WARSAW, Poland — This year’s edition of the MSPO defense industry show in Kielce, Poland, which ran between Sept. 7 and 10, was dominated by major programs, including the country’s efforts to secure 32 F-35 Lightning II fighter jets, 250 M1A2 Abrams SEPv3 tanks, and mid- and short-range air defense systems.

The event also displayed a number of emerging trends that could increasingly shape Poland’s defense capacities in the coming years, such as an increased focus on unmanned and digital combat training capacities.

Speaking on the show’s first day in Kielce, Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak said that since 2014, when the ministry spent about 8.5 billion zloty (U.S. $2.2 billion) on acquisitions of weapons and equipment for Poland’s military, the country has boosted its defense expenditure.

“In 2020, this was more than doubled, as more than 17.5 billion zloty was spent for the same purpose,” Błaszczak said. “I also want to ensure you that we will not stop on this path. In the coming years, we will continue to develop Poland’s defense capacities.”

Later that day, the minister signed an agreement with Poland’s state-run defense giant PGZ under which the group is to serve as the integrator of Poland’s short-range air defense system. Under the program, PGZ will team up with a foreign technology supplier that is to be selected. The leading contenders for the deal include Raytheon Technologies and Norway’s Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace, European defense giant MBDA, and Israel Aerospace Industries and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.

More focus on unmanned aircraft

Last May, the Polish Defence Ministry surprised numerous local industry observers when it unveiled a deal to buy 24 Bayraktar TB2 drones from Turkey. The acquisition is part of the country’s larger plans to boost its drone fleet, with programs to buy combat mid-range drones and medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAVs in the pipeline.

At the same time, local industry players are also developing their unmanned offer, seeking to secure contracts for the Polish military, but also expanding their foreign foothold. On the first day of the MSPO show, Polish privately owned defense company WB Group announced it secured a new contract from an undisclosed country to sell its flagship “Warmate,” which combines reconnaissance capabilities and combat capacities as loitering munition.

Owing to the deal, the customer will now have “several hundred” units of Warmate, including the latest batch upgraded to its 3.0 variant, WB Group said in a statement. Compared with its older version, the unmanned system’s propulsion now has a significantly lower acoustic signature, and its radio link’s range was increased, extending Warmate’s operational range.

Piotr Wojciechowski, the president of WB Group, said that in “the first half of 2022, the total number of ordered Warmates such exceed 1,000. This loitering ammunition, built by WB Group, is under continuous development. We plan to introduce new types of removable heads which will increase the capacities of our system.”

Digital upgrades for combat training capacities

Under another deal signed during the show, Sweden’s Saab has secured a contract to supply a number of live training systems and services to Poland’s armed forces. Owing to the deal, valued at about 1 billion krona (U.S. $116 million), the manufacturer is to allow the Polish military’s combat training capacities to reach a higher level, and enhance interoperability with allied forces.

The solutions that are to be supplied to Poland between 2021 and 2024 include Saab’s latest exercise control (EXCON) and communication systems, the latest generation hi-fidelity simulators for soldiers, weapons and vehicles. Saab will deliver complete live training solution for a reinforced mechanized battalion, as well as four training centers for company-size units, the company said.

Commenting on the deal, Błaszczak said that the new systems will be used by Polish, but also U.S. and allied troops stationed on the country’s soil, as these solutions will be deployed to the new Combat Training Center in Drawsko Pomorskie, in the country’s north-west. Through establishing the center, Poland hopes to become a regional hub for NATO exercises.

In total, this year’s edition of the MSPO gathered some 400 exhibitors from 27 countries in Kielce.

Jaroslaw Adamowski is the Poland correspondent for Defense News.

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