500 M142 HIMARS Launchers To Modernize Polish Rocket Artillery

On Thursday, May 26, the Polish Ministry of Defense sent an official Letter of Request to the US Congress for the planned acquisition of 500 MLRS units. The M142 HIMARS would be the Polish choice for its long-range MLRS platform under the Homar modernization program. Though the number requested has raised questions, several hundred launchers seems to be an excessive amount. However, this is precisely what the Ministry of Defense is looking for.

The confirmation of the request comes from the Polish Minister of Defense on Twitter. Mariusz Blaszczak announced that the Letter of Request was expedited to Congress and awaits a decision. Back in November 2017, the US State Department approved the foreign military sale of 16 HIMARs and in November 2018 a potential transfer of 20 HIMARs to Poland as part of a program to mount launchers on a Polish-made chassis. Combined these two procurements would cost $900 million – extrapolating the cost of as many as 500 systems would suggest a procurement running into the tens of billions of dollars.

A typical rocket artillery battalion in Polish Armed Forces consists of 3 artillery batteries, each battery equipped with 8 launchers. Every artillery regiment has 2 rocket artillery battalions (the 23rd Silesian Artillery Regiment is an expectation as it has 3 such battalions including a Czech RM-70/85 MLRS battalion instead of a self-propelled artillery one). There are 7 MLRS battalions in total, with 168 MLRS launchers. The additional 18th Artillery Regiment that’s being formed with the 18th Mechanized Division is going to employ another 48 MLRS launchers. The sum of all MLRS launchers within the Polish Armed Forces in operational forces is currently 216 launchers across 3 platforms: RM-70/85, WR-40 “Langusta”, and BM-21 “Grad”.

122mm WR-40 “Langusta” MLRS during live-fire drills. / Polish Ministry of Defense

The 500 launchers requested appears to exceed the needs of Polish MLRS artillery units significantly. It also exceeds the total number of launchers in US service. This leads to the following conclusions, either the Polish MoD is looking for a replacement for the post-Soviet BM-21 MLRS as well as 2S1 Gvozdika and Dana self-propelled artillery vehicles or they are looking to radically expand Poland’s long range fires and massed rocket capabilities, this perhaps comes as part of plans to significantly expand the Polish Armed Forces. The requested number may of course still be revised at any stage of negotiations between the manufacturing and receiving parties.