The Polish Army and other branches of the country’s armed forces have an urgent
requirement to modernise the fleet of multirole, high mobility, all-terrain vehicles.
Due to their obsolescence, most platforms of the Polish Army, such as HONKER, UAZ469 and some Mercedes-Benz vehicles, no longer meet the requirements of the modern battlefield and no longer guarantee the safety of crews. Despite several attempts over the last 5 years to procure new multi-purpose vehicles with high mobility, Poland has so far failed to complete the long-awaited acquisition necessary for the country’s armed forces to improve their core capabilities, such as mobility, troop protection and manoeuvrability.
The first steps towards the modernisation of the Polish fleet of high mobility multi-purpose vehicles were taken in June 2013, when the Armaments Inspectorate, on behalf of the Ministry of Defence (MoD), invited a number of Polish and European manufacturers to participate in a technical dialogue. Twenty companies decided to participate in the project and presented a wide range of multipurpose wheeled vehicles, ranging from light off-road vehicles to armoured MRAPs (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected).
The technical dialogue enabled the Armaments Inspectorate to identify the desired quantity of new multipurpose vehicles to be procured and the number of variants in which they will be procured and put into service. In addition, the dialogue helped the Inspectorate to complete the list of technical specifications that were included in subsequent procurement procedures and presented to future bidders.
Procuring New Multirole Vehicles
A first attempt to modernise the fleet of multiple, highly mobile vehicles of the Polish Armed Forces was made in July 2015, when the Armaments Inspectorate published the first open tender under the “Mustang” programme. It called for the procurement of 882 vehicles, including 841 in the soft skin variant and 41 armoured vehicles. Deliveries were to begin in 2016 and run until 2022.
The long list of technical requirements associated with the first MUSTANG Programme included such features as a 4×4 drivetrain, up to 3,5 t gross vehicle weight (GVW) in the soft-skin variant, loading capacity of no less than 1 t (soft-skin) or 600 kg (armoured variant) and accommodation for 9 people (soft-skin) or 5 people (armoured variant), including a driver. Furthermore, the Armament Inspectorate required that both variants of the new multirole vehicle will have an unified design in reference to the power transmission system, onboard equipment, displacement of the steering gears and most of electric systems.
In May 2017, nearly two years after the tender was launched, it turned out that eventually only one bid was submitted in the MUSTANG Programme. A consortium of Polish Armaments Group (Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa, PGZ) and Military Automotive Works (Wojskowe Zaklady Motoryzacyjne, WZM) in Poznan offered a Multipurpose Terrain Vehicle (Wielozadaniowy Samochod Terenowy, WST) based on the Ford RANGER Pickup 4×4 platform.
A month later, the tender procedure was eventually cancelled. The Armament Inspectorate informed that the sole bidding consortium valued its offer at over PLN2Bn, while the programme’s budget was set by the Inspectorate at PLN232M.
Poland Does not Abandon its Procurement Plans
A second tender under the MUSTANG programme was launched in July 2017; it called for the procurement of 872 soft-skin and 41 armoured multipurpose high mobility vehicles, with deliveries starting in 2019 and running through to October 2022 (soft-skin) and October 2021 (armoured variant). The Armament Inspectorate included an option for additional 2787 soft-skin vehicle, which were to be delivered by October 2026.
As in the case of the first tender, the Armament Inspectorate drafted a number of technical requirements for potential bidders, which included all-wheel drive capability, a maximum GVW of 3,500 kg (soft skin), a carrying capacity of at least 1 t (600 kg for the protected variant), as well as a fording capability of at least 50 cm without previous preparation or no less than 65 cm (with preparation). The new MUSTANG vehicles were to accommodate nine people (a driver and eight passengers) in the soft-skin variant or five people in the armoured variant. Furthermore, all vehicles were to be equipped with run-flat tyres and should have a STANAG 4569 protection level 1 for kinetic energy and blast resistance.
In May 2018, the Armament Inspectorate informed that only one bidder decided to present its offer in the repeated tender. A consortium of Polish Defence Holding (Polski Holding Obronny, PHO acting as the lead company) and Concept offered the DINO 319 4×4 Light Tactical Multipurpose Vehicle (LTMPV) and the DINO 519 4×4 Light Tactical Multipurpose Armoured Vehicle (LTMPAV). Both platforms were designed in association with the Austrian company Oberaigner and presented as light duty, high mobility off-road vehicles, based on the Mercedes-Benz SPRINTER 319/519 CDI models.
Following an in-depth evaluation of the bid submitted by the PHO-Concept consortium, the Armaments Inspectorate decided to terminate the tender. Once again, the main reason was the cost of the bid, which amounted to PLN524M and exceeded the programme budget by almost 120%, as the Inspectorate planned to allocate no more than PLN239M for procurement.
Other Procurement Attempts
On 14 August 2018, the Armaments Inspectorate launched its third MUSTANG tender. This time, the project called for the procurement of 900 multirole, high mobility all-terrain vehicles, including 859 in soft-skin and 41 in armoured variant, with deliveries starting in 2019 and running through to 2022. The tender included an option for additional 812 soft-skin vehicles, bringing the total number of platforms to be acquired to 1712. The Armaments Inspectorate made only symbolic changes to the list of technical requirements and underlined its intention that both variants of the future multi-purpose platform should have as much commonality as possible in their design in order to reduce operating, maintenance and repair costs.
A few months later, in March 2019, the Armaments Inspectorate announced that the invitation to tender had to be terminated because none of the manufacturers could submit a bid that fully met the technical and procedural requirements of the procuring institution.
Changes in Procurement Policy
Two more attempts to acquire a fleet of new multi-purpose off-road vehicles with high mobility were made by the 2nd Regional Logistics Base in Warsaw. The first tender was launched in June 2019 and provided for the procurement of up to 610 vehicles in the soft-skin configuration, 485 of them under the basic contract and another 125 as an option. Deliveries were to start in 2019 and run until 2022. Although three manufacturers were able to submit their bids, the supervisory authority had to terminate the tendering process as none of the bids were in line with the programme budget.
The most recent procurement attempt was launched in October 2019 when the 2nd Regional Logistics Base in Warsaw invited tenders for the procurement of 635 commercial vehicles, of which 485 were to be awarded as part of the basic contract and the remaining 150 as an option. Deliveries were to start in 2020 and last until 2022, including the delivery of 160 basic vehicles (plus 50 as an option) per year in the period 2020-2021 and 165 basic vehicles (plus 50 as an option) in 2022. The value of the programme was estimated at approximately PLN121M.
Shortly after, on 6th November, the 2nd Regional Logistics Base informed that three companies decided to submit bids. The list of bidders included a consortium of Auto Podlasie (leader) and STEELER Marcin Piasecki as well as a Demarko company, both of which offered the Nissan NAVARA 4×4 platform, and a consortium of Glomex MS Polska (leader) and Glomex MS offering Fiat Chrysler Furgon WRANGLER IV 4×4.
One month later, the 2nd Regional Logistics Base cancelled the tender, arguing that none of the bidders could meet the budget of the programme.
It is very likely that after five failed attempts to procure a fleet of new high mobility all-terrain multi-purpose vehicles, the Polish MoD will eventually decide to change the procurement procedure from an open tender to direct negotiations with selected industrial partners. This will give the MoD more freedom in deciding on the number of platforms and in determining the technical specifications or the delivery time frame.
However, in order to secure the successful acquisition of new multipurpose vehicles the MoD will have to conduct an in depth market analysis, evaluating the availability of particular of-the-shelf platforms and providing adequate procurement funds.
Michał Jarocki is is an independent, Warsaw-based defence expert who has reported on security issues and developments from a qualified “insider” position for many years.