The long story of Poland’s Leopard 2 modernization is not complete yet. Although the initial issues over intellectual property, that put the entire project to a halt, have been solved, the main contractor for the modernization of the tanks seems to lag behind with deliveries. How significant is the delay?
Bumar-Labedy, one of Poland’s main industrial companies, is a key entity in the entire Leopard 2PL project which is overseen by PGZ and involves a number of additional contractors including Rheinmetall. The contractors are obliged to deliver 142 fully refurbished Leopard 2A4s, modernized to the 2PL standard, by the end of July 2023. The modernization includes additional armor, a new electric turret motor in place of the old hydraulics, KLW-1 Asteria 3rd generation thermal optics, a new CCTV set for the tank commander, KDN-1 Nyks backup camera, and a new auxiliary power unit.
However, “something is not yes” as the Polish version of “something is not right,” goes. From the pool of 142 Leopards 2A4s only 10 modernized vehicles have been delivered to the 1st Armoured Brigade in Warsaw, as of 16 July 2021, with the deliveries beginning back in October 2020.
One of the causes of the delay is of course the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that hit Poland hard during the winter and spring period. Another is the aforementioned issues over intellectual property which were finally settled late last year. It seems that a significant detachment of some of the Leopards 2A4s from their units and their complete dismantlement for modernization has lead to further problems. The first Leopard 2A4s were withdrawn in 2019, the 1st and 10th Armoured Brigades have been left with weakened tank battalions that will have to wait for sometime until their vehicles return. This means that the Polish Armed forces are left with 105 Leopard 2A5s, an unknown number of Leopard 2A4s, and only 10 of the modernized Leopard 2PL tanks. With the perspective of planned deliveries fading, this raises some concerns over the current strength of the Polish Army’s tank forces.
In March Bumar declared that it will be able to deliver up to 18 tanks by the end of 2021. This is due to the necessity of repairs and the lack of some parts. This means that the company has two years to deliver more than 100 tanks. At the current rate of deliveries (that is 10 tanks within the last 11 months), this seems an impossible schedule. Bumar will have to aggressively address the factors slowing delivery and significantly ramp their delivery schedule. If this proves to be difficult to accomplish then the contract delivery schedule will slip and the company’s delivery reliability will come into question. It would also raise questions about the feasibility of the Leopard 2PL project.
With the recent declaration of Poland’s plan to procure significant numbers of M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams tanks, beginning in 2022, the Leopard 2PL’s prolonged delivery schedule casts a bad light on the domestic capacity of the Polish military industrial complex to compete with foreign manufacturers who can provide the newest technological solutions of the shelf.