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The Polish Ministry of Defence (MoD) signed a contract with a consortium, composed of the Polish Armaments Group (Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa, PGZ), Zaklady Mechaniczne (ZM), Bumar-Labedy and Wojskowe Zaklady Motoryzacyjne (WZM), for an overhaul and upgrade of a number of T-72M1 main battle tanks (MBT). The deal is worth 1.75 billion Polish Zloty. Work should start this year and run through to 2025.

The programme calls for an upgrade of more than 300 Polish T-72M1 MBTs. However, according to the MoD, only 257 T-72 tanks are currently operational and divided between particular frontline units. This means that the overhaul and upgrade programme will also include a number of phased out platforms, which are currently stored in reserve by the Military Property Agency (Agencja Mienia Wojskowego, AMW).

The scope of works under the newly signed contract will be limited to the capabilities of the Polish defence industry. “We are modernizing the equipment, which is in the inventory of the Polish Army. Thanks to this upgrade, main battle tanks will be equipped with modern targeting, navigation and observation systems, as well as new digital comms,” said Mariusz Blaszczak, the Minister of Defence. In result of the overhaul, MBTs’ full operational capability will be resorted. It is expected that a number of other public defence companies, such as PCO or OBRUM, will also be involved in the whole process.

The MoD underlines the fact, that the overhaul and upgrade of the T-72 MBTs is just an interim solution, before the department launches the procedure for procurement of new generation main battle tanks under the “Wilk” programme. “(…) we all await and work for the start of construction of new generation tanks by the Polish defence industry,” acknowledged Minister Blaszczak.

“We are restoring manufacturing capabilities in regards to armored vehicles technology. (…) Restoring this capability (…) is another step towards establishing of an industrial base for future works on the new main battle tank for the Polish Armed Forces,” admitted Witold Slowik, President of the Management Board of the PGZ.

In May 2019 PGZ announced its intention to work on the new Polish MBT independently or in cooperation with a number of foreign partners, although the former option is being questioned by a number of experts. “PGZ is launching a research and development programme on the new MBT for the Polish Army,” declared Slowik during the European Economic Congress in Katowice. The Group declares that it has the ability to develop particular equipment or subsystems of the future platform.

It is expected that when the next generation MBT finally enters service, it will replace the aforementioned T-72M1s and PT-91s. Furthermore, it will complement the more modern Leopard 2PL/2A5 tanks, just to replace them as well at the proper time.

Michal Jarocki