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.
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.
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.