Sponsored by Exensor
27 Sep 20. Swiss voters approve $6.5bn purchase of fighter jets. Swiss voters backed the government’s plan to spend up to 6bn Swiss francs ($6.46bn) on new fighter jets in a surprisingly close referendum that was won with a 50.2% majority, official results showed on Sunday.
Opinion polls had shown the plan would easily win approval in a country where armed neutrality is a tradition.
Approving funding in the binding referendum will let the government decide next year among the Eurofighter from Airbus, the Rafale from France’s Dassault, Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, or the Lockheed Martin F35-A Lightning II.
The aircraft would replace Switzerland’s ageing fleet of 30 F/A-18 Hornets, which will go out of service in 2030.
New jets are to be delivered by 2025. ($1 = 0.9284 Swiss francs)
27 Sep 20. The Czech Ministry of Defense has Informed the Israel Ministry of Defense of its Decision to Equip its Military with an Israeli Air Defense System Produced by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.
Defense Minister, Benny Gantz: “We thank the Czech government for their partnership and for the decision to equip their military with Israeli air defense systems. This is another significant step in strengthening security relations between our two countries, and it is also great news for Israeli defense industries during such a complex period.”
Following an international tender process, which lasted several years, the Czech Ministry of Defense informed the Directorate of International Defense Cooperation (SIBAT) in the Israel Ministry of Defense, of its decision to equip its military with Israeli air defense systems.
On Friday (25.09.2020), the Czech government approved the launch of procurement negotiations for four Israeli “SPYDER” batteries, within the framework of a GTG agreement between the two countries. Israel was selected as the sole supplier for the project and the expected agreement between the countries’ defense ministries is estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars.
SPYDER (Surface-to-Air Python & Derby), is a quick reaction, low- to-high surface-to-air missile system designed to counter attacks by a variety of aerial threats including aircraft, helicopters and UAVs. The system provides effective protection of valuable assets, as well as first-class defense for maneuvering forces located in combat areas. The SPYDER system includes a radar system produced by Elta, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
24 Sep 20. Dutch Patriot missiles, UK C-17 support cleared by US State Department. The U.S. State Department on Thursday OK’d two potential arms deals for a pair of NATO allies.
The Netherlands was cleared to purchase 34 Patriot Advanced Capability‑3 (PAC-3) missiles, with an estimated price tag of $241 million. The United Kingdom, meanwhile, was cleared to purchase $401.3m worth of logistics support for its fleet of C-17 aircraft.
The announcements, posted on the website of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, do not represent final locked-in sales. All Foreign Military Sales announcements must be cleared by Congress, after which dollar and equipment totals can change in final negotiations.
The Netherlands deal would include the 35 PAC-3 missiles, as well eight kitted 2-pack PAC-3 MSE Missile Round Trainers, six kitted 2-pack PAC-3 MSE Empty Round Trainers, four PAC-3 MSE Skid Kits, one lot of Classified PAC-3 MSE Concurrent Spare Parts and one lot of Unclassified PAC-3 MSE CSPs, along with logistics support.
“The Netherlands will use the enhanced capability to strengthen its homeland defense and deter regional threats, and provide direct support to coalition and security cooperation efforts,” per the DSCA. The Netherlands operates four Patriot batteries.
The prime contractor would be Lockheed Martin. The Netherlands typically requires industrial offsets when buying foreign-made weapons, which are to be negotiated later between Lockheed and the Dutch.
The U.K. request includes “aircraft component spare and repair parts; accessories; publications and technical documentation; software and software support; U.S. Government and contractor engineering, technical and logistical support services; and other related elements of logistical and program support” for its C-17s. Boeing will be the prime contractor.
“This proposed sale will improve the United Kingdom’s capability to meet current and future threats by ensuring the operational readiness of the Royal Air Force. Its C-17 aircraft fleet provides strategic airlift capabilities that directly support U.S. and coalition operations around the world,” per the DSCA announcement.
Since the start of fiscal 2017, the Netherlands has been cleared for 11 other FMS cases, totaling $1.95bin in potential sales. In that same period the U.K. has been cleared for seven FMS cases, worth a potential $7.35bn. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
25 Sep 20. UK risks significant threats if air defence is cut in Integrated Review say new research institute. The government should maintain spending on its air force and aerial defence according to research unveiled yesterday at the Launch of the Freeman Air and Space Institute at King’s College London.
The paper formed part of a wider discussion on the future of UK air and space defence policy, at a roundtable chaired by the Director of the Freeman Institute, Professor John Gearson, involving politicians, former civil servants and air and space industry professionals, including Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman, Peter Watkins, former Director General (Strategy & International) at the MoD and Air Marshal Greg Bagwell, now President of the UK Air & Space Power Association.
With the government’s ongoing Integrated Review into Defence, Security and Foreign Policy, there are concerns traditional defence capabilities and equipment will be thrown out in favour of increased spending on projected technological advances in the realms of cyber, space and artificial intelligence (AI).
Dr David Jordan, Executive Director of the Freeman Institute and author of the paper, said: “Without a balanced approach blending new technologies with long-standing principles, the UK risks becoming excessively dependent upon its allies, undermining the aspiration to be a ‘Global Britain’ seeking to demonstrate that ‘we are the best possible allies’ and ‘an even stronger force for good in the world’.
Commenting on Dr Jordan’s analysis during the roundtable on the Integrated Review, Julian Lewis said:
“This exercise is going to be a cover for cuts…it’s going to be done under the aegis of a claim that new 21st century threats have made old 20th century technology unnecessary.”
He added: “It would be a terrible lesson to draw that our defence budget should now undergo further punishment as a result of the Covid crisis on top of its already manifest inadequacy. Keeping country safe from predictors as well as pandemics requirements major peacetime investments.”
Professor Lawrence Freedman said: “We are becoming more ambitious in looking at certain areas that have a strong technological input…going more for drones, cyber and space. “Something has got to give to make room for these…there’s always that nagging worry…[that] any capability which you decide is surplus to requirements in the year of the review is likely to be absolutely necessary the next year.
He added: “My guess is…The budget will not be cut but in fact will grow…this will not be seen to be a good time to be cutting back on defence”
Based in the School of Security Studies, King’s College London, and set up thanks to funding from the Royal Air Force through Dstl (the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory), the Freeman Air and Space Institute (FASI) will explore the ways countries and international organisations are developing security and defence capabilities for air and space.
The new institute will publish a series of research papers and host a regular programme of events and roundtables enabling UK and international air and space experts to disseminate research findings and engage with key stakeholders in government and the wider security community. These discussions will help to generate original and innovative insights, policy proposals and recommendations on the future of aerospace power.
The Freeman Institute is named after Air Chief Marshal Sir Wilfrid Freeman who was a key figure in British air capability development in the late 1930s and during the Second World War, playing an important role in the development of aircraft, including the Spitfire, the Lancaster and the Mosquito.
25 Sep 20. Royal Air Force A400M showcased in Kazakhstan.
During a recent visit, which promoted the bilateral military co-operation between the UK and Kazakhstan, the capability of the RAF A400M was showcased to the Kazakh Government. After landing in Nur-Sultan, representatives from the RAF explained their operational experience and the aircraft’s capabilities to the Kazakh Prime Minister, Askar Mamin; Minister of Defense, Nurlan Yermekbayev; Minister of Emergency Situations, Yuri Ilyin; Minister of Industry and Infrastructure Development, Beibut Atamkulov; Vice Minister of Industry and Infrastructure Development, Talgat Zhanzhumenov.
With the ability to carry a 37-tonne payload over 2,000 miles, the A400M provides the RAF with tactical airlift and strategic oversize lift capabilities. The Kazakh Government are currently considering purchasing an aircraft to meet their requirements for strategic airlift.
As part of the demonstration, the A400M was loaded with an Arlan Armoured vehicle and Airbus Test pilots showcased the aircraft’s technical capabilities to Kazakh Air Defense Force Officers.
Representatives from the RAF and Airbus briefed the Kazakh Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Industry and Infrastructure Development on how the A400M is an efficient and innovative aircraft that could effectively support their military operations.
Defence Attaché of the British Embassy Nur-Sultan, Andrew Houlton said: “The A400M has proven itself in service with the RAF and I am delighted that we have had the opportunity to provide assistance to the Kazakh Government as they make their decision on purchasing an aircraft to meet their requirement for strategic airlift. We are especially pleased that we have been able to support this visit despite the current coronavirus crisis.”
The A400M made its first flight on 11 December 2009, ushering in a new era of airlift capability. The first production aircraft was delivered to the French Air Force in August 2013 and entered into RAF service a year after. The A400M already has seen operational service with the RAF as well as with the French, German and Turkish Air Forces. This has included support to operations in Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, the African Sahel Region, Mali, The Falklands, the Caribbean and in the Middle East. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
24 Sep 20. Turkey records significant drop in defense industry exports in January-August 2020. Turkey’s latest official export figures show a sharp decline in the country’s defense and aerospace export sales in the January-August 2020 period, according to data released by the Turkish Exporters Assembly (Türkiye İhracatçılar Meclisi, or TİM).
Amid an economic crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, Turkey’s defense industry exports decreased by 26.1 percent in January-August 2020 compared to the same period last year, TİM figures revealed.
The value of the Turkish lira has fallen and the economy faces a recession, and the pandemic has presented an unexpected challenge to Turkey’s defense sector. The Turkish economy was hit by a currency crisis, and inflation and unemployment rates are rising. The US dollar was trading at 1.7 Turkish lira five years ago, while the exchange rate today is $1 to 7.5 lira.
Turkey’s growing defense industry had made important progress in the export arena in previous years; the industry, however, faces a number of challenges this year. In addition to the pandemic and financial problems, the Turkish government cannot easily obtain foreign subsystems to equip its platforms due to the arms embargoes imposed by some Western countries and defense giants.
According to TIM figures, the total arms exports of the Turkish defense and aerospace industry dropped sharply to $1.239m. The total sales of Turkish defense conglomerates was $1.677m in the same period last year.
Despite the latest figures, Turkey’s Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB) posted, via its social media account, an infographic claiming that defense industry exports will exceed $3bn in 2020.
Several countries, including France, Finland, Norway, Sweden, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Spain and Germany, imposed arms embargoes on the Turkish government after its troops entered Syria to attack Kurdish militia in October 2019. The EU member states also agreed on October 14, 2019 to limit arms exports to Turkey, prompting condemnation from Ankara.
According to its website, TİM is an umbrella organization of Turkish exporters, representing more than 95,000 exporters in 27 sectors and 61 exporters associations and was established in 1993 by the Turkish government. The assembly “prepares and shares strategic plans for the development of the country’s economy and exports with the [g]overnment, [and] coordinates important works such as export strategy, innovation strategy, incubation centers,” the web page said. (Source: Google/https://www.nordicmonitor.com/)
23 Sep 20. HMS Queen Elizabeth welcomes UK and US jets for major exercise. HMS Queen Elizabeth has embarked the largest number of warplanes ever onto her deck as she prepares to take her place at the heart of a UK-led NATO Carrier Strike Group.
Two squadrons of F-35B stealth jets, the RAF’s 617 Squadron (The Dambusters) and the US Marines Corps VMFA-211 (The Wake Island Avengers), have joined the 65,000-tonne carrier as she sails for exercises with allies in the North Sea.
With a total of 14 jets and eight Merlin helicopters, it’s the largest concentration of fighter jets to operate at sea from a Royal Navy carrier since HMS Hermes in 1983, and the largest air group of fifth generation fighters at sea anywhere in the world.
In this month’s group exercise, HMS Queen Elizabeth will be joined by seven Royal Navy destroyers, frigates and auxiliaries, plus other supporting units, to form a fully sovereign Carrier Strike Group, ready to fight on the surface and in the air.
The Carrier Strike Group will be put through its paces off the north east coast of Scotland as part of Joint Warrior, NATO’s largest annual exercise.
Commodore Steve Moorhouse, Commander UK Carrier Strike Group, said: “The United Kingdom’s maritime renaissance has been unfolding over many years, as we introduced a new generation of ships, submarines and aircraft into service. But this marks the first time we have brought them together in a cohesive, potent, fighting force.
“HMS Queen Elizabeth will be operating with the largest air group of fifth generation fighters assembled anywhere in the world. Led by the Royal Navy, and backed by our closest allies, this new Carrier Strike Group puts real muscle back into NATO and sends a clear signal that the United Kingdom takes its global role seriously.”
617 Squadron’s Commanding Officer, Royal Navy Commander Mark Sparrow, added: “This is an incredibly exciting time for 617 Squadron as we begin a new era of partnership with the US Marine Corps building towards next year’s operational deployment with HMS Queen Elizabeth. You need to go back more than three decades to find the UK operating anything on this scale or complexity and this is a first for fifth-generation carrier capability. The era of big-deck, fast jet carrier operations is back”.
Usually based in Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma, in Arizona, VMFA-211 arrived in the UK just under two weeks ago. Landing at the home of the Lightning Force, RAF Marham after the trans-Atlantic flight, they worked up with 617 Squadron conducting the RAF led Exercise Point Blank before embarking in the carrier.
Their Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Freshour USMC, said: “The Wake Island Avengers are ready in all respects to work with the British sailors and aircrew on board HMS Queen Elizabeth. We are looking forward to deploying alongside our British counterparts over the next few months, and we will work tirelessly as a part of this transatlantic naval force. We are proud to play such an important role in the generation of an allies’ carrier strike capability.”
Captain James Blackmore, the UK’s Carrier Air Wing Commander, added: “We are going to learn a huge amount from operating F-35Bs at sea with the USMC, they have had them longer and we can share ideas and practices. But this is much more than that; this is the trans-Atlantic alliance in action, demonstrating that two close allies can not only fly from each other’s carriers, but can fight alongside each other should we need to. This level of integration offers a decisive flexibility in times of crisis, conflict or war.”
HMS Queen Elizabeth, along with her 1,680 sailors, aviators and marines, is due to return to her home port of Portsmouth next month. (Source: Royal Navy)
23 Sep 20. Troops and veterans one step closer to stronger legal protection. The Overseas Operations Bill for service personnel and veterans will be laid before Parliament today for its Second Reading.
Stronger legal protections for service personnel and veterans facing the threat of repeated investigations and potential prosecution will be one step closer as the Overseas Operations Bill is debated in Parliament today (Wednesday 23 September).
The Bill delivers on the Government’s manifesto commitment to tackle vexatious claims and end the cycle of reinvestigations against our brave Armed Forces. The legislation will introduce a range of measures to reduce uncertainty arising from historical allegations and create a better legal framework to deal with claims from future overseas conflicts.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “This Government made a promise to the nation to protect service personnel and veterans from vexatious claims and endless investigations. We have not shied away from the challenge and today are one step closer to fulfilling that commitment.
We all remember Phil Shiner, and the scores of allegations that have amounted to nothing over the years. Our Armed Forces risk their lives to protect us and it is vital we continue to progress this legislation, providing certainty for the troops who find themselves on the front line in the future.”
The Overseas Operations Bill was introduced in March after operations in Iraq and Afghanistan gave rise to an unprecedented number of legal claims. The Iraq war in particular saw a claims industry spring up where unscrupulous lawyers promised individuals they would be financially rewarded if they made allegations of wrongdoing against service personnel.
This contributed to nearly 1000 compensation claims against the MoD for unlawful detention, injury and death, as well as 1400 judicial review claims seeking investigations and compensation for human rights violations. While legitimate claims were rightly investigated, and always will be, this series of drawn-out investigations and litigation has cast a shadow over the lives of innocent personnel and veterans living with such uncertainty.
Around 70% of allegations received by the independent Iraq Historic Allegations Team were dismissed as there was no case to answer.
Minister for Defence People and Veterans Johnny Mercer said:
This legislation is not about providing an amnesty or putting troops above the law but protecting them from lawyers intent on rewriting history to line their own pockets.
It will put an end to lawfare and make sure personnel and veterans are not repeatedly and indefinitely called upon to give evidence about events that happened years ago.
Today we are one step closer to making the UK the best place in the world to be a veteran.
The Bill reduces the uncertainty faced by service personnel and veterans in relation to allegations arising from historical overseas operations by introducing a statutory presumption against prosecution. This means it will be exceptional for them to be prosecuted five years or more after an incident. When coming to a prosecution decision, the independent prosecutor must weigh up the adverse impact of overseas operations on service personnel and – where there has been a previous investigation and no compelling new evidence – the public interest in cases coming to a timely conclusion. If their decision is to go forward to prosecution, they will have to seek the consent of the Attorney General to do so.
The Bill also delivers a significant amendment to the Human Rights Act (HRA) in law, by helping to put an end to the industrial scale of litigation by limiting the time in which claims for human rights violations can be brought.
Legislation will restrict the court’s discretion to allow claims to be brought after the normal time limits and make sure civil claims for personal injury and death and claims for HRA violations are brought within six years. Approximately half of the claims by Iraqi nationals were brought more than six years after the alleged incident and would have been caught by these longstops.
Crucially, these changes will not prevent personnel and veterans bringing claims against the MoD. The vast majority of these claims are already brought within six years and the time limit for certain conditions, such as PTSD, will start from the date of knowledge of the condition.
Finally, the Bill will ensure that all future governments are compelled to consider derogating from the European Convention on Human Rights in relation to significant overseas military operations. All overseas operations will continue to be governed by international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Conventions.
The Government will introduce separate legislation to address the legacy of the past in Northern Ireland in a way that focuses on reconciliation, delivers for victims, and ends the cycle of reinvestigations into the Troubles in NI that has failed victims and veterans alike. We remain committed to moving this forward as quickly as possible.
1) The measures in the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill will help to reduce the uncertainty faced by service personnel and veterans, in relation to overseas operations, by introducing the following measures:
- We are introducing a statutory presumption against prosecution of current or former service personnel for alleged offences committed on operations outside the UK more than five years ago. The statutory presumption raises the threshold to be applied by prosecutors when deciding whether a service person or veteran should be prosecuted in such cases, so that it will be “exceptional” to prosecute. When making a decision, the prosecutor must give particular weight to the public interest in finality where there has been a previous investigation and no compelling new evidence has become available. There is also a requirement for the prosecutor to obtain the consent of the Attorney General before a prosecution can proceed.
- We are restricting the court’s discretion to extend the normal time limit (of three years) for bringing civil claims for personal injury and/or death in relation to military operations outside the UK. We are introducing a limitation longstop of six years. We are also setting out further factors for consideration by the court (which reflect the unique context of overseas operations) when deciding whether to extend the primary limitation period of three years.
- We are also restricting the court’s discretion to extend the normal time limit (of one year) for bringing HRA claims in relation to military operations outside the UK. We are introducing a limitation longstop of six years. We are also setting out factors for consideration by the court (which reflect the unique context of overseas operations) when deciding whether to extend the primary limitation period of one year.
- We are placing a duty for future governments to consider derogating from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in relation to significant overseas operations. This provision will introduce a requirement for the Secretary of State for Defence to consider, and to keep under review, whether it is appropriate to derogate in light of the situation at the time.
2) Of the 1,130 compensation claims brought by Iraqi nationals (under both tort law and the Human Rights Act), at least 583 were brought more than six years after the alleged incident and would have been caught by the longstops. The limitation longstops will provide a clear time period during which claims can be brought and should ensure claims are brought promptly. This will enable them to be assessed in a fair and proportionate manner, and make sure lessons are learned and applied.
3) An analysis of available figures indicates around 94% of claims brought by current and former service personnel in relation to incidents in Iraq and Afghanistan were brought within six years.
4) While the legislation will provide further protections for UK forces, the military will continue to operate to strict high standards, complying with both UK and international law, including the Geneva Conventions. Any allegations of wrongdoing will continue to be investigated and, where appropriate prosecuted. Armed Forces personnel who break the law can still be held to account. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
22 Sep 20. Another Decrease in Polish Defence Exports. According to official statistics for 2019, Poland experienced another decline in the export of its locally manufactured weapon systems and military equipment.
The country’s defence industry exported goods and services worth approx. €390M last year, whereas in the preceding year, the value of arms exports was closer to €487m. In comparison to previous years, Poland’s defence export revenue significantly dropped over the course of 2019. The decline of nearly €100m year-on-year is notable and can most probably be interpreted as the first sign of a more chronic problem in the country’s defence industry.
In 2015, the Polish defence industry exported special products and services worth around €421m. Two years later, the value of exports increased to €472m.This growth was due in no small part to a number of multi-year export contracts signed in recent years, many of which have recently been finalised and therefore no longer have any effect on the overall year-on-year export revenue.
In 2019, the US was the main importer from the Polish defence industry. However, most of the products and services of interest to US importers were related to local subsidiaries and contractors of the American global defence industry, such as PZL Mielec (a Lockheed Martin company) the largest Polish manufacturer of aircraft, aerostructures and helicopters.
Most of the revenue from defence-related trade with Washington was from products coded as ML10 in the EU’s Common Military List Categories – that is “aircraft, lighter than air vehicles, unmanned airborne vehicles, aero-engines and aircraft equipment, related equipment and components, specially designed or modified for military use.” For example, according to public information, PZL Mielec exported eight BLACK HAWK helicopters over the Atlantic in 2019. This was followed by category ML4, which includes ”bombs, torpedoes, rockets, missiles, other explosive devices and charges and related equipment and accessories, and specially designed components,” which is the field of expertise of the local Nitro-Chem company, a subsidiary of the Polish Armaments Group (Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa, PGZ).
The exports to the US in 2019 also included category ML1 equipment, including “smooth-bore weapons with a calibre of less than 20 mm, other arms and automatic weapons with a calibre of 12.7 mm or less and accessories, and specially designed components, as well as from ML11, ‘electronic equipment, not controlled elsewhere on the EU Common Military List, and specially designed components.’”
The second most profitable export market for Poland’s defence products in 2019 was Ukraine. Procurement orders from Ukraine were dominated by weapon systems from categories ML4, ML3, ‘ammunition and fuse setting devices, and specially designed components’ and ML6, ‘ground vehicles and components.’
The final place on the podium was taken by Algeria, which in 2019 focused on the procurement of equipment from categories ML6, ML5, ‘fire control, and related alerting and warning equipment, and related systems, test and alignment and countermeasure equipment, specially designed for military use, and specially designed components and accessories,’ ML18, ‘production equipment and components’ and from category ML10. Also on the list of customers in 2019 were Thailand and Spain.
Perhaps private entities are the most successful in selling their products and services, not only on the local market, but also abroad. WB Group for example, a globally active and internationally active company, offers a wide range of innovative, modular and highly efficient products, which meet the demands of the most rigorous clients, such as the US Armed Forces.
WB Group is the largest technology company in Poland, offering state-of-the-art solutions for international armed forces in the following areas: observation and reconnaissance systems, communications, command and battlefield management systems, fire control systems, strike systems, IT and cybersecurity systems, service, support and modernisation of the military equipment and e-mobility solutions.
The key advantage of WB Group’s products is their modularity and scalability. This allows a large number of product configurations, making it well suited for multi-domain battlefield management in accordance with user expectations.
As a global company, WB Group has offices and technological centres in the most developed regions all over the globe. From Asia and the Middle East, to the US, the Group employs over 1,200 staff, more than a half of whom are engineers and R&D staff.
The main areas of WB Groups business activities are:
- multi-domain battlefield communications & command systems, which are the flagship solutions in WB Group’s portfolio. Currently, WB Group’s C4ISR systems are operated not only by the Polish Armed Forces, but also by the armed forces of United States, Sweden, Malaysia, Hungary, Slovakia and India.
- observation and reconnaissance systems, which provide a quick enemy information acquisition and efficient situational awareness at every level of command.
- strike systems, which differentiate themselves by a quick reaction and threat elimination capability, essential to mission accomplishment.
- military vehicles modernisation and support, in which the company has years of expertise. Today, WB Group offers comprehensive, advanced communications, command and electromechanical fire command systems operating according to NATO standards.
- IT systems, since WB Group is an engineering technology centre gathering a group of renowned experts in the field of dedicated electronic solutions, special communications, cryptography and electronic solutions.
- e-mobility solutions, in which WB Group offers innovative solutions in the field of electromobility. The team of engineers is developing the mobile transport platforms for heavy loads and integrating the growing autonomy of cars.
A Growing list of Products
The list of the most popular WB Group products includes C4I Systems, a new generation of systems designed to ensure communication on the battlefield and increase security and interoperability. The company offers a wide range of products within the C4I family of systems, such as:
- FONET Digital Communication Platform, comprising a single scalable, modular and platform-agnostic solution. FONET’s hardware allows end-users to select appropriate mission-relevant C4I configurations for tactical ground vehicles.
- TOPAZ Integrated Combat Management System, a fully Integrated Combat Management System enhancing situational awareness and providing support in strategy and mission planning.
- U-GATE observation and command system, a C4ISR-E(xtended) system which enables Special Forces to direct strikes from loitering munitions.
- Universal Artillery Calculator UKART-2, which may be used to calculate firing solutions for any type of armament and acts as an alternative computational asset to be compared with TOPAZ; the family of personal communications systems, including ultra-modern, user-friendly military radios and software with a reliable voice and data transmission at all operational levels, such as PERAD 6010 or COMP@N.
WB Group is the leader in the field of UAV technology, offering a wide range of unmanned platforms, loitering munitions, command systems in addition to specialist war and multipurpose heads. One of its flagship products is a mini class UAV called FLYEYE, a modular system characterised by the ease of assembly and disassembly. Launch readiness can be achieved in less than ten minutes. It is hand-launched, and has no additional equipment, which allows it to be operated in tight spaces and confined areas.
The list of UAV products in WB Group’s portfolio also includes: FT5 Tactical UAV, a short-range tactical unmanned aerial platform intended for the execution of missions requiring reliability and prolonged flight endurance and the WARMATE R Loitering Reconnaissance System, a fixed-wing unmanned aircraft that is used for intelligence and surveillance, designed to complement the WB Group’s observation capabilities.
WB Group has many years of experience in the design and production of technologically advanced reconnaissance systems. Automation and battlefield management have led to the development of strike systems that can adapt to the requirements of a multi-domain battlefield. The list of products in this area includes: the SWARM System, a state-of-the-art, complex reconnaissance and strike system integrating WB Group’s UAVs and strike vehicles; WARMATE loitering munitions, a Combat Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (CUAV), which is a multi-role system performing multiple tasks depending on a type of the head installed and WARMATE 2 Loitering Munitions, a new and upgraded version of one of WB Group’s flagship products.
The WB Group offers modernisation packages for older types of weapon systems and arms equipment, such as electromechanical equipment for howitzers and self-propelled mortars, like the 155 mm KRAB and 120 mm Rak, the self-propelled multiple rocket launcher Langusta, anti-aircraft artillery systems, helicopter armament and naval artillery systems.
Continued Success on Export Markets
In the summer of 2020, WB Group announced an extension of the licence agreement for the production of the digital vehicular communication platform FONET in the United States.
Comprising a single scalable, modular and platform-agnostic solution, FONET hardware allows end-users to select the most appropriate mission-relevant C4I configurations for tactical ground vehicles and small maritime craft in order to ensure full compatibility between voice communications and data exchange.
”The American licencee was intent on extending the contract, as the FONET system continues to be rolled out on military vehicles across the US Army and their allies. Thanks to the cutting-edge technological solutions, we’re more than capable of negotiating the most favourable terms with the American partners,” said Adam Bartosiewicz, Vice President of WB Group.
The licence agreement between WB Electronics and L3Harris, beneficial to both parties, has been renewed for a further three years, and stipulates the opening of several maintenance centres in the US.
“It is worth noting that FONET is ahead of its time. It has been delivered unchanged to the US Army and allied countries through military aid for over a decade,” added Bartosiewicz.
FONET has established the binding common standard in the Polish Army. It has outpaced anything available on the market and forged ahead of its competitors. In this regard, FONET has completely changed the approach to vehicular systems’ integration in the Polish Armed Forces.
“FONET, exported to many countries all over the globe, is considered the most advanced internal communication system designed for military vehicles. Several comparative tests with other vehicular communication systems have clearly shown the indisputable advantages of the system, both in terms of functions and economic aspects,” stated Bartosiewicz.
FONET is constantly being developed to meet the end-users’ requirements. The system creates the base for the battlefield management systems such as the TOPAZ Integrated Combat Management System, manufactured by WB Group.
State-Controlled Export Initiative in a State of Collapse
State-owned companies of the Polish defence industry, especially those grouped within PGZ, are less active and therefore unsuccessful on export markets than private entities. For many years, their main area of activity was to provide support in the technical modernisation of the Polish Armed Forces, therefore most of their marketing and sales activities were directed internally.
PGZ has also an extensive experience in production, surveillance and the overhaul of the family of ROSOMAK 8×8 armoured vehicles operated by the Polish Armed Forces. ROSOMAK 8×8 is the licensed version of the Finnish PATRIA AMV 8×8. (Photo: PGZ)
However, PGZ and its particular subsidiaries have gained extensive knowledge and experience in a number of fields related to the design and manufacture of modern and operationally capable technological solutions, as well as the overhaul and modernisation of currently operated weapon systems.
The Polish Armaments Group is the biggest capital group in the country’s defence industry. It concentrates several dozen production plants, service facilities and research centres.
The Group designs and manufactures innovative systems and solutions used by the Polish Armed Forces and allied nations. Among the most crucial products in PGZ’s portfolio are: radiolocation and radar systems, small arms, optoelectronics, wheeled and tracked armoured vehicles, various calibre artillery systems, unmanned aerial vehicles and battle management support systems.
PGZ is the main industrial partner of the Polish MoD in its Technical Modernisation Programme. Furthermore, over the years, the Group has entered into partnerships with some of the largest defence manufacturers in the world. These partnerships enhance its position on the global market and allow the company to promote and present its most modern and innovative products for potential export clients.
Among the products and services provided by PGZ and its subsidiaries, which might elicit interest of potential export clients, are armoured and automotive systems. PGZ’s competences relate especially to two fields of specialisation: the modernisation of armoured vehicles by enhancing their operational and combat capabilities, as well as extending their service life, and the modernisation of missile and barrel artillery.
Over the past two years, PGZ and its subsidiaries have gained extensive knowledge and experience in carrying out a major, multi-billion project for the Polish Armed Forces, namely the modernisation of a fleet of 142 LEOPARD 2A4 Main Battle Tanks (MBT) to the 2PL standard. The programme calls for the improvement in the tank’s firepower, ballistic protection and situational awareness, as well as crew safety and comfort. The value of the contract, together with annexes concluded in 2018-2019, is PLN3.29Bn.
The project is conducted by a consortium of PGZ and Zakłady Mechaniczne Bumar-Łabędy in cooperation with Germany’s Rheinmetall. A number of other PGZ subsidiaries, such as PCO, OBRUM, Rosomak, Wojskowe Zakłady Motoryzacyjne from Poznań and Zakłady Mechaniczne Tarnów, are involved in the project.
The Group also has extensive experience in production, surveillance and the overhaul of the family of ROSOMAK 8×8 armoured vehicles operated by the Polish Armed Forces.
PGZ and its subsidiaries, including HSW, are engaged in the BORSUK programme, which calls for development of a modern infantry fighting vehicle fitted with ZSSW-30 remote controlled turret (with a BUSHMASTER 30mm cannon and launchers for SPIKE anti-tank guided missiles). ZSSW-30 will also be adapted for use on ROSOMAK 8×8 vehicles. (Photo: Michał Jarocki)
ROSOMAK 8×8 is the licenced version of the Finnish Patria AMV 8×8. Since 2004, over 820 vehicles have been delivered to the Polish Army and a few foreign clients, such as the United Arab Emirates, in many dedicated variants.
A number of PGZ subsidiaries provide maintenance and repair services for foreign-origin vehicles used by the Polish Armed Forces. Wojskowe Zakłady Motoryzacyjne from Poznań specialise in the servicing of LEOPARD 2A5 MBTs within the newly completed Service and Logistics Centre, while Zakłady Mechaniczne Bumar-Łabędy in Gliwice are currently engaged in the upgrade and overhaul of T-72M1 tanks.
HSW’s Heavy Armoured Vehicle Specialisation
Huta Stalowa Wola (HSW) armaments factory is one of PGZ’s most notable subsidiaries. It provides the Polish Armed Forces with modern artillery systems and also develops innovative technologies in the field of armoured and mechanised platforms.
In recent years, due to the change in the security situation in the Central and Eastern Europe region, Poland has identified a number of requirements in the field of artillery and armoured vehicles, modernising the existing weapon systems or procuring completely new units. HSW plays a major role in a number of projects, including:
- ‘Regina’ artillery squadrons based on 155mm KRAB Self-Propelled Howitzers (SPH).
- RAK 120mm Self-Propelled Mortars based on fully autonomous and automatic M120K mortars with command and logistic vehicles.
- KRYL 155mm light Self-Propelled Howitzer on a wheeled chassis.
- LANGUSTA-2 in-house proposal for further modernisation of the BM-21 / WR-40 / RM-70 rocket artillery systems with full automation of fire settings and automatic setting of the artillery part on target.
- BORSUK – development work on the new amphibious Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV).
- ‘ZSSW-30’ – development work on a Remote Controlled Weapon System with BUSHMASTER 30mm cannon, integrated with SPIKE anti-tank guided missiles and adapted for use at ROSOMAK 8×8 APCs and in the BORSUK IFVs.
- ‘Baobab’ – development work on a new erratic minelaying vehicle on a wheeled chassis with a fully automated minelaying process.
- WISLA – the production and assembly of PATRIOT missile launchers. (Source: ESD Spotlight)
21 Sep 20. NATO Military Committee Gets Virtual Check on Alliance. Missions. The NATO chiefs of defense met virtually for the alliance’s Military Committee meeting last week.
Under the leadership of Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, the chairman of the committee, the chiefs discussed ongoing operations in a time of COVID-19 as well as future moves growing out of the alliance’s new strategy. Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, attended for the United States.
The meeting was to be in Rome, but the coronavirus has stopped travel.
Peach said he has been struck by the “fortitude and community spirit that has emerged” because of the pandemic. “In times of trouble, people have come together, focusing on what unites them and not what separates them, to help those in need,” he said.
NATO as an organization has helped the allies in this time of need by ensuring crucial capabilities are where medical experts need them and by ensuring that the right equipment gets in the right hands.
Alliance service members are also carrying on their mission of deterrence and stability, Peach said.
“Speaking virtually to the 30 allied chiefs of defense today, I was encouraged by their interaction — the coming together of friends, colleagues, all united in their effort to provide the best possible military advice for NATO,” he said.
The chiefs shared best practices for the pandemic, identified lessons, pooled resources and assisted one another through the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Center.
The need for deterrence and stability remains as “state and non-state actors have kept up their efforts to manipulate, disrupt, deny and exploit in order to achieve their aims,” Peach said.
The chiefs focused on what the alliance has achieved, what needs to be done and what resources NATO service members need to accomplish the missions.
The chiefs started by discussing the alliance missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo. They also discussed the multinational battlegroups in the east of the alliance, the air policing mission and NATO maritime deployments.
Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, briefed the chiefs on these missions. “Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan was a key point of discussion with the peace efforts ongoing and the encouraging progress being made,” the air chief marshal said. “The chiefs of defense reiterated their continued support for Afghanistan and stressed that the military presence of the alliance and its partners in the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan will remain conditions-based.”
There are roughly 12,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan supporting the Afghan security forces. “A peaceful and stable Afghanistan is in everybody’s interest,” he said. “NATO allies and partners will continue to play our part.”
The NATO mission in Iraq will continue training Iraqi security forces to build their capacity as a hedge against the resurgence of terrorism in the region.
“NATO’s Kosovo Force marked its 21st anniversary this year (and) allied (chiefs) confirm their full commitment and that mission remains unchanged,” Peach said.
There are about 3,400 troops provided by 27 NATO members and partners in Kosovo. “We regularly assess our KFOR mission and it has been agreed by Allies that we should maintain the current strength,” he said.
The chiefs also heard about the precautions taken to protect troops during the pandemic. Peach stated that the operational readiness of NATO forces remains undiminished.
The chiefs also looked at the deterrence and defense of the Euro-Atlantic area and NATO’s warfighting capstone concept. These follow from NATO’s new military strategy. “The deterrence and defense of the Euro-Atlantic area concept helps set out NATO’s military priorities and approach to current and future threats,” he said. “NATO’s warfighting capstone concept is based on a 20-year view from a warfighting perspective.”
Finally, the chiefs discussed Russia. Peach said the alliance’s relationship with Russia is complex.
“We have been adversaries, partners and colleagues in countering terrorism, but since the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, our relationship has entered a new phase” he said. “There has been a pattern of destabilizing behavior from Russia — including aggressive actions against their neighbors, election interference and cyber-attacks.”
Russian propaganda outlets have falsely accused NATO of creating and spreading COVID-19, and Russia has escalated tensions by developing hypersonic weapons. “These systems are clearly a concern for this committee,” he said. “We will maintain our deterrence and defense, and we will not mirror Russia’s actions.” (Source: US DoD)
21 Sep 20. Ministers Admit FSS Vessels Are Warships – There’s Now No Excuse Not To Build Them In UK SAYS GMB. It looks like the Government has finally acknowledged what GMB Union has always said – these are warships.
GMB, the shipbuilding union, says now Ministers have admitted the Fleet Solid Support (FSS) vessels are warships there is no excuse not to build them in the UK.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told the Commons today “I intend to announce the procurement timetable for these warships in due course, after market testing has completed.” 
Previously the Government’s has claimed the FSS ships were not military ships, meaning they were bound by normal EU rules on competitive tendering.
GMB pointed out last year, France announced its decision to build four similar logistics ships in France with no international tender. 
GMB has long campaigned for the £1bn FSS contract to be given to UK shipyards – producing a ground-breaking report highlighting the estimated 6,700 jobs created or secured if the orders were kept in the UK.
Ross Murdoch, GMB National Officer and CSEU Chair, said: “It looks like the Government has finally acknowledged what GMB has always said – these are warships. There is no reason to now hide behind any treaty – they must be built in UK.”
19 Sep 20. Major Polish Procurement Programmes. Over the next couple of years, the Polish Armed Forces will continue with the modernisation of its technical park.
With the addition of new weapon systems and the upgrade of those currently still in service, the Armed Forces intend to significantly enhance their operational and combat capabilities, therefore boosting country’s security in an increasingly unstable international environment.
Modernisation of Polish Leopard 2A4 MBTs
For the past several years, the modernisation of the fleet of 142 LEOPARD 2A4 Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) to the 2PL standard has remained a top priority for the Polish Armed Forces. The project is managed by a consortium of ZM Bumar-Łabędy, a subsidiary of the Polish Armaments Group (PGZ, Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa) and a number of other companies of the Group. German Rheinmetall Landsysteme is a strategic partner in the project.
The contract for modernising the first batch of 128 vehicles was signed at the end of 2015.
At that time, it was expected that the project would be finalised by late 2020. The contract included an option for the upgrade of an additional batch of 14 MBTs, which was activated in 2018. The follow-on vehicles were to be transferred to the Army in 2021.
However, according to information provided recently by the Armament Inspectorate, which acts on behalf of the Polish MoD, these deadlines will not be met. According to current estimates, the full fleet of 142 modernised LEOPARD 2PL vehicles should be delivered to the Army by 31 July 2023 (with 43 vehicles in 2020).
On 24 December 2019, the Armament Inspectorate signed an amendment to the original agreement, covering additional works and services which need to be provided as part of the LEOPARD 2PL modernisation. As a result, €124M had to be added to the programme’s budget, bringing the total cost of the LEOPARD 2PL modernisation project to €700M.
At the end of May 2020, the Polish Army took delivery of a number of prototype Leopard 2PL MBTs; the vehicles were to be delivered to the 10th Armoured Cavalry Brigade stationed in Świętoszów shortly thereafter. In the two weeks preceding the delivery, intensive work was carried out to complete the tests of the LEOPARD 2PL MBTs and to begin handing over the vehicles to the Army.
“The delivery of the first units is a key stage in the LEOPARD 2PL programme. The acceptance of vehicles by the Ordering Party opens the possibility for our Consortium to deliver further batches of tanks. The LEOPARD 2PL is one of our priorities, and the last few weeks has been a time of intense work in which the new management of Bumar-Łabędy has been very much involved. We can already see the effects, and this is only the beginning, because the next, finished tanks are waiting for the start of handover procedures,” said Andrzej Kensbok, President of the Management Board of PGZ.
Delivery of the first batch of modernised LEOPARD 2PL MBTs was significantly delayed due to ongoing tests of the platform and the requirement to implement a number of additional improvements, some of which were not originally taken into consideration.
“The tests of the LEOPARD 2PL prototype have not yet concluded due to a number of areas, which still need to be confirmed in terms of their compliance with several dozen requirements included in the Technical Specification,” Maj. Krzysztof Platek, the spokesman of the Armament Inspectorate, informed in February 2020. He further added that despite the continued trials of LEOPARD 2PL prototypes, the whole modernisation programme is well underway. Furthermore, several dozen serial-production LEOPARD 2A4 MBTs were expected to be stored already at the ZM Bumar-Labedy facilities, waiting for the upgrade.
“The contractor verified the technical condition of the stored vehicles and is upgrading them in parallel to ongoing trials,” Platek stated. “Particular MBTs are at different stages of the modernisation process,” he added.
In reference to Maj. Platek’s statement, PGZ confirmed shortly afterwards that “it is not a secret that the modernisation of LEOPARD 2A4 MBTs to the 2PL standard is delayed. At the moment, we are in the final stages of testing the prototype vehicle, which was manufactured and delivered by our German partner Rheinmetall.”
“We can confirm that the agreement contains several amendments, which clarify the terms and conditions it includes. It is a normal procedure in relations between a contractor and a contracting authority, especially in the case of such complicated and technically advanced programmes, such as modernisation of LEOPARD 2A24 MBTs.”
“The deadline for the conclusion of the contract is an important factor, but not the only determinant for its proper finalisation, which has to be taken into consideration by both sides of the agreement. (…) Our priority is to deliver a product, which complies with the requirements of the MoD. We work hand in hand with representatives of the department to assure that the upgraded MBTs will reach the Army as soon as possible”
PGZ added that “irrespective of the ongoing trials of the LEOPARD 2PL prototype, ZM Bumar-Labedy is continuously engaged in the initial process of manufacturing and assembly of a number of LEOPARD 2A4 MBTs, which were delivered to the manufacturer for the awaited upgrade. These works will allow [us] to step up deliveries of manufactured MBTs, once the final configuration of the LEOPARD 2PL vehicle is accepted by the Army.”
Overall, the LEOPARD 2PL modernisation programme includes the implementation of a number of new onboard systems and equipment to the platform. This includes: new/upgraded observation and aiming sites for the commander and gunner; improved ballistic protection of the turret; a new electronic system for turret traverse and cannon elevation; installation of more effective fire/explosion prevention system; a new command and control system; an additional APU generator; additional cargo carrying equipment and upgraded evacuation/towing system adjusted to the higher weight of the platform; a new fire control system; new ammunition (DM63 anti-tank and DM11 multi-purpose); and a day/night reverse camera for the driver.
Upgrade of Obsolete T-72M1s
The future fleet of 142 modernised LEOPARD 2PLs will constitute the core of the Polish Army’s MBT fleet, complemented by 105 relatively modern LEOPARD 2A5s. The country will also have to rely on 270 obsolete T-72M1, Soviet-era MBTs and 233 PT-91 TWARDY vehicles, which are a locally designed modification of the former platform.
However, MBTs of Soviet/Russian origin offer minimal combat capability and are not considered to be meeting the requirements of the modern battlefield in terms of firepower, speed, range, observation or survivability.
In a move to improve the combat capability of the most obsolete MBTs, in 2019, the Polish MoD launched a programme for an overhaul and minimal upgrade of slightly more than 300 T-72M1 vehicles. The agreement was signed at the end of July 2019 between the MoD and a consortium composed of the PGZ, ZM Bumar-Łabędy and Wojskowe Zakłady Motoryzacyjne (WZM). A number of other public and private defence companies, like PCO or OBRUM, were also involved in the project.
The first batch of upgraded T-72M1 MBTs was delivered to the Polish Army in late 2019. Shortly thereafter, the vehicles underwent their first field trials. Deliveries of the modified T-72s should run until 2025, with 46 MBTs planned for hand-over in 2020, 35 in 2021 and in 2022, 34 in 2023, 33 in 2024 and 39 in 2025, bringing the total number to 230 vehicles.
The contract has an option for an additional 88 MBTs to undergo modification. The overall programme’s value is €382M.
The scope of works under the contract will be limited by the capabilities of the local defence industry. “We are modernising the equipment, which is in the inventory of the Polish Army.
Thanks to this upgrade, MBTs will be equipped with modern targeting, navigation and observation systems, as well as new digital comms,” said Mariusz Blaszczak, the Minister of Defence. As a result of the overhaul, the T-72s’ full operational capability will be resolved.
Despite the fact that the upgrade of T-72-M1 MBTs was long awaited, the programme has been subject to wide criticism. This is mostly due to its limited scope, due to which the vehicles will undergo only minor modifications, which will not significantly enhance their firepower or operational capability. The scope of upgrade works includes the installation of more efficient observation sets for the commander, driver and gunner, which will enhance the situational awareness of the crew, especially in low visibility conditions, as well as new digital internal/external communication systems, such as radios and FONET system from WB Group. Furthermore, the programme has a limited budget. It is a result of a number of other, higher priority modernisation or procurement projects being followed by the MoD at the moment. As a result, the upgrade plan does not include essential modifications such as the replacement of engines and transmissions (and installation of a modern, highly efficient powerpack), stabilised cannon with a fire control system, new ballistic protection kits, such as explosive reactive armour which is mounted on the modernised PT-91s or the procurement of new, more modern ammunition.
Poland Forms a new Tank Battalion in the East
A new tank battalion is being formed as part of the 19th Mechanised Brigade, stationed in the city of Lublin. The unit will be subordinate to the recently established 18th Mechanised Division, which will have the task of protecting Poland’s eastern regions from any kind of military threat.
The formation of a new tank battalion commenced with the delivery of a batch of recently modified T-72M1 MBTs. Although it is not known how many tanks were delivered to the unit so far, a video published on social media shows at least two vehicles being transported by trailer trucks. Eventually, the battalion will consist of 58 modified T-72M1 MBTs.
The new tank battalion will be incorporated into the structure of the 19th Mechanised Brigade which will eventually be composed of two such tank units, bringing the total number of MBTs at its disposal to 116. The second tank battalion is currently serving under the command of the 21st Podhale Rifles Brigade, which is also part of the 18th Division, but will be transferred to the 19th Brigade in due course. In return, the 21st Podhale Rifles Brigade will take command of a motorised battalion, which is yet to be formed. The new unit will be equipped with ROSOMAK / Patria AMV 8×8 armoured vehicles.
In addition to the tank battalions, the 19th Brigade will consist of the 19th command battalion, 3rd mechanised battalion, 19th mechanised battalion, 19th self-propelled artillery squadron and 19th air defence squadron. The 18th Mechanised Division is also composed of the 1st “Warsaw” Armoured Brigade, which until recently was subordinate to the 16th Mechanised Division.
The Army Requires Next Generation MBTs
According to the Polish MoD, the programme to overhaul and upgrade the fleet of T-72M1 MBTs is just an interim solution. Its goal is to allow the Army to maintain a significantly high number of MBTs in active duty units, until the time comes to gradually phase out the obsolete vehicles and replace them with newer ones. “We all await and work for the start of construction of the new generation tanks by the Polish defence industry,” acknowledged Minister Blaszczak.
The Polish MoD intends to procure a number of modern tank destroyers under the ‘Ottokar-Brzoza’ programme. The new platform will be armed with anti-tank missiles and equipped with advanced sensors, replacing Soviet-era BRDM-2 vehicles armed with obsolete 9P133 MALUTKA-P effectors. (Photo: MBDA)
The Polish MoD has already announced its intention to launch a ‘Next Generation MBT’ programme in the undefined future. It is expected to result in the procurement of several hundred of the next generation MBTs. These new vehicles will allow the Army to phase out obsolete T-72M1s and PT-91s, and will supplement the LEOPARD 2PLs and 2A5s in service for the time being.
At this moment, it remains unclear which path the Polish authorities will choose in order to successfully launch and conclude the ‘Wilk’ programme. One plan calls for designing and developing the new platform independently, using the manufacturing capabilities of local industry and scientific institutions and with minimal support from foreign partners.
“We are restoring manufacturing capabilities as regards to armoured vehicle technology.
(…) Restoring this capability (…) is another step towards establishing an industrial base for future works on the new MBT for the Polish Armed Forces,” Witold Słowik, the President of the Management Board of the PGZ at that time, admitted in 2019.
The alternative is that Poland develops a next generation MBT in cooperation with foreign partners. The country could apply for example to become a member of one of the pan-European projects, such as Franco-German Main Ground Combat System (MGCS), in which Poland shows a considerable level of interest.
Over the past several months, Polish authorities have signalled their interest in the project and expressed the intention of becoming a part of it. In a commonly held view, becoming a partner in the MGCS project could significantly benefit the local defence industry and in the long term would allow Poland to modernise its obsolete MBT fleet with the introduction into service of a next generation, European-designed platform.
Regardless which path the Polish authorities choose to follow regarding the procurement of the next generation of MBTs, it seems obvious that the country would need to be open for cooperation with foreign entities and political partners. Developing the new combat platform either independently or in partnership with Germany and France under the MGCS project, Poland would also seek to allow its own defence manufacturers to benefit from the programme.
However, the developments of the past few months, especially with the Coronavirus pandemic, coupled with the economic slowdown, might result in a redefinition of MBT procurement goals by the Polish MoD. It is very likely that the project will be delayed, or even cancelled, even before it is actually ever launched.
Nevertheless, the Polish Army is well aware of the fact that the use of PT-91 and T-72M1 Soviet-era MBTs has almost run its course, and the further use of these platforms is proving to be ineffective when it comes to boosting the country’s security.
Therefore, the MoD might eventually decide to acquire a significant batch of ‘of-the-shelf’ or even second-hand and Western-origin MBTs. For the past couple of years, the idea of acquiring ex-US M1 ABRAMS tanks has come to light. If this were to happen, it would not come as a total surprise since Poland has been extensively procuring US-manufactured weapon systems for decades, as part of its investment in the Polish-US alliance and security of the country.
However, if such an eventually were to occur, it would lead to the further ‘fragmentation’ of the Polish MBT fleet, which during the transition period would be composed of Soviet-era PT-91s and T-72M1s, ex-German LEOPARD 2PLs and 2A5s and ex-US A1 ABRAMS MBTs. It would also further complicate the logistical support of the operator and lead to increased costs in maintenance and overhaul of the Army’s operational vehicles.
New IFV will Change the Posture of the Polish Army
Under the BORSUK programme, the Polish Army intends to procure several hundred modern, tracked, Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV). According to some estimates, the country has a requirement for over 2,000 such vehicles. They will replace the currently operated, Soviet-era BWP-1s, which are obsolete and no longer meet the requirements of the modern battlefield.
The new IFV platform is designed and developed by the local defence industry with Huta Stalowa Wola, a subsidiary of PGZ, the leader of the project. During the International Defence Industry Exhibition (MSPO) 2019 in Kielce, the manufacturer presented a prototype of the next generation swimming IFV (Nowy Bojowy Pływający Wóz Piechoty, NBPWP).
The prototype of BORSUK/NBPWP has already undergone a series of intense static and dynamic field trials, during which a number of its capabilities, such as speed, manoeuvrability, survivability and firepower were tested. The manufacturer also had to confirm that the platform complied with the high technical and tactical requirements of the Polish Army.
The future Polish IFV will be equipped with a locally designed 30mm turreted, remote-controlled weapon system (Zdalnie Sterowany System Wieżowy, ZSSW-30), which will also become standard equipment in the currently operated Rosomak/Patria AMV 8×8 armoured personnel carriers. The ZSSW-30 turret was designed to fight, destroy and suppress enemy light and heavy armoured targets and other objects – including the enemy’s infrastructure – in different climatic conditions, and to provide fire support for units during combat operations, at any time.
The SONA VSHORAD system will be capable of detecting and destroying hostile aerial targets such as manned and unmanned aerial vehicles or rockets, artillery, and mortar rounds. It will replace obsolete ZSU–23–4 Shilka) air defence systems. (Photo: 10th Armoured Cavalry Brigade, Polish MoD)
According to the manufacturer, the new Polish IFV platform will have a swimming capability, allowing it to cross wide water obstacles, as well as to operate in diversified terrain and various weather conditions. Furthermore, the NBPWP vehicle will be characterised by its high manoeuvrability and ability to be easily transported by air or land.
The next generation Polish IFV will provide a high level of ballistic protection for the crews and dismounted soldiers, able to withstand direct impact from firearms and rocket-propelled grenades, as well as the explosion of IEDs or mines. The manufacturer intends to develop several variants of the NBPWP, from a light, swimming vehicle to a heavily armed combat platform.
Modern Tank Destroyers to Protect the Suwalki Gap
Under the current iteration of the ‘Ottokar-Brzoza’ programme, Poland intends to procure a number of modern tank destroyers. According to the Armament Inspectorate, five local and international manufacturers have shown interest in the project and submitted their applications to take part in the technical dialogue procedure. This process precedes all major defence-related tenders in Poland.
The future tank destroyers of the Polish Army will be armed with anti-tank missiles and equipped with advanced sensors. They will replace the currently operated, Soviet-era BRDM-2 vehicles, armed with obsolete 9P133 MALUTKA-P effectors. BRDM-2 no longer meet the requirements of the modern battlefield and do not provide enough protection for the crew.
The current technical dialogue is actually a second iteration of the project. Its goal is to allow the Armament Inspectorate to determine and better define a number of technical requirements for the future tank destroyer platform. The initial procedure allowed only tracked vehicles to be considered, while the current round also includes wheel-based platforms.
The list of companies participating in the technical dialogue includes: AMZ Kutno, MBDA UK, Lockheed Martin Global, Rheinmetall Defence Polska – a subsidiary of Rheinmetall Landsysteme GmbH and state-owned PGZ – which acts on behalf a number of its subsidiary companies, such as Rosomak, OBRUM, HSWola, Jelcz, WZM or Wojskowe Zaklady Uzbrojenia.
Lockheed Martin and MBDA-UK are expected to respectively offer their renowned anti-tank missile systems, HELLFIRE and BRIMSTONE 2, as the main armament of the new tank destroyer. Both companies are ready to integrate their missile systems with any kind of tracked or wheeled vehicles selected by the Polish Army.
Which platform it will be, depends of course on the submitted offers. Rheinmetall and AMZ Kutno could present a number of platforms ready for integration with anti-tank weapon systems. However, it is PGZ which seems to be the frontrunner in terms of providing the base frame for the future tank destroyers, as its subsidiaries have already delivered a number of tracked and wheeled armoured vehicles to the Polish Armed Forces, such as the KRAB/K9 or ROSOMAK/PATRIA AMV 8×8. Therefore, the selection of one of these types of chassis for the ‘Ottokar-Brzoza’ programme would be less risky in terms of operability of the new platform and could allow the generation of extra savings in the programme’s budget.
New Air and Missile Defence Assets
In the new PMT, the Polish MoD confirmed its intention to continue the modernisation of the country’s medium and short range air-and-missile defence assets with the procurement of new systems under the WISLA and NAREW programmes. In the first phase of the WISLA programme, Poland plans to procure two Patriot-based batteries in the initial 3+ configuration, along with the Northrop Grumman-developed IAMD Battle Command System (IBCS) and 208 PAC-3 MSE missiles from Lockheed Martin. The Letter of Acceptance (LoA) regarding this acquisition was signed on 28 March 2018. Deliveries are expected by 2022 and Initial Operation Capability (IOC) between 2023-2024. However, at this time it remains uncertain if these deadlines will be met due to the Coronavirus pandemic, which has affected the speed of implementation of the contract’s terms. Furthermore, both parties are still expected to finalise negotiations of the second phase of the WISLA programme, which calls for the procurement of an additional six PATRIOT batteries.
Overall, the WISLA programme will also see the purchase of a new 360˚ AESA-GaN radar, in the same configuration as the future US Army’s radar system, although the MoD is aware of the fact that the eventual acquisition of the current 90˚ sector scan radar from Raytheon, would be a more affordable option. Poland has also yet to decide on the future low-cost interceptor, which will supplement the PAC-3 MSE missile. In this regard, Raytheon’s SKYCEPTOR was considered as the most likely solution, however, MBDA’s Common Anti-Air Modular Missile-Extended Range (CAMM-ER) interceptor is apparently also being taken into consideration.
The NAREW is expected to utilise the IBCS command system, therefore making it interoperable with Wisla/Patriot batteries, and allowing the creation of an integrated medium/short-range AMD system functioning under one command structure. NAREW will replace the currently operated, legacy 2K12 KUB and 9K33 OSA AMD systems.
A number of manufacturers have shown interest in the Polish NAREW programme, including Raytheon/Kongsberg and MBDA-UK. The former consortium is willing to offer Poland its proven and globally popular National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS), which has already been procured by eleven countries, such as the US, Norway, Finland, Spain, the Netherlands, Oman, Lithuania, Indonesia, Australia, Qatar, and one undisclosed customer. NASAMS utilises a number of technological solutions, which are both proven and affordable, such as the AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles, which are already operated by the Polish Air Force.
MBDA-UK offers a family of CAMM surface-to-air missiles integrated into the IBCS-based command systems and is interoperable with Polish-manufactured observation, tracking and acquisition systems. The manufacturer declares that it is ready to establish cooperation with a number of local companies, most of which would come from the Polish Armaments Group (PGZ, Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa), such as Pit-Radwar, Mesko, Jelcz, HSW, CTM and WZE in Zielonka.
VSHORAD Systems still Needed
Despite already having spent a lot of time and effort on procurement – or at least selection – of the preferred medium and short-range AMD systems, like the WISLA and NAREW AMD systems, the Polish MoD has not forgotten about its requirement for a very short-range solution, which is the very essence of every complementary air-and-missile defence system.
Under a multi-year project to modernise Polish Army’s field artillery the MoD intends to acquire five REGINA artillery squadrons composed of 155mm KRAB self-propelled howitzers based on the K9 THUNDER from South Korea.
In November 2016, the Polish MoD signed a contract for the delivery of six batteries of the PILICA VSHORAD system. The contract has a value of over €169M and deliveries should conclude by 2022.
The PILICA programme envisions the procurement of six anti-aircraft AAA/SAM batteries, each consisting of six fire units, a command post, a radiolocation station, artillery tractors and ammunition supply vehicles. PILICA will be fitted with 23 mm AA autocannons and locally designed GROM/PIORUN missiles. The system will be manufactured and delivered by a ‘PGZ-PILICA’ consortium, composed of PGZ, Pit-Radwar, PCO and Zakłady Mechaniczne Tarnów, acting as the system’s integrator.
In late May 2020, the Polish Armament Inspectorate, which acts on behalf of the MoD, launched a technical dialogue procedure under the SONA programme, which will lead to working out the main technical and operational requirements for another VSHORAD system.
SONA should be capable of detecting, identifying and destroying a wide range of potentially hostile aerial targets, such as manned fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles or rockets, artillery, and mortar rounds (C-RAM). The new system will have to feature a high level of mobility, and as such will be fitted on a tracked or wheeled vehicle, in order to keep up with detachments of armoured or mechanized brigades.
The SONA system will replace the currently operated ZSU–23–4 SZYLKA (SHILKA) air defence systems and the local modification, ZSU-23 – 4MP BIALA. SHILKA, which originated in the late 1950s, is an outdated, obsolete system, no longer meeting the requirements of the modern battlefield. BIALA is only slightly more capable, however, it also fails to provide the required operational potential.
More POPRAD Anti-Aircraft Missile Systems for Poland
In May 2020, the Polish MoD ordered additional 40 120mm RAK mortar systems and 20 command post vehicles (AWD) from Huta Stalowa Wola and Rosomak, subsidiaries of the PGZ.
In late June 2020, the Polish MoD informed that another batch of POPRAD anti-aircraft missile systems had been delivered to the Army. Delivery included an unspecified number of systems which were handed over to the 15th Giżycko Mechanised Brigade.
In total, the Polish Army will take delivery of 24 POPRAD anti-aircraft missile systems this year, including 22 serial production sets and two prototype vehicles, which will be adjusted to the required standard. Aside from the 15th Giżycko Mechanised Brigade, POPRAD systems will be handed over to the 17th Mechanised Brigade and the 19th Lublin Mechanised Brigade, as well as to the Air Force Training Centre.
By the end of 2021, the Polish Army should receive all 79 POPRAD systems, including the two aforementioned prototype vehicles. These will be delivered under the terms of the agreement signed in 2015 with the system’s manufacturer, the Warsaw-based Pit-Radwar, which is a subsidiary of the PGZ.
The POPRAD self-propelled anti-aircraft missile system is intended for engaging low and medium altitude targets using heat-seeking missiles. Its basic functions are accomplished by a tracking-aiming observation system, fitted with a number of electro-optical sensors (thermal camera and laser range-finder).
The system also consists of a quadruple launcher of Grom heat-seeking missiles from Mesko, another subsidiary of PGZ. POPRAD uses a fire-guiding computer and a navigation and orientation system.
Target acquisition is based on a digital data radio-link from the automated air defence command and control system or is worked out autonomously. The missile launching system is mounted on the ŻUBR-P all-terrain, armoured vehicle manufactured by the local company AMZ Kutno.
Additional RAK Mortars for the Polish Army
In late May 2020, the Armament Inspectorate and a consortium of Polish defence companies signed an agreement for the delivery of an additional 40 120mm RAK mortar systems and 20 command post vehicles (AWD) manufactured by Huta Stalowa Wola and ROSOMAK SA, subsidiaries of the PGZ.
Under the terms of the agreement, deliveries should commence in 2022 and run through to 2024. The deal has a value of €159m. The number of additional RAK mortar systems and command post vehicles is equivalent to five artillery companies. Each unit consists of eight RAK mortars and four AWDs, as well as two artillery reconnaissance vehicles (AWR), three ammunition supply vehicles 8×8 (AWA), a mobile workshop 6×6 (AWRU) and a support vehicle 6×6 (WZ).
“The modernisation of the Polish Armed Forces relates to the procurement of modern combat systems. The RAK is one of the most technically advanced self-propelled mortar systems in the world, designed by Polish engineers,” said Andrzej Kensbok, President of the Management Board of PGZ.
The Polish Army currently operates 64 RAK mortar systems and 32 AWDs, which were ordered in 2016. The second agreement, covering the delivery of an additional 16 RAK mortars and eight AWDs, was signed last year. “The agreement for delivery of additional RAK mortar systems is a confirmation of high quality of weapon systems manufactured by PGZ. The initial order was finalised without any delays. We are currently engaged in the finalisation of the second agreement, signed in 2019,” said Bartłomiej Zając, President of the Management Board of Huta Stalowa Wola.
Rosomak-S AMVs for Poland
In spring 2020, the Minister of Defence, Mariusz Blaszczak, announced that his Ministry intends to procure 60 ROSOMAK-S armoured modular vehicles designed to carry SPIKE anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM). According to Błaszczak, the contract with the local ROSOMAK company, PGZ’s subsidiary, should be signed in 2020.
ROSOMAK-S is technically similar to the baseline ROSOMAK armoured modular vehicle, a local derivative of the Finnish PATRIA AMV. The main difference is that ROSOMAK-S is not equipped with any weapon systems (ROSOMAK in the standard configuration for the Polish Army is fitted with a 30mm HITFIST turret). Instead, each vehicle can carry up to two SPIKE ATGM launchers along with missiles and operators.
Today, only a marginal number of ROSOMAK-S vehicles are used in the Polish Army. They serve in the 12th and 17th Mechanised Brigades and provide support to artillery companies equipped with 120mm RAK self-propelled mortar systems. (Source: ESD Spotlight)
16 Sep 20. Belgian and Dutch Naval Replacement Programmes. Belgium and the Netherlands will replace almost their entire fleets in the next 15 years. This will mean six new ships for the Belgian Navy, and 23 for the Royal Netherlands Navy.
Some of these new ships are being developed jointly by Belgium and the Netherlands, while for some others the Netherlands is seeking cooperation with Germany.
Many vessels in the Belgian and Dutch fleets date back to the eighties and nineties and the Netherlands in particular has long postponed the replacement of many ships. Although Belgium replaced their WIELINGEN class frigates 15 years ago, they did so with Dutch M-frigates from the nineties. Both countries also operate TRIPARTITE minehunters which are over thirty years old.
Because Belgium bought two Dutch M-frigates, both navies are equipped with the same frigates and also the same minehunters. Both navies have been working together since 1948 and have almost merged in recent years. The Belgian frigates are maintained in the Netherlands and the Dutch minehunters in Belgium. The navies share a headquarters in Den Helder (the Netherlands), their operational and logistics schools are binational, and from 2021 both fleets will receive the same uniforms. It is therefore logical that the two countries jointly replace their frigates and minehunters.
Mine Countermeasure Vessels
Already in 2013, Belgium and the Netherlands had plans to jointly replace their TRIPARTITE minehunters. Three years later, the Ministers of Defence of Belgium and the Netherlands signed a Letter of Intent for the joint replacement. It was agreed that the Netherlands would lead in the replacement of the M-frigates, while Belgium would take on the new minehunters. A European tender followed.
The project is now in full swing and the consortium Belgium & Naval Robotics, consisting of the French companies Naval Group and ECA Group, is working hard to deliver the first new mine countermeasures vessel (MCMV) in April 2024 to the Belgian Navy; the Royal Netherlands Navy will follow later. Both navies will receive six ships each.
An important part of the project is the new concept of stand-off mine warfare; the motherships remain outside the mine danger area and MCM tools operate from the mothership to detect, classify and destroy mines from a great distance, often over the horizon.
While the old TRIPARTITES are made of composite, the future MCMVs will be made of steel.
They are in fact built around the Launch & Recovery System (LARS) that was specially developed for these ships. With a length of 81.4 m and a width of 17m, the ships have an uncommon length to breadth ratio for warships.
The LARS is mainly intended for unmanned service vehicles (USVs). The 12 m-long INSPECTOR-125 USV can operate with up to six drones in the mine danger area. These drones were developed and built by the ECA Group in Belgium. The drones in question are the T-18M UMISAS towed sonar that is dragged behind the INSPECTOR and thanks to the interferometric synthetic aperture sonar, can transmit high-resolution images to the mothership in real time. The autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) A-18M can independently search the seabed and when a contact is made, the crew in the operations room in the mothership can inspect the mine-like object with the camera of its remotely operated vehicle (ROV), the SEASCAN. Finally, the K-STER C will destroy the object.
To operate drones over the horizon, Saab SKELDAR V-200 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) provide communications between the USV and the mothership. The UAV can of course also be used for other tasks.
The latter also applies to the motherships that can accommodate 63 additional crew, in addition to the 29 permanent ship’s complement. The ships are equipped with various sensors and weapon systems and will also receive a 40 mm gun, which is somewhat unusual for modern-day MCMVs. At the time of writing, it is still not known which gun will be chosen, nor has a final choice been made for radars and electro-optical sensors.
Construction of the first ship will start on 23 February 2021 and the ships will be built in France by Kership and Piriou.
In anticipation of the arrival of these new ships and especially the new toolbox, the Dutch Navy has leased a civilian vessel, the GEOSEA. Dutch and Belgian naval personnel have been working with this ship and with drones from ECA since spring 2020 to become familiar with the new systems and to provide the manufacturer with feedback that can be used for the development of future tools. The project team is also planning to test the LARS with the GEOSEA. Whereas the ships are designed to last at least thirty years, the toolbox will be regularly updated or replaced.
The replacement of the M-frigates started in the Netherlands in 2010 with the first studies carried out. It soon became clear that the Netherlands wanted to replace the frigates in cooperation with other countries. Considering Belgium also operated M-frigates, it was the logical partner, but the Netherlands also looked at the German MKS 180 frigates. However, cooperation in this area came to an end when the German ship became too big and expensive.
Belgium and the Netherlands proceeded with a Dutch design. The replacement project was officially started in the Netherlands in June 2016 and soon thereafter, it became known that Belgium had reserved €1Bn for two new frigates.
Unlike the MCMVs, no European tender was launched for these frigates, but Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding (DSNS) was contracted directly. That did not mean that DSNS designed the ships, because that is still largely done by the Afdeling Maritieme Systemen (Department of Maritime Systems) of the Defensie Materieel Organisatie (DMO).
Since 2013, several designs have been published, sometimes accidentally. Over the years, the size of the ship increased, but the design has eventually decreased. In 2019, design 22D was presented, and according to DMO, it represented the “ideal ship” that met the requirements, but it did not fit the budget. Research was then conducted into an off-the-shelf design of DSNS, but that ship failed to meet the requirements. DMO then removed systems from the design and some requirements were adjusted.
This resulted in DMO design 22D being modified to a 132-m long frigate, displacing 5,500 tonnes. The MK 41 VLS, with 16 cells, is primarily intended for the Evolved SeaSparrow Missile Block 2 (ESSM Bl. 2), but Belgium has previously indicated that it was considering the Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) as well. With such a weapon, Belgium wants to contribute to ballistic missile defence (BMD).
Although missiles like the SM-3 can be fitted in the MK 41 VLS, the frigate is not designed for BMD. The new frigates are in fact designed with anti-submarine warfare in mind. Since they are required to operate far from the task force in search of submarines, they must also be able to defend themselves against missile attack.
They will therefore have the new APAR Block 2 X-band radar, an S-band radar that has been further developed from SMILE and NS100 and a new fire control concept called Above Water Warfare Suite (AWWS), which has been developed by Thales in the Netherlands for several years. MKS 180 will also receive these sensors.
However, the most important sensor for the new frigates is located in the stern area of the ship, namely the low frequency active passive sonar (LFAPS). This is a DMO development in collaboration with the Dutch research institute TNO and the Canadian company, Ultra Electronics Maritime Systems. The frigate can lower the LFAPS into the sea and detect submarines far better than previously the case using a passive towed array or medium-frequency sonar. The current Dutch M-frigates recently sailed with this new sensor.
The Multi Use Accoustic Support Suite (MUASS) will also be introduced on the ships at the end of this year. This software was developed by DMO and the Dutch Navy together with TNO and is based on an existing TNO sonar model. Data and algorithms have been added to this, such as data from the ship, sensors, environmental information and oceanographic models. It resulted in a package that, as sea tests now show, brings major improvements to anti-submarine warfare by ship and submarine.
Although these important elements are already deployed at sea with the current frigates, it will take a while before the new ships can start looking for submarines. The contract for the ships is expected to be signed at the end of 2021 with the four ships for the Netherlands and Belgium are scheduled to be delivered in the period 2027-2030. DMO is investigating whether there is a sufficient budget to build the frigates at the Damen yard in the Netherlands and not, as has been usual practice since 2005, at Damen’s shipyard in Romania.
Combat Support Ship
The first new ship the Dutch Navy will receive is not an MCMV or a frigate, but a tanker. The combat support ship (CSS), the future HNLMS DEN HELDER, will be delivered in 2024.
In contrast to the other projects, the CSS project started only recently. After the decommissioning of HNLMS ZUIDERKRUIS in 2012 and the sale of HNLMS AMSTERDAM in 2014, the Dutch Navy lacked a tanker until the arrival of HNLMS KAREL DOORMAN.
However, because it was decided not to replace the AMSTERDAM, the KAREL DOORMAN became the only tanker in Dutch service, even though it is a joint support ship (JSS) and replenishing at sea is only one of the tasks of this multifunctional ship.
It was no surprise that when HNLMS KAREL DOORMAN was commissioned, the Chief of the Royal Netherlands Navy said that he needed another replenishment ship. When in late 2016, budget funds became available for ‘combat support’ for all defence services, the Navy managed to squeeze a ‘combat support ship’ into the plans. At the time, it was still intended to be a fairly simple tanker that would be based on a proposal that DSNS had already designed for a tender for a new Norwegian tanker. In addition, elements from the JSS would be used for commonality.
DMO and DSNS worked jointly the design and specifications. However, the requirements changed gradually, especially when it came to the environment, but the requirements for shock, blast and signature reduction were also higher than in the beginning. The design boasted a gun, the advanced Thales NS100 radar and a GOALKEEPER CIWS (which is being replaced). But a budget deficit arose because the estimates of the investment budget were not indexed and the Navy feared that the operating budget of the tanker would be too tight. At that time, DMO realised that the design did not fit the budget.
Ultimately, it was decided to increase the budget and simply adjust the design. The weapon systems and sensors were removed from the design, however, provisions for these systems have been spared.
On 19 February 2020, Damen and DMO signed the contract for the ship. In February 2021, construction of the vessel will begin at Damen Shipyards Galati, in Romania. The CSS will arrive in Den Helder in June 2024, after which the combat management system, sensors and weapon systems will be installed. The CSS is scheduled to be commissioned in 2025.
The new Dutch tanker will measure 178.3 m in length and will have a displacement of 22,585 tonnes. There is room for 160 people in total, including a complement of 75 crewmembers. Weapon systems will initially be limited to machine guns. The propulsion of the CSS is diesel-electric and the DEN HELDER will be the first naval vessel to sail with the new WÄRTSILÄ 31 diesel generator sets. Combined with the shape of the hull and the design of the propeller, the design yields a saving of 6% compared to a comparable ship with engines of a different brand and type.
The replacement of the WALRUS class submarines (1990) is by far the most complex project of all the current Dutch naval projects. As with the frigates and MCMVs, the plans were already clear in 2013, but it is by no means certain whether the first new submarine can be delivered in 2027.
The complexity of the project relates to its international nature and major political interests. The other naval projects have, however, continued to progress without too much political interference. In the submarine project, however, there have always been conflicts of interest between the Ministry of Defence (the best boat), the Ministry of Finance (the cheapest boat or nothing at all), Economic Affairs (a Dutch submarine) and Foreign Affairs (a decision that does not result in an argument with Paris or Berlin). The Submarine Service, in the end, has relatively little to no influence.
The roots for this can be found back in the eighties and nineties. The WALRUS class were more expensive in the 1980s and were delayed. Despite the fact that the boats were cheaper and have a higher rate of availability than contemporaries of the VICTORIA class (Canada) and COLLINS class (Australia), this is still called the WALRUS affair and politicians still shudder at the thought of the “scandal”. Another reason is that, partly due to political disinterest, the Dutch submarine shipyard RDM ran out of work from the 1990s and went bankrupt a few years later. Without a submarine builder, the Netherlands had to cooperate with foreign shipyards. Furthermore, the Netherlands wants diesel-electric submarines that can operate far from home. Dutch coastal waters are too shallow for safe submarine operations, so these submarines have been active in the Indian Ocean, and from the Norwegian Sea to the Caribbean. The result is a sensitive international process with a large number of committees, councils and resonance groups, and a lot of delay.
Initially, four shipyards participated in the tender. These were Navantia (Spain), Naval Group (France), TKMS (Germany) and Saab (Sweden). Naval Group has recently started Royal IHC as a partner in the Netherlands, and Saab has been working with Damen on the replacement project since 2015.
In December 2019, under political pressure, the MoD decided to continue the next round with three shipyards and start the competitive dialogue with Naval Group, Saab and TKMS.
This led to excessive criticism from experts and from parliament. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Defence wants to continue with this and a final decision will only take place in September.
If the Ministry’s plans go ahead, discussions will be held with the shipyards about the requirements and the design. This normally happens between DMO and DSNS, but DMO now want to talk to the three yards at the same time. None of the shipyards though has a design matching exactly the Dutch requirements. The existing submarines are either too small (Saab Kockums A26 and TKMS Type 212CD) or too large (Naval Group BARRACUDA SSN). Although the yards have already submitted proposals in the various RFIs, DMO has not yet told the yards what the requirements are.
Knock-out criteria will determine which yards will drop out prematurely. The contract must be signed in 2022 with the four new submarines expected to be completed between 2027 and 2031.
DMO wants to replace ten smaller ships all at once. In May 2020, DMO sent a letter to the Dutch Parliament regarding the replacement of submarine tender HNLMS MERCUUR (1987), diver training vessel SOEMBA (1989), four diver support vessels CERBERUS class (1992), training vessel VAN KINSBERGEN (1999), two hydrographic survey vessels SNELLIUS class (2003) and the Caribbean support vessel HNLMS PELIKAAN (2006).
Although the ships are all different and the replacements will not be identical, according to DMO the ships have many similarities and the DMO therefore wants to tender the ships simultaneously. It is still being decided whether this is to be done by a contract directly awarded or by a (European) tender. What the final path looks like will be announced at the end of 2021/ beginning of 2022. The first ship will have to be replaced around 2024.
Air Warfare and Command Frigates
The Air Warfare and Command frigates (LCFs) entered service in the period 2001-2005. The ships are currently being modernised with AESA radars for, inter alia, ballistic missile defence (BMD), the Thales SMART-L MM / N. In the near future, the frigates will also receive Leonardo’s VULCANO 127/64 LW naval gun. These new guns will replace the antiquated 127 mm OtoBreda guns, which were bought second hand from the Royal Canadian Navy.
The LCF replacement project was expected to start in 2021, but in 2019 a decision was taken to postpone the timeline by five years because funds were needed to improve buildings instead and because the rising costs for the F-35 had to be covered.
The German plans to replace the F124 frigates might also have been a factor. Because Damen will collaborate with the German shipyards Blohm + Voss, Lürssen and German Naval Yards for the construction of the German MKS 180 frigates, there are talks between the Dutch and German MoDs to replace the LCFs and F124s together. Both ships, incidentally, arose from the failed NATO Frigate for the Nineties (NFR90) and both countries collaborated in the field of sensors and weapons systems. However, the Dutch director of DMO, Arie Jan de Waard said that the Netherlands currently had no plans to build identical ships with Germany. He is currently focused mostly on the subsystems.
Landing Platform Dock
The Royal Netherlands Navy operates two landing platform docks (LPD): HNLMS
ROTTERDAM (1998) and HNLMS JOHAN DE WITT (2007). The ROTTERDAM has been on the list of ships to be replaced for some time, but in 2013, it was announced that the replacement vessel had been postponed.
Incidentally, the ROTTERDAM was modernised in 2019 and equipped with, among other things, the new Thales NS100 radar, a combined operations room and an amphibious warfare centre. The JOHAN DE WITT will also receive a midlife upgrade shortly.
In June 2020, the Dutch MoD announced that it planned to collaborate with Germany on new amphibious vessels. While the German Navy does not possess these vessels, its own Seebataillon (an integral part of the Dutch Marine Corps since 2016) does engage in the amphibious domain.
Replacement, no Enlargement
Not all plans are set in stone – some are no more than sketches and the future has now become more uncertain due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The high costs that Belgium and the Netherlands, like many other countries, will have as a result of this crisis, mean it is highly likely that projects will experience difficulties in the coming years, although there are no plans for budget cuts so far.
In both countries, there is also much political uncertainty. Belgium still has no government and there will be elections in the Netherlands in March 2021. For decades there have been budget cuts imposed on both navies and especially in the Netherlands, this has led to a large backlog with many relatively old ships still serving in the fleet. The backlog is now being addressed, but the Navy remains very vulnerable. Also, both the Belgian and Dutch Navies, with two and six frigates respectively, are small. However, all efforts are now focused on replacement, as enlargement seems to have been ruled out this decade. (Source: ESD Spotlight)
20 Sep 20. Post-COVID-19 Europe: a New Security Environment With New Challenges. Bear Midkiff is Vice President Sales and Marketing for John Cockerill Defense. The Belgian company, with over 200 years history, presents its modular turrets and weapon systems as a part of a comprehensive solution for customers around the world.
ESD: The COVID-19 crisis has caused a great deal of difficulty in business worldwide. How did the pandemic affect John Cockerill Defense?
Midkiff: I am happy to say that we had only a short break in production and that we have adjusted our workspaces and work schedules to be in line with the new safety and health standards. The leadership of John Cockerill took the situation very seriously from the start and made big decisions about how to do business in the COVID world.
There have been additional contracts for both the 90mm LCTS and the Cockerill 3105. The Harimau (BLACK TIGER) programme also got approved and contracted for Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP). We went through a very extensive testing and certification process and aside from the obvious setbacks with transportation around the world, things are going well.
Only a few weeks ago, John Cockerill Defense was also selected as a member of the LynkEU project which is designed to bring advanced capabilities to a Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) Anti-Tank Missile. This one will expand the capabilities of the MMP missile from MBDA. The BLOS programme is under the European Defence Industrial Development Program (EDIDP).
During the so called “Down Time”, John Cockerill executed a complete review of the market and accelerated several development projects. We are very excited about these new products, as we have already seen serious interest in them from different segments of the market. These systems will round out the John Cockerill portfolio and compliment the 3000 series and our traditional 90mm turrets.
ESD: Can we get some details on these new products?
Midkiff: We have been working hard on several new products that we believe have great potential for the defence market over the next 10 – 15 years.
- The Cockerill Protected Weapons Station Gen II (CPWS Gen II)
- The Cockerill 1030 light weight 30/40 turret
The CPWS Gen II has passed all testing and the first production prototype is ready for firing trials as we speak. It is a low profile, lightweight turret, with a revolutionary hatch opening.
The hatch can operate in four different modes which allows more flexibility – a key feature modern armies are focusing on. Additionally, the hatch makes it an ideal step in the right direction for optionally manned or robotic unmanned platforms. The CPWS II has been designed from the beginning as an optionally manned system, which can be operated from within the vehicle or remotely. It is designed to fit easily onto 4×4 and 6×6 vehicles. The primary firepower for this system is the M242 25mm x 137mm cannon or the 240LF 30mm X 113mm cannon. There is a COAX machine gun as well and optional ATGM.
We revealed the CPWS Gen II turret on top of the MILREM Type X Unmanned Ground Vehicle last week to an audience from over 40 different countries. There is not another turret in the world right now that provides functional operations for manned, unmanned and unmanned ground vehicles operations.
ESD: What other projects has John Cockerill started?
Midkiff: Our new 1030 turret is something that we feel will reach a highly desired sweet spot in the medium calibre market. It is a lightweight, low profile medium calibre turret which is capable of hosting 30mm x 173mm, or the 40mm x 180mm cannons.
Due to its modularity, the 3000 series turret is the absolute best turret you can have to base an entire armoured force on. You can have tracks and wheels all using the same basic turret, and have medium and large calibre weapons within the structure. But the cost of being able to mount a 105mm cannon in the turret is one of weight and space.
The 1030 reclaims this space and weight by optimising the turret design for medium calibre operations. Out of the box, the turret will be able to accept the MK44S 30/40mm cannon and will weigh less than 1.5 tons. That makes a lot of sense for armies that want amphibious capabilities and or specifically only a medium calibre solution. The MK44S is an Air Burst Munition (ABM) capable system. Our test with the US Government during our CRADA (Cooperative Research and Development Agreement) showed that we could accurately hit targets with ABM on the move. We plan to be firing the new 1030 turret in the middle of next year.
ESD: The defence market is changing, what are some of the key principles that will change the way we conduct defense business in the next few years?
Midkiff: If the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us one thing, it is that the EU has become more important as a unifying organisation, and NATO has become more important as a mutual security guarantor. The last few months brought a significant change to everyone’s lives and to the economies of many countries. I believe we will feel the consequences for many more years, which makes having solid and trustworthy allies more important than ever.
We see strains between several countries inside NATO and an even larger, potentially more critical strain in the traditional “Trans-Atlantic Link”. The EU Post-COVID recovery money is tied to the strategy of encouraging cross boarder projects and initiatives. These projects will also be strongly encouraged to be environmentally friendly and pointed towards “sustainability and future technologies”. I think that the relying on the US military for our security blanket is something that Europe will be forced to put in its rearview mirror. This is not to say the alliance is in any way in danger nor that the relationship between the US and Europe is any less valuable. I am just pointing out that Europe should be looking to find more future cooperation internally.
When I was working issues of NATO Expansion in the 90s, I heard many leaders say “Now my country is safe militarily and we don’t really need to worry about it too much.” I don’t think we can say that today. The militaries of Central and Eastern Europe desperately need modernisation and dropping these modernisation projects due to the uncertainties of COVID, will only exacerbate the situation. The time to modernise is today and several countries are not backing away from their programmes, which is encouraging.
ESD: What types of trends do you expect in the market?
Midkiff: Robotics is an obvious first reply. We see lots of potential in robotic combat vehicles, and we are happy with our cooperation with MILREM Robotics. We believe that robotic vehicles will have a significant role on the future battlefields, and we are making sure that we are on the forefront of this development. We also consider the careful and deliberate development and integration of these technologies to compliment and not detract from our soldiers a must.
It will be several years before we see these vehicles as a normal part of our formations. We have drivers in vehicles today, with co-drivers and ground guides who still drive into or over cars or run into buildings, so making the situation awareness such that an operator will do better than several people on or around the vehicle is still a stretch. That does not mean these vehicles won’t have a role to play in the near future, but we believe their roles will be limited for the near term.
We also see a return to large calibre cannons. The tank was originally invented to conduct infantry support. Then the Blitzkrieg tactics made the tank an almost independent combat system. The mission of infantry support didn’t go away because the tank evolved, it is still necessary and large calibre systems are important on the battlefield. The fact is sometimes you just need a bigger gun. Customers around the world are returning to a 105mm and the Cockerill 105mm high-pressure cannon is simply the best on the market.
ESD: What does that actually mean for ongoing modernisation projects?
Midkiff: It means that today’s world is different than yesterday’s. The world we love in today is different from the world we celebrated New Year’s Day with. It just got a lot more dangerous in the geopolitical sense. We felt the threat of Russia during the 2014 annexation of the Crimea; the continuing conflict in the Ukraine has cost over 14,000 lives and displaced more than 1.5 million people. Look at the election in Belarus, the tensions in the Mediterranean over drilling rights…Taiwan and Hong Kong, no shortage of tensions, which could flair into full blown crisis.
Add to that the economic downturn that is happening as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. What you see is a crossroads of uncertainty that will take strong leaders and also strong friends in order to weather the storm. We are hopeful the European governments will acknowledge all these pressing changes and factors when making the decision for the modernisation of the Land Forces.
John Cockerill believes the solutions lie within the EU. We believe there are accessible and transparent avenues for the Land Forces to pursue in order to put the best equipment into their soldier’s hands. It won’t be correct to give them “just good enough”. We have strong EU partners and we are actively pursuing industry partners and we look forward to working with them and others in order to enhance the ties between our countries and build together a stable EU future for the defence sector. (Source: ESD Spotlight)
09 Sep 20. EU’s top military official warns of faltering means for capability development. National capitals’ weak support for their Permanent Structured Cooperation in Defence (PESCO) projects, combined with deep provisional cuts to the European Defence Fund (EDF) and related spending programmes, will undermine the EU’s defence capability objectives, says General Claudio Graziano, chairman of the EU Military Committee (EUMC).
Addressing an 8 September meeting of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Security and Defence (SEDE), Gen Graziano said, “PESCO at the moment is not in the best position to deliver its expected results. Confidence and trust between the member states are not there to launch major projects, meaning PESCO could lose its attractiveness. They need to firm up their political commitment and better align national planning and budgets to it.”
Launched by 25 EU countries in December 2017, PESCO now manages 47 capability projects, most small in scope and focused on training or support. Some involve prototyping or feasibility studies for battlefield systems but these have yet to fully get up and running. A strategic review of PESCO in November will assess progress on the projects, with the 25 countries set to agree by the end of 2020 their PESCO priorities for 2021–25.
However, member states’ wavering commitment to PESCO coincides with their pandemic-driven determination within the EU Council to slash the EU’s proposed 2021–27 EDF from EUR13bn (USD14.3bn) to EUR7 bn and spending on military mobility from EUR6.5bn to EUR1.5bn. (Source: Jane’s)
Founded in 1987, Exensor Technology is a world leading supplier of Networked Unattended Ground Sensor (UGS) Systems providing tailored sensor solutions to customers all over the world. From our Headquarters in Lund Sweden, our centre of expertise in Network Communications at Communications Research Lab in Kalmar Sweden and our Production site outside of Basingstoke UK, we design, develop and produce latest state of the art rugged UGS solutions at the highest quality to meet the most stringent demands of our customers. Our systems are in operation and used in a wide number of Military as well as Homeland Security applications worldwide. The modular nature of the system ensures any external sensor can be integrated, providing the user with a fully meshed “silent” network capable of self-healing. Exensor Technology will continue to lead the field in UGS technology, provide our customers with excellent customer service and a bespoke package able to meet every need. A CNIM Group Company