Germany is almost done selling off one of the world’s most impressive tank fleets, earning itself a solid market around the world in the process, and choking sales of competitive designs. In November 2013, Poland announced that it would buy a 2nd batch of Leopard 2 tanks from Germany, along with assorted other equipment. As usual, the package price was incredibly cheap: just EUR 180 million for 119 more tanks, plus range training fittings, machine guns, radios; and assorted armored tractors, cars, and trucks. Poland’s next question is what to do with the new gear…
Poland’s Leopard Cavalry
Poland’s original set of 128 Leopard 2A4 tanks were bought and transferred in the mid-2000s. They need a full overhaul, and modernization would be an excellent idea. The new Leopards include another 14 2A4s, plus 105 of the more advanced Leopard 2A5s. This will form the high-end core of Poland’s armored brigades, with capabilities and survivability far ahead of its T-72 and PT-91 Twardy (locally designed upgrade beyond T-72M1) tanks.
The Polish Army needs commonality within its Leopard fleet at some point. Meanwhile, Polish industry is unhappy because the new acquisitions will replace the mothballed T-72 fleet with a German design, rather than having the MON fund a new Polish design by 2016. The logical solution is to involve Polish industry in a common upgrade effort that will begin by bringing the existing fleet to a more advanced Leopard 2PL standard, then follow by upgrading the newer Leopard 2A5s to create a common Polish standard.
Rumors have Poland looking for a final configuration that’s similar to Canada’s new Leopard 2A6Ms. That would reshape and strengthen the armor structure to 2A5 levels and beyond, upgrade the sights and communications, beef up the internal climate control to handle hot environments like Afghanistan, add extra mine blast protection underneath, and provide points to fit engineering utilities like dozer blades and mine clearance rollers.
A parallel track is working to make Poland self-sufficient in producing the 2 key ammunition types for its tank fleet: 120mm High Explosive shells for general use, and tungsten Armor Piercing Fin-stabilized Discarding Sabot shells for killing other tanks. Mesko S.A., which is being folded into Poland’s PGZ, has now received contracts for both types, and industrial investment is underway.
Contracts & Key Events
March 21/17: Poland’s Jenoptik Defense & Civil Systems has been contracted $11.38 million to work as a subcontractor in support of Poland’s Leopard 2 main battle tank modernization program. Under the agreement, Jenoptik will provide 126 17-kilowatt auxiliary power units to Polish company ZM Bumar Labedy S.A., and an additional seven units to Rheinmetall Defense. Rheinmetall will receive ten electric turret and weapon stabilization systems that will be used to replace the hydraulic systems currently used to reduce heat generation inside the tank. Warsaw began the upgrade of their 126 Leopard 2 tanks in February 2016. Elsewhere, Polish and US tank operators recently began a series of tactical maneuvering exercises in preparation for an upcoming NATO training event, aimed at improving participants’ ability to shoot, move, and communicate with one another on the battlefield.
February 22/16: A modernization of Poland’s Leopard 24A tanks will involve collaboration between Germany’s Rheinmetall Landsysteme GmbH and Poland’s state-run defense company Bumar-Labedy SA. The $144 million contract will see Rheinmetall build a prototype upgraded tank, dubbed the Leopard 2PL, and modernize a trial batch of about a dozen units. As with all ongoing Polish defense deals, the next phase will see work domesticated after a knowledge and technology transfer to Bumar-Labedy, who will take care of the modernization of the remaining tanks. At present, the Polish Army operates 128 Leopolds after a 2002 purchase from the German Bundeswehr.
October 6/15: Poland’s Armament Inspectorate has reportedly received three offers to upgrade the country’s Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks. Turkey’s Aselsan and Germany’s Rheinmetall and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann are the three bidders, with a selection slated for later this month. The country has bought two batches of Leopard 2A4s from Germany, with the Polish Army also operating around a hundred more modern 2A5 variants. In total 142 MBTs will be modernized, with a prototype scheduled for production next year. The new design will be known as the Leopard 2PL, with the winning bidder set to collaborate with the Polish Armaments Group to complete the modernization program.
Nov 13/14: Ammo. The Ministry of National Defence’s Armaments Inspectorate signs a PLN 240 million ($71 million) multi-year contract for tank shells with Mesko S.A. at Lucznik Arms Factory in Radom. This is the companion buy to the Sept 27/14 contract, designed to make Poland self-sufficient in tank-killing APFSDS-T 120mm shells as well as high-explosive ammunition. The new shells will supplement, and eventually replace, German DM33A2 tungsten armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot shells.
Supplying 13,000 APFSDS-T shells from 2015 – 2017 is only part of the bigger industrial picture. The consolidation of Mesko and other firms into PGZ (Polish Armaments Group/ Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa in Polish) is still on, and modernizing the Lucznik factory is part of that. Polish authorities will invest about PLN 45 million ($13 million) in new tooling and technology lines, as part of Poland’s efforts to ensure “independence for the Polish arms industry in this segment of military production.”
Poland is taking significant steps toward a defensive posture that is part of NATO, but senior officials doubt that NATO would actually help. As such, they’re trying to rely on that help as little as possible. They aren’t withdrawing from NATO by any means, and are pursuing closer cooperation and training with the German Army that could extend to joint commands – but they’re also quietly reviving the Home Army by recruiting at shooting clubs, etc. Sources: Dziennik Zbrojny, “Polish combat ammunition for Polish Leopard 2 tanks” | Aviation Week Ares, “Poland and Germany Deepen Army Cooperation” | The XX Committee, “Poland Prepares for Russian Invasion”.
120mm APFSDS-T ammo & Poland’s posture
Oct 20/14: 2A5s. Leopard 2A5 tanks continue to arrive from Germany (q.v. Nov 23/13) by rail, to join the 34th Armoured Cavalry Brigade. They’re received by German contractors, who work beside the Polish Army on inspection and maintenance to certify their condition.
Of course, an order like this requires more than just tanks. Technical support vehicles and trucks, specialized technical equipment, AGDUS laser shooting simulators etc. also need to arrive. But the process is underway. Sources: Defence24, “Poland Receives More Leopard 2A5 Tanks”.
Sept 27/14: Ammo. The Ministry of National Defence’s Armaments Inspectorate finalizes a PLN 114.4 million ($34.8 million) contract with Mesko S.A. for 14,000 120mm high-explosive tank shells, to be delivered as a multi-year deal over 2014-2017 (q.v. January 2013). Negotiations were sole-source in order to maintain the same set of ammunition for training and supply/ support chain purposes, and to maintain Poland’s industrial base in this area. In addition:
“The administrator indicates lack of possibility of introducing another set of ballistic data regarding the new round into the fire control system of the Leopard 2A4 tanks. The fire control system of the Polish Leopards 2A4 has an option of introducing only one more type of ammo, but this slot is reserved for the new 120×570 mm round with a sabot projectile.”
Poland currently uses German DM33 aluminum/tungsten sabot shells, but they don’t have the same effectiveness against explosive reactive armors as the most modern AFPSDS ammunition. Sources: Defence24, “Polish Army Acquires New Ammo for the Leopard Tanks”.
120mm HE ammo
Sept 2/14: 2PL etc. Poland is backing off of its planned Leopard 2PL upgrade, until the major industry consolidation takes place into PGZ (Polish Armaments Group/ Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa in Polish). This will allow the MON to allocate this work directly rather than relying on chosen team-ups (q.v. Dec 10/13), but it also takes away a lot of the competitive incentive. What it will not change, is the need to find a partner from Germany or Turkey with the requisite know-how. An opportunity for KMW, and for Poland’s GAIN SA? We’ll see.
The initial 2012 plan involved prototype rollout in 2014-2015, with full modernization of Poland’s original Leopard 2A4 fleet taking place from 2015-2018. Unfortunately, waiting for PGZ will destroy that timeline.
Poland will also need to address the issue of armored vehicles to accompany 34 Brigade’s Leopard 2A5 tanks. 10 Armoured Brigade currently uses M113 tracked APCs and derivative M577 command vehicles alongside its Leopard 2A4s, but Poland doesn’t have uncommitted surplus armored vehicles to stand up the 2nd Leopard tank brigade. There are rumors that Poland is negotiating a transfer of mothballed M113s and M577s from the USA in order to fill this gap. That will bring the issue of a 2nd modernization to the fore, of course, in order to ensure that the new armored vehicles can all work together. Sources: DziennikZbrojny.pl, “Przetarg na modernizacje Leopardow z problemami”.
Dec 10/13: 2PL upgrade. Poland’s MON receives 3 responses to their modernization RFP. The teams are:
* Wojskowe Zaklady Motoryzacyjne S.A., Wojskowymi Zakladami Lacznosci, and Rheinmetall Landsysteme GmbH
* Bumar-Labedy, OBRUM Gliwice, and PHO
* PCO SA and Turkey’s Aselsan Elektronik
Sources: DziennikZbrojny.pl, “Przetarg na modernizacje Leopardow z problemami”.
Nov 23/13: More Leopards. Poland orders their 2nd batch of Leopard 2 tanks from Germany, along with assorted other equipment: range training fittings, machine guns, radios; and assorted armored tractors, cars, and trucks.
As usual, the package price was incredibly cheap: just EUR 180 million for 119 more tanks (14 2A4s + 105 2A5s), plus all of the extras.
119 Leopard 2s: 14 L2A4, 105 L2A5
Oct 30/13: 2PL upgrade. Poland releases an RFP for modernization of its existing Leopard tank fleet to the 2PL standard. Upgrades will include modifications including armor improvements, a suspension upgrade, and modernized sighting and fire control. It’s issued per Decision No 118 of the Minister of National Defence, bypassing the Public Procurement Law in the interests of national security. This allows Poland to issue the RFP to domestic firms only, despite EU regulations. The deadline is Dec 10/13. Sources: Dziennik Zbrojny, “Przetarg na modernizacje Leopardow z problemami”.
January 2013: Ammo. A contract is signed with the Mesko Works to equip Poland’s Leopard tanks with 3,300 more 120mm high explosive shells: 1,500 in FY 2013, and 1,800 in FY 2014. The contract could grow to 14,000 shells, over a period lasting until 2017. Sources: Defence24, “14 thousand shells for Polish Leopards”.
Readers with corrections, comments, or information to contribute are encouraged to contact DID’s Founding Editor, Joe Katzman. We understand the industry – you will only be publicly recognized if you tell us that it’s OK to do so.
DID would like to thank our friends at DziennikZbrojny.pl for their assistance with ongoing developments.
* The Armor Site – Kampfpanzer Leopard 2. The best public information anywhere, all variants.
* Army Technology – PT-91 Twardy Main Battle Tank, Poland.
* DID – Poland’s Balancing Act: A Briefing for the Defense Sector – Part 1. Guest article from Avascent Consulting explains the PGZ consolidation among other issues. Part 2 link at the end.
* DID (Sept 9/14) – Polish Defence Modernization: Between strategic intent and spending reality. Dominik Kimla looks at a different aspect: asks if the TMP’s full $44 billion in funding will really be there, and what that might mean.
* DID (Sept 4/14) – Queen of Battles: Poland’s New Artillery Programs (2014 snapshot). Includes new self-propelled howitzers for use with heavy armored formations.
News & Views
* The XX Committee (Oct 30/14) – Poland Prepares for Russian Invasion.
* Dziennik Zbrojny (Sept 4/14) – Przetarg na modernizacje Leopardow z problemami.
* German Bundesministerium der Verteidigung (Nov 22/13) – Deutschland und Polen unterzeichnen Vertrag zum Kauf von Leopard Kampfpanzern.
* Polish MON (Nov 22/13) – Kolejne Leopardy dla wojsk ladowych.
* Defence24 (Sept 22/13) – Polska kupuje Leopardy. Early report of the deal, numbers are very close but not exact. Also points out Polish industrial grumbles.
* Altair (Sept 6/12) – e-RAPORT MSPO 4/2012 – Ku spolonizowanemu Leopardowi 2PL. Germany’s KMW signed an agreement with Bumar Group re: modernization of Poland’s Leopard 2A4s.