SEOUL, South Korea, and WARSAW, Poland — Korean defense companies Hyundai Rotem, Korea Aerospace Industries and Hanwha Defense expect to sign a memorandum of understand on July 27 with the Polish Ministry of Defense for wide-ranging weapon exports, officials here said.
A senior official of the Korean Presidential Office recently met these companies’ executives to discuss export volume, price, and timeline, following President Yoon Suk-yeol’s defense sales diplomacy during the recent NATO summit, according to these officials.
The Polish government is reportedly discussing with the Korean defense companies the acquisition of K-2 tanks from Hyundai Rotem, FA50 light attack aircraft from KAI, and K9 self-propelled artillery from Hanwha under a long-term arrangement.
The three companies’ export volume could reach up to 19 trillion Korean won ($14.5 billion) when all of those sales are added up. Specifically, Hyundai Rotem is talking with Poland to supply 180 K2 tanks (worth 3 trillion KRW, or $2.3 billion) by 2024, and the country may additionally purchase 400 K2 tanks by 2030, worth 8 trillion KRW, or $6.1 billion. KAI is discussing selling 48 light attack aircraft FA50 for 3.4 trillion KRW, or $2.6 billion. Poland also plans to purchase 670 K9 self-propelled artilleries that worth 4-5 trillion KRW, or $3 billion to $3.8 billion.
A spokesperson at the Ministry of Defense in Warsaw declined to provide details about what deals are on the table in the two countries’ negotiations, saying only details would be released soon. “The ongoing talks concern not only the acquisition of military equipment to strengthen the Polish Armed Forces, they are also related to the issues of industrial cooperation and transfer of technology,” the spokesperson told Defense News.
In an interview published by local site Wpolityce.pl on July 22, Polish National Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak confirmed Poland is finalizing negotiations with South Korea to buy 48 FA-50 aircraft and an undisclosed number of K2 tanks.
“We will receive the first units this year; in total, it will be 180 tanks in the first batch,” he said.
Defense exports to Poland would be the South Korean defense companies’ first sales to Europe, raising the prospect of additional deals there and elsewhere. Specifically, South Korean companies are eying tenders in Norway, Australia, Malaysia and Colombia.
Meanwhile, Błaszczak announced Poland has decided to buy 116 used M1 Abrams tanks from the U.S. on top of its previous order for 250 new tanks to replace the Soviet-designed T-72 tanks it has supplied to Ukraine.
“These tanks are stored by the United States Army. The first of these tanks will be delivered to the Polish Armed Forces next year. We want them to fill in the gaps left after we donated our gear to Ukraine,” Błaszczak said during a press conference on July 18.
The value of the procurement was not disclosed. However, the minister said that Warsaw will pay the U.S. for restoring the tanks’ operational capacities, an accompanying logistics package, and spare parts. Błaszczak said the 116 tanks represent “an older version” of the M1 Abrams.
Daehan Lee is a South Korea correspondent for Defense News. He previously worked at the U.S. and Belgian embassies in Seoul, for the People Power Party, and for election camps. He also served as a translator for the South Korean Navy. His interests include Asia-Pacific security, defense acquisition, South Korean politics and foreign policy.
Jaroslaw Adamowski is the Poland correspondent for Defense News.