As previously announced, Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Mariusz Błaszczak has signed three contracts for the procurement of about 1,000 K2 BLACK PANTHER Main Battle Tanks (MBTs), 650 K9 self-propelled howitzers and 48 FA-50 fighter aircraft from South Korea. The deliveries of the tanks and howitzers are to start this year, the the first aircraft are scheduled for delivery next year. A fast pace of deliveries and a large transfer of technology to Poland are special features of the agreements, Blaszczak said.
“The framework agreements will significantly strengthen the Polish Armed Forces. This strengthening is of great importance given the situation on our eastern border. We have no time, we cannot wait. We need to arm the Polish armed forces,” said Błaszczak.
Hyundai Rotem has been contracted to deliver over 980 K2 BLACK PANTHER MBTs. The first batch covers 180 vehicles, which are to be delivered to Poland in their current state of construction from the end of the year. By 2026, the definition of the dedicated military requirements for the Polish version of the K2PL is expected, to be implemented for the production of more than 800 tanks of the second batch. Upon completion of the production, the first batch is to be upgraded to the K2PL standard.
The contract with Hanwha provides for the procurement of 48 K9 self-propelled howitzers, the delivery of which is also to start this year. From 2024, the delivery of a further 600 howitzers is to take place. While the first K9s are to be manufactured in South Korea, participation by Polish industry is envisaged from 2026. All K9s will be equipped with Polish communication systems from the outset and connected to the TOPAZ integrated combat management system.
The K9 design was similar to the Polish KRAB SP howitzers, Blaszczak said. The Government would continue to order KRAB systems, but Huta Stalowa Wola’s production capacity was not sufficient to cover the requirement, he said. In the next few years, he said, the objective was to select the best of the KRAB design and the best of the K9 design so that this weapon becomes uniform for both countries.
The first twelve FA-50 training and combat aircraft are to be delivered by Korea Aerospace Industries in 2023. Another 36 aircraft in the modern Block 20 standard are to follow. The aircraft will be configured according to the exact requirements of the Polish Air Force (IFF NATO). The FA-50s will replace post-Soviet aircraft and intensify the training of Polish pilots. They can also be used to carry out various missions. From 2026, Poland plans to maintain the aircraft itself and produce spare parts under licence.
Pilots trained on the FA-50 could be retrained within a few hours on the F-16 fighter, of which Poland has 48 aircraft in its inventory, Blaszczak noted in an interview with Defence 24. Additional F-16s could not be procured because Lockheed Martin was concentrating on the production of F-35s.
The procurement contracts signed by Poland are among the largest in Europe and are said to be South Korea’s biggest arms deal. The Polish Defence Ministry has not disclosed contract amounts. Insiders estimate the financial volume at €15 Bn.
With this procurement effort, the country is arming itself against the threat it faces at its more than 1,200 km long eastern/northeastern border, which it shares with Russia and Belarus, among others.