Will Poland opt for the South Korean K2 Black Panther MBT?

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

During a trip to Seoul, the Polish Defense Minister, Mariusz Błaszczak, at the end of May, said that Poland and South Korea would increase their military cooperation. He said Warsaw wants to acquire tracked chassis of the K9 Thunder howitzer produced by Hanwha Defense. Poland wants to increase the production rate of the 155 mm AHS Krab self-propelled tracked gun-howitzer, which has also recently been the subject of a large order notified by Ukraine to the Huta Stalowa group Wola [or HSW SA]. In addition, there was also talk of the purchase of armoured infantry vehicles [IFV] of South Korean origin.

However, the possible purchase of K2 “Black Panther” tanks from Hyundai Rotem was not mentioned by Blaszczak. Poland is seeking to replace the T-72s it had just transferred to Ukrainian Army. Poland prefers the German Leopard 2, which the Polish forces already have.

Warsaw hoped to benefit, like Prague, from the Ringtauschs initiative (loosely translated to ring exchange), which provides for the replacement, by Berlin, of military equipment of Soviet origin delivered to Ukraine by North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries. Poland has transferred over two hundred T-72 tanks and infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine. But Germany says it has not given a time frame for such a transfer. In addition, Poland was eyeing its Leopard 2s in reserve, but Switzerland did not respond favorably. Spain plans to cede its own to the Ukrainian army but remains blocked by Germany.

“The Polish army must be equipped with modern equipment. During my visit to South Korea, I discussed, among others, with representatives of Hyundai Rotem. Today, PGZ and Hyundai Rotem signed a memorandum on the joint development of tanks and armoured personnel carriers. This is an important step for the development of the army and the industry,” Blaszczak, 13 June, said via Twitter.

As a priori, the armoured personnel carrier mentioned by Blaszczak would be the wheeled vehicle K808 White Tiger. K808 weighs 20 tons and has a remotely operated cupola equipped with a 40 mm automatic grenade launcher or a 12.7 mm machine gun. It can also be equipped with a turret armed with a 30mm cannon and a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun. K808 would complement the Borsuk IFV, a 40-ton VCI designed by a consortium led by Huta Stalowa Wola [HSW, a subsidiary of the PGZ group] to replace the Polish army’s BWP-1s.

If Poland decides to buy K2 Black Panther, the first batch of assembled tanks would be delivered to meet its most urgent needs and allow the establishment of production in Poland, under the aegis of PGZ, within the framework of a vast transfer of technologies. A Polish version of this tank – called K2PL – had also been presented in September 2020 during the MSPO arms fair organized in Kielce.

The acquisition of the K2PL would be made within the framework of the Wolf program (Wilk Program), which, at its launch, provided for the replacement of the T-72 and PT-91 Twardy tanks [nearly 500 units]. It would come in addition to that of the 250 M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams recently ordered from the United States for around 5 billion dollars.

K2 “Black Panther” is also in the running to replace the Norwegian army’s Leopard 2A4s.

Leopard tanks became a bone of contention between Berlin and Warsaw

Warsaw and Berlin have entered a diplomatic spat over the supply of Leopard tanks under the Ringtauschs initiative. 

The Czechs agreed on procuring the Leopard 2 A4 tanks, which since 1979 began to enter service with the Bundeswehr instead of the first generation combat vehicles – the Leopard 1. But, Poland wants the most modern German Leopard 2 A7 tanks immediately to replace their T-72s.

“The problem is,” German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit explained, “that the Bundeswehr itself has such tanks only in a limited number; if I’m not mistaken, there are about 50 of them. Others are on the way. still needs to be done, which will take a lot of time.”

The German representative also added that while “more are in the pipeline, they are not standing on a car yard or factory site anywhere; they have to be manufactured.”

As per Hebestreit, Berlin explained the situation to the Polish side, adding that the Bundeswehr did not have enough Leopard 2 A4 tanks, after which there were no more negotiations on this topic. 

The Czech Republic is also interested in the upgraded Leopard 2 A7 tanks, but it plans to order 40 to 50 of these combat vehicles in the future from the manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) directly.


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