In the presence of the Polish Minister of Defense, Mariusz Baszczak, on February 28, a framework contract was signed at the headquarters of Huta Stalowa Wola (HSW SA, a Polish defence contractor) for the supply of over 1,400 infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) and specialised vehicles on the Borsuk medium tracked platform. It is the largest and most complex Polish armaments project since the end of the Second World War. It will significantly affect the Polish military, the arms industry, and the economy.
Borsuk and the latest heavy IFV
The new amphibious IFV NPBWP (Nowy Bojowy Pywajcy Wóz Piechoty) Borsuk project is being carried out by a consortium led by HSW, a subsidiary of the Polish Arms Company PGZ (Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa).
2014 saw the beginning of the Borsuk programme, which was established on the basis of a project that had been launched by the National Center for Research and Development (NCBiR). In 2018, the first true prototype of the Borsuk was built, and it had an unmanned combat module called the ZSSW-30 (Zdalnie Sterowany System Wieowy) that was manufactured in Poland. Independent of the Borsuk programme from the beginning, the ZSSW-30 programme is still operating independently.
A year has passed since the conclusion of the tests conducted in the factory. Since then, the Borsuk has reached the point where it can be incorporated into the armament of the Polish army. This year, the Polish army will put the first four IFV Borsuk through their paces through military testing.
The Borsuk is a medium amphibious tracked IFV with a ZSSW-30 module, three crew members, and six landing troops. The combat weight of the vehicle in its default configuration is 28 tonnes. Frontal ballistic protection is rated as providing level 4 protection by STANAG 4569.
It has been stated that the IFV Borsuk will transfer to the 16th Mechanised Division in northern Poland, close to Královka, before commencing operations in the Baltics with South Korean K2 Black Panther tanks.
The 18th Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) Division was supposed to get the heavy South Korean IFV AS21 Redback, but the Polish army decided to test it out instead. The tests did not yield positive results. Because of some design flaws, the prototype turned out to be defective.
Hence, Warsaw revealed its plan to develop its own land-based heavy IFV. The hefty chassis from Krab (or K9) howitzers will be adapted and fitted with the ZSSW-30 module. Heavy IFVs are designed for the 18th Division’s “spike” and will operate on the Abrams’ flanks. The 18th Division guards Warsaw facing Belarus and the Smolensk Gate from the east. It is the strongest and most important alliance military grouping along the eastern frontier of NATO.
Borsuk to serve as the mainstay of the Polish ground forces
The framework contract calls for the production of more than one thousand individual fighting vehicles (IFV) based on the Borsuk platform and more than three hundred specialised vehicles. Although exact numbers have yet to be made public, it is estimated that there are approximately 1,400 units involved.
Specialist vehicles include reconnaissance ZUK, command OSET, evacuation GOTEM, technological security GEKON and vehicles for radiation and chemical investigation ARES.
The total cost of the Borsuk project is many tens of billions of zlotys, with the first vehicle deliveries scheduled for 2024 or 2025. The annual production rate is projected to reach at least 100 units by 2027 or 2028. Hence, the framework contract covers the delivery of Borsuk until nearly 2040.
The Polish army must equip up to 20 mechanised battalions with armoured IFVs due to the development of the new fourth 18th mechanised Division. Each battalion contains 58 IFVs, including four companies with 14 IFVs and two battalion command IFVs. Also, the battalion will have additional special vehicles on the tracks.
The Polish mechanised battalion requires 90 armoured vehicles, with at least 66 based on the Borsuk platform. They include carriers of portable anti-tank missile complexes Spike (six per vehicle) and reconnaissance vehicles.
Consequently, 1280 IFV Borsuk are required to meet the requirements, and these are only IFVs with a ZSSW-30 turret and a 30mm automatic weapon.
The Polish Army has received 309 IFV Rosomak with the HITFIST-30P module and will receive 180 IFV Rosomak with the ZSSW-30 turret (a total of 489 units), in addition to 50 R-1 / R-2 vehicles with the HITFIST-30P module and 28 with the ZSSW- 30.
According to the expected structure, the four Polish divisions require almost 2,000 wheeled and tracked medium/heavy IFVs. Concurrently, it is intended to construct the fifth and sixth divisions.