals.
On 29th of September 2014, the Minister of Nationial Defence Tomasz Siemoniak signed a request for acquiring the system Vistula, which formally allows to start the negotiation procedure. Currently, the works are carried out and related with the invitations to participate in the proceedings, the draft of an agreement and the offset assumptions. According to Col. Duda (Deputy Chief of Armament Inspectorate), the starting off the procedure should take place until the end of this year and the signing of the contract with the contractor is expected in 2015. In total, it is planned to acquire eight batteries Vistula system since the year 2018 , although in practice there is no actual delivery schedule. Earlier it was planned that up to 6 batteries will be in Poland until the year 2022, however there are no such specifics currently. Ministry of Defence explained this situation with the capabilities of producers who will not be able to provide Vistula systems in such numbers before the year 2022. The option considered by the Ministry is the temporary use of systems not in the target version, but currently produced. However, the Armed Forces clearly informs: both Patriot and SAMP/T in their current configuration do not meet our requirements. In relation to MoD plans from December 2012, assuming the signing of the agreement in 2014, the task of acquiring Vistula systems is one year delayed and ambiguity associated with the delivery schedule delivers the doubt when Poland will acquire medium-range air defence missile systems.
The second pillar of the new air defence system are to be anti-aircraft short-range missile system codenamed Narew (Polish river). With all the requirements of the Ministry they are to fight the airborne targets at a distance of 25 km and will be used in Poland to replace S-125 Newa-SC (SA-3 Goa) and 2K12 Kub (SA-6 Gainful) soviet-era systems. In December 2012 it was reported that until the year 2022, we will purchase 11 batteries Narew. The current declarations of the Defence Ministry say about 9 batteries and the next ones after that date. In practice, the Narew program was suspended until the decisions related to greater Vistula. This puts the question of the efficiency of Polish military institutions in the conduct of large procurement procedures. In November 2014, a technical dialogue was announced, which is planned to be carried out with the potential bidders in the first quarter of the year 2015. Importantly, to the dialogue only the companies offering comprehensive solutions will be invited, and not as it was in the case of the Vistula, the entities producing only some components of the system. Col. Duda from the Armament Inspectorate mentioned systems that the Polish side is interested in: NASAMS offered by the Norwegian company Kongsberg - in the partnership with the Raytheon company, VL Mica produced by the company MBDA, the Israeli Spyder and Iron Dome and produced by the German Diehl Defence IRIS-T system. The military assumes that in 2016 the announcement of the procurement will be possible. In the initial plans of the Ministry of Defence assuming the signing of the agreement in 2014, the delaying of the task is already nearly two years.
Except obtaining the ability for air defence, the second objective of the Polish modernization plan is the building of the economic potential. Ministry of Defence is interested in national self-sufficiency in terms of service, maintenance and repairs and the real ability for production is the additional objective. It is estimated that by gaining technology in the field of systems Vistula and Narew, the Polish industry will make a big step forward. Currently these abilities are outlined by the MANPADS Grom and anti-tank Spike-LR systems.
Apart from the Vistula and Narew systems, the Polish air defence will also consist of the lighter systems like Poprad, which is self-propelled launcher VSHORAD Grom (Thunder) missiles and artillery-rocket Pilica 23 mm guns (deep modernization of ZU-23-2 soviet guns).
The Air defence is a priority of Polish army modernization plan for the years 2013-2022. In fact, the realities cause that a large part of the assumptions will not be made at this time. Indeed,for the effects of the agreements we will have to wait after the year 2022, not to mention the fact that the rearmed troops must become operational, that will take another years.