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Od 25 maja 2018 r. obowiązuje w Polsce Rozporządzenie Parlamentu Europejskiego i Rady (UE) 2016/679 z dnia 27 kwietnia 2016 r. w sprawie ochrony osób fizycznych w związku z przetwarzaniem danych osobowych i w sprawie swobodnego przepływu takich danych oraz uchylenia dyrektywy 95/46/WE (ogólne rozporządzenie o ochronie danych, zwane także RODO).

W związku z powyższym przygotowaliśmy dla Państwa informacje dotyczące przetwarzania przez Wojskowy Instytut Wydawniczy Państwa danych osobowych. Prosimy o zapoznanie się z nimi: Polityka przetwarzania danych.

Prosimy o zaakceptowanie warunków przetwarzania danych osobowych przez Wojskowych Instytut Wydawniczy – Akceptuję

Creating an Interconnected, Coherent System

With Mariusz Błaszczak, Polish Minister of National Defense, on the conclusions drawn from Russian aggression on Ukraine, talks Tadeusz Wróbel.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, we have been observing Russians intensively shelling military and civilian objects. What conclusions can we draw from this conflict in the area of ground-based air defense?

The Russian aggression in Ukraine clearly shows the highly significant role of aviation and unmanned systems on a modern battlefield. The conflict also shows Russia’s intensive use of ballistic and cruise missiles. Already in the first days of the invasion, we witnessed massive shelling of airports, radio stations and other objects of high importance to the Ukrainian side. There were also direct attacks on critical infrastructure, such as energy or water supply networks, as well as civilian targets.

Unfortunately, at the moment of the attack, the Ukrainian army – despite changes initiated after the Russian invasion on Crimea in 2014 – was still based on post-Soviet air defense systems unable to adequately repel the attack. Nevertheless, the very fact that air defense systems, however weak, were there, prevented the Russians from gaining air advantage and conducting shameless attacks. They also forced the Russian aircraft to operate at very low altitudes.

The war in Ukraine shows how important it is for the national defense system to have advanced air and missile defense systems, which should be perceived and approached as a multi-level and highly integrated system, in which individual levels supplement one another, and thus counter threats most effectively. That’s why the Polish Armed Forces are currently undergoing a radical transformation in air defense area.

We are implementing the most extensive and most costly modernization programs in the modern history of our armed forces. In May, you announced the launch of the second phase of the Wisła program, i.e. the order for six more Patriot batteries. What are other elements of the currently modernized air defense system?

The most well-known parts of the system are the Patriot air and missile defense medium range sets procured within the Wisła program, and the short range sets procured within the Narew program. Their missiles can counter targets at distances from several to over 100 km. We should also remember about the lowest level of air defense with its systems, which the use of Piorun missiles and anti-aircraft guns. There is also a new command and communication system that is crucial in integrating systems at all levels.

Will the SHORAD batteries and squadrons be controlled using the American IBCS [Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System], ordered in the first phase of the Wisła program together with two Patriot batteries?

IBCS will be the element integrating all the levels of air and missile defense in Poland, particularly the systems procured within the Wisła and Narew programs. It’s worth noting that the Polish Armed Forces will be the first foreign user of the IBCS. We must not forget, however, that within the frame of the contract concluded this year with MBDA for two short-range air defense fire units, our domestic industry will deliver a command and control system adjusting Polish elements, such as radars, to cooperate with the British launchers and CAMMs [Common Anti-Air Modular Missiles]. The results and experience gained from this work will create a basis for building a new Polish command system.

Will there be a need to introduce changes in the plans made years ago on building an air defense system?

We are introducing corrections to these plans on an ongoing basis, so that the systems used in the future by the Polish Armed Forces can properly respond to the threats of modern battlefield. This is one of the reasons for our decision to build a system integrating all the levels, and thus creating an effect of synergy within ground-based air defense. This integration is what distinguishes the Polish air and missile defense, and the adopted concept puts our country among the world’s leaders. We are forming a single, integrated and coherent system.

The situation in Ukraine calls for accelerating decisions on the procurement of crucial armament, which includes air defense systems. Is there a guarantee for the financing of these very expensive transactions?

Yes, there is. Both, the already contracted deliveries of military equipment and planned contracts, such as the one for the next six batteries of the Patriot system, are financially covered within a technical modernization plan. Air and missile defense systems are very costly, but they are a priority, especially in the face of what is happening in Ukraine.

The necessity to accelerate the procurement of the Narew system might give MBDA an advantage in negotiations. Is the MoND afraid of that?

Placing the order with MBDA in no way affects the talks on building the target Narew system, which are carried out with PGZ, nor weakens the position of the ministry in our negotiations. A geopolitical situation in the region has forced us to accelerate the realization of some orders for military equipment. When it comes to ground-based air defense, we must urgently procure two short-range fire units, commonly referred to as Small Narew. When they are introduced, we will have a solution that allows for countering many targets simultaneously. It’s worth emphasizing that the procured sets already include many elements produced by the Polish arms industry. Their potential will be increased along with the growth of our technological competencies – for example, by replacing Soła radars with the new Sajna type that has more extensive capabilities.

In what phase are the talks between PGZ and MBDA concerning cooperation on the Narew program?

The dialog between them has been conducted for several years now, and at this point, in order not to influence the negotiation process, I can only say that the Narew program is being executed according to the adopted schedule, and the contracting will be finished by the end of next year.

It is known that the missiles for the short- and medium-range systems are to be procured abroad. What elements of the created air defense system will be Polish?

The Polish industry will mainly supply sensors and communications means, including the P-18PL early warning radars, the passive radars and the mentioned Sajna radars for the Narew sets, as well as mobile communication nodes. On top of that, the launchers for both systems will be produced at Huta Stalowa Wola. The Polish arms industry is also responsible for the development and delivery of special chasses built on the basis of Jelcz trucks, commander cabins and the maintenance and servicing equipment. We are planning to extend domestic deliveries, adding components that will be developed as a result of the transfer of technologies procured on the basis of offset agreements signed in the first phase of the Wisła program.

Poland will also be involved in the production of missiles themselves. The contract signed within the frame of the first phase included offset. Therefore, our production plants gained the opportunity to manufacture some elements of the US PAC-3 MSE missiles, which are the most advanced missiles dedicated for that system. In the future, they will be included in the delivery chain of the American producer. As for the Narew program, which involves introducing into the army at least 23 batteries, we expect that the missiles will be produced under license in Poland.

The conflict in Ukraine has shown that as a country, we already posses industrial potential to produce some elements of the air defense system ourselves. I mean the Piorun anti-aircraft missiles, transferred to the fighting Ukraine, which have proven very effective in countering Russian aerial vehicles operating at low altitudes, and which are lethal to the aggressor’s helicopters.

You’ve mentioned Polish radars. What is the current phase of work on these radars and when can we expect contracts for procurement?

The military is conducting qualification tests of the P-18PL early-warning radar and the passive radar. If everything goes according to schedule, and they meet the requirements of the soldiers, the work should be completed within several months. A positive evaluation will enable us to move to the phase of procurement negotiations. The qualification tests of the Sajna radars will begin next year.

Will the organizational and legal changes introduced in the military equipment procurement system and the adopted homeland defense act make it possible to accelerate the Wisła and Narew programs?

We can already see that the reform of the military equipment procurement system has accelerated the process of concluding contracts. The most important move was the creation of the Armament Agency, which was equipped with more effective tools, in particular those for determining military equipment requirements. Shortening the decision-making chain and limiting the number of entities engaged in the procurement of equipment has allowed us to react to the occurring challenges in a more flexible way, and to avoid the so-called bottlenecks. The Small Narew contract is a good example – the time from the moment I made the decision on procuring the system to the moment of concluding the contract was less than a month.

What air defense systems will be delivered to the air defense forces this year?

We are expecting the delivery of the first Narew system fire unit already in September, and the second unit at the turn of 2022 and 2023. From October, the deliveries of two Patriot batteries, contracted in 2018, will begin. Currently, the army is receiving Piorun missiles and Pilica missile and artillery system sets, ordered in 2016. The army has already received all the Poprad self-propelled missile system sets contracted at the end of 2015. All this means that at the end of the year we will have a functional backbone of the Polish multi-level and integrated national air defense system.

You’ve mentioned that the Piorun missiles produced by Mesko proved effective in the war in Ukraine. Apart from the mobile launchers, are you going to order  additional self-propelled sets that will use the Piorun missiles?

The capabilities of Piorun have been known for many years. Its predecessor, Grom, had already proved its effectiveness during the Russian invasion on Georgia in 2008. The Polish Armed Forces now have both of these types, and orders for Piorun will be gradually increased. We are purchasing them not only for the man-portable rocket launchers, but also for the needs of the Poprad and Pilica anti-aircraft systems. We are also considering adapting them to other combat platforms.

What other solutions reinforcing air defense will we see in the future?

The Polish Ministry of National Defense is intensively working, among other things, on increasing the capability of the army to counter drones and helicopters. Apart from introducing the Pilica system, we are considering the possibility of further modernization of the Biała self-propelled anti-aircraft system, and, in the long run, there is the Sona program. The tracked system created within the frame of Sona will counter missiles, mortar bombs and artillery projectiles, as well as enemy aircraft, helicopters and UAVs. We are also interested in new systems for detecting and countering small drones.

Which air defense units are treated as a priority when it comes to deliveries of new armament?

The transformation includes all air defense units. Understandably, however, our priority now is the eastern part of the country. This is where the Narew system sets will be delivered.

Introducing new armament and equipment in the army is often connected with the necessity to modify existing organizational structures. Will this process take place in the ground air defense units?

It will. The introduction of the Narew and Wisła systems, working within an integrated air defense system, will influence the structure and organization of units using the equipment. We are analyzing the directions for modernization and development of air defense forces on an ongoing basis. In order for this process to be well coordinated, I appointed a representative for the creation of integrated air and missile defense.

The acceleration does not only concern air defense. The last few weeks have also brought decisions in areas such as artillery. What investments can we expect in this extent?

In May, I signed a request for quote directed to Americans, concerning the procurement of about 500 M142 HIMARS [High Mobility Artillery Rocket System] for the needs of the over 80 Homar system batteries. Of course, it won’t be the only decision taken this year with a view to reinforcing the missile and artillery forces. We are also planning to sign contracts for other elements of the Regina squadron level fire modules, such as more Krab self-propelled howitzers, as well as artillery reconnaissance vehicles for the Rak company fire modules. The executors of these contracts will be PGZ companies.

The focus on increasing the potential of the missile and artillery forces – I mean the equipment for countering enemy targets at distances up to even 300 km – results from the analyses conducted at the MoND on the course of armed conflicts in the last several years. On top of everything, however, it is connected with the ongoing aggression of the Russian Federation in Ukraine.

Romzawiał Tadeusz Wróbel

autor zdjęć: Leszek Chemperek / CO MON

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