WARSAW — Eastern European allies are benefiting from Western European know-how and technology to upgrade their amphibious vehicle capabilities, as seen by the cooperation developed between Poland and the Czech Republic with defense manufacturers from Germany and Austria, respectively.

Last May, Germany's Rheinmetall (RMMV) and two Poland-based state-run defense players, Polish Armaments Group (PGZ) and its subsidiary, OBRUM Gliwice research unit, signed a deal to jointly build a new amphibious armored personnel carrier (APC). Under the plan, the six-wheel-drive vehicle is to replace the Polish military's outdated Soviet-designed vehicles.  

"Owing to the contract, it will be possible to replace the vehicles which are currently operated by Poland, the four-wheel-drive BRDM-2s, with modern vehicles," PGZ said in a statement. "The new six-wheel-drive transporter will fully use the experience of OBRUM and RMMV in the field of wheeled armored vehicles. The transporter will ensure a high level of ballistic protection., as regards amphibious vehicles."

With a load capacity of at least 3.5 tons, PGZ said the new APC will be a "highly functional platform which could be used in reconnaissance and other types of missions."

More specifically, the new APC will be "oriented to the requirements of the Polish Army’s light armored reconnaissance vehicle (LOTR) procurement program," Rheinmetall said in a statement. It will weigh have a weight of less than 20 tons.

OBRUM Gliwice will take part in the research and development works on behalf of PGZ. OBRUM is also participating in various other procurements under Poland’s 139 billion zloty (US$37.6 billion) military modernization program for 2013-2022.

Among others, the firm applied for the specifications technical dialogs to supply new light tanks and tracked infantry fighting vehicles to Poland’s Army. The two procurements, as well as the LOTR program, are overseen by the Defencse Ministry’s Armament Inspectorate.

Poland aims to acquire 200 new amphibious vehicles for an estimated €300 million euros (US$370 million), according to information obtained by German business daily Handelsblatt.

The new amphibious vehicle will also be offered in foreign military tenders. Poland has been developing a program to help neighboring Eastern European allies acquire finance and facilitate acquisition of weapons and military equipment, by neighboring East European allies, and because the BRDM-2 is operated by countries such as Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Lithuania, the program could also support purchases of the new vehicle by some neighboring of the region’s governments.

To facilitate such procurements, last April Warsaw last April unveiled plans to set up a regional defense fund. The Regional Security Assistance Program (ReSAP) is designed to boost armament efforts by Poland’s neighboring allies through government, bank and export loans, a response to . Funds are to be made available to increase regional security and counter Russia’s rising military presence in Eastern Europe.

"The program reflects the government's ambitions to position Poland as a regional leader in the field of security and defense," professor Marek Jablonowski, a political scientist from the University of Warsaw, said. "This tendency within Polish political circles has been further strengthened … since the outbreak of the crisis in Ukraine, and it is gaining importance ahead of the parliamentary elections [this October]."

Set up in December 2013 and based in Radom, in Poland's central part, PGZ has replaced Bumar Group as the leading player in Poland's defense industry. The group consists of more than 60 companies operated by an aggregate workforce of some 17,500 employees, according to data released by the manufacturer. PGZ says it has annual revenues of about 5 billion zloty.

Armored Vehicles for Czechs

Meanwhile, the Czech government decided Aug. 20 to acquire another 20 Pandur II eight-wheel-drive armored vehicles. for the country’s armed forces. The Czech Defencse Ministry said that all variants of the Pandur II, which is made by Austria's Steyr, are amphibious. The contract is worth some 1.274 billion krona (US$53 million), and deliveries are scheduled for the years 2018 to 2020.

Following the government meeting at which the contract was approved, Gen. Josef Becvar, the chief of staff of the Czech armed forces, said the procurement will significantly enhance the military's staff command and communications capabilities.

"Modern means of ensuring troops' protection and communication capabilities are key to an efficient implementation of missions on the modern battlefield," Becvar said, as reported by local monthly Parlamentni Listy.

Currently, the Czech armed forces operate 107 Pandur II vehicles. These include the infantry fighting vehicle, ambulance and armored personnel carrier variants.

The Pandur II was developed by Austria's Steyr-Daimler-Puch. General Dynamics acquired Steyr-Daimler-Puch in 2003, and the Austrian manufacturer is now part of General Dynamics European Land Systems.

Email: jadamowski@defensenews.com

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