WARSAW — With numerous Eastern European allies boosting their defense spending and unveiling new weapon acquisition plans, plans to acquire new weapons and equipment, this year’s edition of the MSPO, Poland’s annual defense industry show and exhibition, hosted in Kielce, in the country’s central part, is likely to produce a number of procurements, local observers said.
Some 400 companies from 23 countries have confirmed their presence in the 23rd edition of the event, hosted in Kielce, which is scheduled to take place between Sept. 1 and 4. Located on more than a total surface of over 25,000 square meters of land, over the years, the MSPO has established itself as the largest defense industry show in this part of Europe.
By 2022, Poland is planning to allocate 130 billion zloty (US$37 billion) to purchase acquisitions of new weapons and equipment, with numerous procurements underway. Other Eastern European allies, such as the Czech Republic, Latvia and Lithuania, also have announced plans to raise military spending and purchase new gear.
In July, the defense ministers of the latter two countries said they aimed to increase their defense spending to 2 percent and 1.5 percent of their gross domestic products, respectively.
Local observers said these efforts are fueled by Russia’s increased military presence in Eastern Europe and Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine, where the Kremlin backs anti-government insurgents in the country’s eastern part.
"The ongoing military conflict in Ukraine has accelerated efforts by Polish politicians to acquire new weapons and equipment for the armed forces, and put this issue higher on the political agenda," said Łukasz Kister, Ph.D., an independent security analyst who cooperates with the Jagiellonian Institute, a Warsaw-based think tank.
According to Kister, Russia’s occupation of the Crimean peninsula has also made clear the need to improve regional defense cooperation among in the field of defense between Eastern European allies.
The show’s organizers said this year’s MSPO will be dominated by Poland’s three major planned procurements: These are to include: the a forthcoming helicopter tender, dubbed the Kruk program, under which Warsaw aims is aiming to acquire new strike helos to replace the military’s Soviet-designed Mil Mi-24s; the Narew and Pilica programs, under which the Defence Ministry plans is planning to purchase short-range missiles; and the acquisition UAV unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) procurement which foresees the acquisition of a wide range of combat and reconnaissance UAVs,drones, 350 units in total, with deliveries scheduled to begin in 2016.
Some of the companies poised to present their products in Kielce include Boeing, Raytheon, MBDA, Thales, BAE Systems and Saab, according to data from the event's organizers.
Elections Could Shift Policy
Meanwhile, local analysts expect that the election of Andrzej Duda's victory in , who won Poland’s May 24 presidential election, on May 24, and the potential electoral success of his Law and Justice (PiS) Party, which has been leading the polls ahead of the Oct. 25 parliamentary vote, could impact national on the country’s defense policy. The new president, who was sworn into office Aug. 6., has emphasized that he does not agree with some military procurement decisions taken by the incumbent government of the Civic Platform (PO) Party.
Among others, Duda has criticized the government's move to award Poland's latest military helo deal to Airbus Helicopters. This April, the Defence Ministry announced it chose the Caracal EC-725 to replace the Soviet-designed Mil Mi-8, Mi-14 and Mi-17 helos used by the Polish armed forces. Instead, Duda said the ministry should opt for locally built copters.
The remaining two bidders, AgustaWestland and Sikorsky Aircraft, both operate Poland-based helicopter plants, PZL Swidnik and PZL Mielec, respectively.
"We have long-established traditions regarding the defense industry, and we should not buy weapons all over the world," Duda told local broadcaster Polskie Radio on Aug. 15. "In our country, to ensure that our countrymen, Polish employees, can make a living, money must return to the Polish budget."
The president said that both he "and others had had doubts regarding this helicopter tender since its very beginning."
Should Duda's the PiS party win the October election and form a new government, the copter contract with Airbus Helicopters could be canceled and a new tender launched, as suggested by senior party officials.
On a related note, Norway will is scheduled serve as the special guest of the Polish defense industry show, with the country’s defense companies scheduled to present their products in Kielce under the auspices of Norwegian Defence Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide.