Polish soldiers maneuver at a military base near Warsaw. The government is shifting military priority away from foreign missions to national defense. (Agence France-Presse)
WARSAW — Poland’s shift in defense priorities away from foreign missions and toward national security will turn the spotlight on mobility and firepower for the land forces. This is reflected in the military’s 139 billion-zloty (US $44.7 billion) modernization program, which will be implemented from now until 2022.
President Bronislaw Komorowski announced the shift Aug. 15 during Polish Armed Forces’ Day, saying that he and the government will refocus military priorities away from involvement in conflicts such as Afghanistan and Iraq, where Polish troops were deployed.
The aim is to pursue a defense policy that will “not exceed Polish capacities, Polish interests and Polish needs,” Komorowski said.
“[We want to] end an overzealous, reckless ... expeditionary policy of sending our troops to the other side of the world,” the president was quoted as saying by local news agency PAP.
Komorowski said funds previously earmarked for foreign military missions will be used to modernize the armed forces. Local analysts say this policy indicates that Polish arms acquisition will be focused on national defense capacity.
New Main Battle Tanks
New tanks are among the top purchases planned by the Polish military. The ministry aims to buy about 120 used Leopard tanks from Germany, reported local daily Gazeta Wyborcza. These would be added to the 128 Leopards 2A4 operated by the Polish land forces. The planned procurement is estimated to be worth some €200 million (US $270 million).
Analysts say the government is negotiating terms of the deal, which is likely to be approved soon.
Marek Jablonowski, a political scientist from the University of Warsaw, said Poland’s defense policy shift is related to the budget cuts being implemented by the government.
“Polish decision-makers are aware that available funds for the armed forces’ modernization are limited,” Jablonowski said. “They choose to use them for modernizing the military branches which are perceived as the most important for strengthening national security.”
The planned austerity measures are most likely to impact the Defense Ministry’s budget for 2014, which is expected to be lower than this year’s. However, senior ministry officials have said the cuts will probably not affect spending on the military’s technical modernization, which is set out in a 10-year framework.
The government is required to earmark at least 1.95 percent of the country’s gross domestic product for defense expenditure. While it is unclear whether the government will override that provision in this year’s budget, Komorowski, who served as defense minister from 2000 to 2001, has repeatedly called for maintaining the rule in the long term.
Mobility, Strike Capacity
The Defense Ministry’s modernization plans for 2013 through 2022 include a number of major procurements to boost combat capability, primarily aimed at strike capacity and mobility.
To make the land forces more mobile, the Polish Army aims to purchase 886 medium-load high-mobility vehicles from 2014 to 2018.
By 2018, the ministry will also acquire a further 307 Rosomak armored modular vehicles, which are produced by local defense company Wojskowe Zaklady Mechaniczne Siemianowice (WZMS) under license from Finland’s Patria. To date, the Siemianowice-based manufacturer has delivered some 570 eight-wheel-drive vehicles to the Polish armed forces.
Strike capability will be strengthened by the Krab and Rak programs. Krab is a 155mm howitzer on a tracked vehicle developed by local defense company Huta Stalowa Wola (HSW). Last year, the ministry ordered 24 howitzers worth more than 500 million zloty. Another 96 units are to be procured by 2025.
The Rak is a 120mm self-propelled mortar, also developed by HSW. Delivery of several dozen vehicles is scheduled for 2014 to 2018, according to the Polish ministry.
Meanwhile, a planned consolidation of Poland’s fragmented defense industry was announced in September by Prime Minister Donald Tusk. Under the plan, the Polish Armaments Group is to integrate state-owned WZMS, HSW, Polish Defense Holding and other smaller manufacturers into one entity.