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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).

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

Safe Sky

Anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense system, which is now being formed in the Polish army, will be one of the most advanced arsenal in the world.

Soon, Poland will have a new integrated anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense system, which compared to the previous one, based on 40-year-old solutions, should bring the Polish army enormous changes. Its formation is not either easy, or fast or cheap: budgeting itself indicates that this is going to be the most expensive army modernization program for decades. The budget will be as high as 100 billion zlotys, with the included costs such as new missiles development or acquiring in the future another Polish components, including radars.

If it comes to delivery time, from the moment of putting this program on the army modernization priority list, to one of the final phases of equipment deliveries (planned at the end of 2022), ten years will pass. It should however be kept in mind that this is the hardest – from the organizational, conceptual and financial point of view – modernization program of our army for six decades now. What’s symbolic, in the 1960s the Polish army also had to build new anti-aircraft capabilities, while shifting from artillery systems to the missile ones, based on extended radiolocation. However changes, both those 60 years ago and the current ones, were and are necessary.

Initial Capital

When in the mid-1990s we filed for accepting us as members of the North-Atlantic Treaty Organization, we had to point to strong and weak sides of the Polish army, declaring when and how we would fill the gaps, so after we join NATO, we would not differ from other members. Although our army at the end of the 1990s certainly was not one of European aces, and we declared to make changes in such areas as aviation and artillery, still there were some areas we were proud of. One of them was anti-aircraft forces, which had at their disposal, perhaps not the most advanced, but quite good at the time missile arsenal (apart from several types of artillery weapon).

Anti-aircraft regiments of the land forces were armed with the 9K33M2/M3 Osa (range of 10 km) and 2K12 Kub (24-km range) missile systems, and one air defense missile brigade in the Air Force was armed with S-125 Newa (25-km range) and S-200WE Wega (about 240-km range) missile systems. The most up-to-date anti-aircraft missile system in the arsenal of the Polish army at the time was the weapon of the shortest range (several kilometers), i.e. man-portable Grom anti-aircraft missile systems, which entered service in 1995, gradually replacing in line the obsolete post-Soviet Strela-2Ms.

After Poland joined NATO, it turned out that used by our soldiers anti-aircraft weapon, which based on solutions dating back to the 1970s, did not meet requirements of contemporary battlefield. The range of detection of enemy aircraft, acquisition range, the number of targets, which can be traced at the same time, and then destroyed – these were the main areas for comparison, where our weapon was assessed as worse with every passing year.

In 2008, the first complex plan for rebuilding the anti-aircraft potential of our army was outlined. The Plan for Technical Modernization of the Polish Armed Forces during 2009-2018 assumed investments in almost all anti-aircraft missile systems, which are in the arsenal of the Polish army. Only Groms were advanced enough, and they did not require modifications. In 2012, the Ministry of National Defense decided on dismissing the concept to modernize old armament and instead build a new air defense system for the country, i.e. the Shield of Poland. It was to include three components. The very-short-range air defense system (VSHORAD), with the Pilica missile-artillery systems, the Poprad self-propelled missile systems and Grom and Piorun man-portable missile launchers – were to combat targets located several kilometers away. The short-range air defense system (SHORAD) with the Narew missile systems was designated for combat with aircraft and missiles at the maximum distance of 25 km. The medium-range air defense system (MRAD) with the Patriot missile systems, being a part of the Wisła system, was used for target acquisition (including ballistic missiles) in the distance up to 100 km.

For that reason, Poland decided to replace obsolete post-Soviet missile systems with the more advanced solutions, as well as acquire new operational capabilities, such as countering enemy maneuvering and ballistic missiles. For the Polish army, this meant a breakthrough, because it had not owned such weapons before.

Rapid Acceleration

That would be it, if it comes to plans; it was worse when it came to their implementation. Until 2015, no new contract for a delivery of any of the components of the integrated ground air defense system for Poland had been signed. Indeed, there had been analytical and conceptual work ongoing and individual process had been launched, mainly focused on MRAD (Wisła) and VSHORAD (Pilica) systems, but no purchase were ever made.

The first for the air defense system was acquired the short-range weapons. In December 2015, a contract with PIT Radwar was signed for delivery of 77 Poprad self-propelled anti-aircraft missile systems (cost: 1 billion 83 million zlotys). In November 2016, the MoND Armament Inspectorate ordered in the consortium of the PGZ companies, i.e. Zakłady Mechaniczne Tarnów, PCO, and PIT Radwar, six batteries of the Pilica missile-artillery system (for 750 million zlotys). A month later MoND approved the last contract for the VSHORAD weapon, i.e. the Piorun portable missile systems. For 1,300 missiles and 420 launchers, the Polish military was obliged to pay PGZ over 930 million zlotys.

Definitely worse was the situation with the Narew and Wisła systems. The contract on the procurement of two batteries of the Patriot missile system worth 4.75 billion dollars was signed as late as in March 2018. The first battery is to be delivered to Poland at the break of 2022/2023, and another one at the beginning of 2023. As to Narew, rapid acceleration occurred only in the recent months. The framework contract, signed by the MoND Armament Inspectorate in September 2021 with the PGZ consortium for delivery of 23 missile systems assumes that first weapons will enter service at the break of 2026/2027.

Key Integration

In April 2022, Mariusz Błaszczak, Polish defense minister, based on the conclusions from the Russian aggression on Ukraine, decided that this program has to be significantly accelerated. In effect, the Armament Agency, which as of January 1, 2022 replaced the MoND Armament Inspectorate, signed a contract valued at 1.5 billion zlotys for delivery of (as soon as this year) two Narew batteries armed with common anti-air modular missiles (CAMMs) of 25-km range and fitted with Polish Soła radars and Polish command and control system. The first battery is to be delivered to Poland in the fall, and the next one at the break of 2022/23. The first Narew and Wisła missile systems entering service means launching the new system of integrated anti-aircraft and missile defense, which opens brand new operational and tactical capabilities to the Polish Armed Forces. Crucial for achieving this is widely understood integration. “The basis for building new capabilities is integration of the systems of command, reconnaissance, air and attack situation monitoring in national and allied system,” emphasizes General Jarosław Mika, Chief Commander of the Armed Forces, and adds: “The pillars of unified air defense system will be network-centricity, multidimensionality, and a joint picture of tactical situation, which warns and alarms about threats, as well as effective air defense and missile defense.” In practice, this means that owing to Wisła, Narew, Pilica and Poprad – joint advanced combat and control systems, powered with reconnaissance information provided by new active and passive radiolocation stations – anti-aircraft and missile defense system will enable to fight today inaccessible targets, such as ballistic or maneuvering missiles.

What’s important, enemy air attack measures can now be detected, tracked and counteracted at much longer distances, adjusting armament to specific threats, not destroying, for example, drones with expensive anti-ballistic missiles. According to Col Michał Marciniak, the representative for defense minister for building integrated anti-aircraft and missile defense system, the system now created in Poland will be the most advanced in the world. “Our concept is better than the Americans have, because they so far have planned to use the Patriots mostly to defend against enemy missiles. As if, assuming their own domination in the air, were forgetting about threats such as aircraft, helicopters or drones. These shouldn’t be handled with costly and expensive PAC-3 MSE missiles,” the Colonel adds.

As estimated by experts, such approach will make significant changes in tactics, not only as regards anti-aircraft and missile defense, but actually almost entire Polish Armed Forces. “These changes are fundamental. In new integrated air defense system, the commanders at the tactical level will not have to have their anti-aircraft component protect them. With the regional activity of the system, which creates in a given zone the so-called ‘defensive bubble’ or ‘no-go zone,’ they will be able to just do their tasks,” Col Michał Marciniak explains.

General Commander of the Polish Armed Forces also points to one more issue. In his opinion, introducing to the Polish Armed Forces advanced missile, missile-artillery and artillery systems will significantly contribute to increasing combat capabilities of anti-aircraft defense forces, as regard counteracting potential air threats. “This process will significantly implicate the changes in organizational structures both the land forces and air force. One of the most important changes is forming in the land forces the 18th Anti-Aircraft Regiment, which will be fitted with anti-aircraft missile systems of new generation, such as Piorun, Poprad, Narew and the so-called little Narew,” adds General Jarosław Mika.

Strategic Brigade

The key role in a new system is played by the 3rd Warsaw Air Defense Missile Brigade (3WADMB). Its divisions will own all ordered Pilica batteries, and soon they will also have first Wisła batteries and Narew systems. As emphasized by the brigade commander, Col Sławomir Kojło, this is related to the investments both in personnel and infrastructure. To accommodate new weapons, about one billion zlotys has been allocated for new building and necessary staff and workshop facilities. “Owing to planned investments, the 3 WADMB will be self-reliant in the aspect of technical service of their systems at the level 2 [i.e. advanced servicing],’ explains Col Kojło.

Although infrastructural investments are crucial, the key to building a new system anti-aircraft system are soldiers who will be servicing the new advanced missile, radiolocation and command support systems. The soldiers of the 3rd Warsaw Air Defense Missile Brigade are not only gaining knowledge about a design and operation of the Patriot missile systems (e.g. Allied Patriot Air Defense Operator Course), but also are improving their English language skills as regards technical vocabulary in Defense Language Institute – English Language Center in Texas.

As Col Kojło says, his subordinates are trained both in the USA and in other training centers in NATO countries. “They participated, among others, in Air Defense Artillery Captains Career Course, Air Defense Artillery Basic Officer Leader Course, or Integrated Air and Missile Defense Course,” confirms the commander.

Upcoming Future

Col Michał Marciniak declares that building new systems of anti-aircraft and anti-ballistic defense enters is a decisive implementation phase. On May 24, 2022, the Polish Ministry of National Defense informed that within the frames of the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) procedure, it had filed to the government of the United States the request for tender about selling Poland the next six Patriot batteries with IBCS (Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System). In 2018, two of previously planned eight batteries were ordered, and the Wisła program was divided into two phases. Such decision was made based on the fact that the Americans did not have at their disposal at the time Patriot configuration with a 360° radars, which we expected. Since they have them now, Poland decided on the purchase of the missing batteries.

That is not all. In 2023, a contract for 23 Narew batteries should also be closed. The goal of Poland is clear – we want to purchase not only weapon, but also acquire key competences for Polish defense industry. “There are ongoing negotiations on transfer of technology for the production of the CAMMs family, which should end next year,” says Col Marciniak. When this happens, the next step is to wait for delivery of armament and equipment for the needs of the new Polish ground-based air defense system.

Krzysztof Wilewski

autor zdjęć: Daniel Andalukiewicz / 35 Dywizjon Rakietowy OP, Lockheed Martin, Sky Sabre - UK MoD

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