On April 28, the Polish Ministry of Defence placed an order with the British missile company MBDA (MBDA UK) for a total of 2.15 billion euros to purchase 44 iLauncher launchers and several hundred CAMM (Common Anti-Air Modular Missile) missiles. CAMM is the latest generation air defence system deployed by the British Army and Royal Navy.
This is the largest purchase initiative for Sky Sabre short-range anti-aircraft defence inside NATO, according to MBDA UK, which operates in the United Kingdom.
Within the context of NATO, it is one of the most significant European bilateral air defence agreements. According to the British Ministry of Defence, this marks the culmination of several months of close coordination between the United Kingdom and Poland. It was reported that Warsaw placed an order for three Arrowhead-140 (or Type 31) frigates in 2022.
This order was placed to fulfil the requirements of the Pilica+ programme, which is being run by the Polish group PGZ. This programme requires the production of 22 air defence batteries with a range of up to 25 kilometres each. Deliveries of CAMM missiles, around 750 units, and iLauncher launchers are scheduled between 2025 and 2029.
This contract was pretty foreseeable given that MBDA UK and PGZ had previously delivered to the Polish military in 2022 an air defence battery equipped with CAMM missiles in response to an urgent demand identified by the Polish army. In addition, the two manufacturers have worked together on the NAREW plan, which aims to provide Poland with an “intermediate” air defence capability based on the CAMM-ER.
The Polish Ministry of Defence also acquired two Patriot air defence batteries from the United States in 2018 as part of the Wisla plan. The very first shipment was sent to Poland back in December 2022.
Notably, Poland has not joined the “European Sky Shield” programme, which Germany launched in October 2022 as part of an effort to construct a European air defence system within NATO by pushing the joint procurement of the essential capabilities.
When these acquisitions are complete, Poland will have a system that is both stronger and more comprehensive than what is currently offered by Germany.
Advancing the schedule
Due to concerns posed by Russia, Poland has revised and accelerated its plans. Consequently, on April 14, 2022, the Ministry of Defence awarded the Polish consortium PGZ-Narew a contract to deliver the first battery of two new anti-aircraft missile systems.
Soon after, on April 25, 2022, PGZ-Narew and MBDA UK jointly signed an agreement to manufacture the first two units in the series. The battery, including all apparatus, spare parts, training, etc., would cost the Polish side approximately 320 million euros.
The first unit was to be manufactured and delivered by the end of September 2022, per the terms of the new contracts. The second one was anticipated to be completed by the beginning of 2023. It is not reported how plans have changed for the distant future. Previously, it was stated that the Polish army would acquire 23 batteries of new units costing up to 14 billion euros by 2035.
As a reminder, Poland selected the British ship-based missile system Sea Ceptor at the start of 2022. The CAMM and CAMM-ER missiles were intended for use in the prospective frigate project Miecznik.
Sky Sabre for Poland
The Sky Sabre system and its modifications to the Polish military are mobile short-range air defence systems. With the assistance of a self-propelled chassis, it can rapidly arrive at a designated location and, after deployment, begin long-term service. It will work independently and as part of a layered air defence system.
The complex consists of multiple major components. The Sola detection and fire control radar by Polish Defense Company Pitradwar, a command post, three iLauncher launchers, and CAMM missiles. Britain will produce the missiles and launcher apparatus, while Poland will assemble them on its Jelcz P882 chassis by Zakłady Samochodowe Jelcz/Jelczańskie Zakłady Samochodowe.
The Sola radar detects aerial targets at distances of at least 25 to 30 kilometres and provides weapon target designation. This solution is regarded as a transitional one. In the not too distant future, the Sajna radar, which possesses an active phased array antenna and improved performance characteristics, will be integrated into the SAM system. As a supplement to radar, optical-electronic stations are used. Each launcher’s elevating mast carries one of these devices.
Due to its optics and radar, the air defence missile system can operate in active and passive situations. The data is transmitted to the command post and processed to control the armaments.
The CAMM is a modernised variant of the AIM-132 ASRAAM air-to-air missile. It is contained in a 3.2-meter-long, 166-millimeter-diameter cylinder with a set of planes on its outer surface. The weight of the item is 99 kilogrammes. The maximum flight speed is 4 Mach, and the maximum range is 25 kilometres.
The standard ASRAAM featured an infrared seeker. The redesigned CAMM is equipped with an active radar seeker. Additionally, two-way radio correction has been implemented. The warhead is a high explosive fragmentation warhead with impact and non-contact detonators.
CAMM missiles are supplied in conveyance and launch containers that are hermetically sealed. When on assignment, the self-propelled launcher iLauncher raises eight containers containing missiles. The launch is accomplished from a sloped position. A set of ready-to-use ammunition for a single complex contains 24 missiles and batteries.