Poland Seeks Heavy IFV To Compliment Badger Program

The Polish Infantry Fighting Vehicle Badger was set to conclude its trials within the next few months, but the Polish Ministry of Defense has announced that they will be ordering four more prototypes for further evaluations. In recent weeks there have been some signals from the Ministry that the vehicle is not going to fulfil all of the roles that it will be assigned and may need to be augmented. The original requirements set by the ministry and military in the mid-2010s crippled constructors, mainly through the requirement of amphibious capabilities. The conflict in Ukraine has added fresh impetus for the Polish Army to procure a substantial number of capable IFVs.

AS21 may compliment Polish Badger IFV. / Picture by ElectroOpticSystem

There is some speculation around the potential choice of a new up-armoured IFV by the Polish Ministry of Defense. Lt. Col. Krzysztof Płatek, spokesman for Poland’s Armaments Agency, tweeted that the Polish armed forces are looking for a readily available IFV which would fill the gap between the procurement and full operational deployment of the Badger, noting that “even 100 copies [vehicles] a year declared by the industry is 10 years of generational replacement of equipment.” He continued, “I am not depreciating Huta [Badger’s manufacturers], but the Borsuk [Badger] IFV will not be a mature construction right away.” This is where Poland’s ties to the Republic of Korea may enter into the equation. There has been some suggestion that a rekindled Polish-South Korean relationship could see the Poles purchase a South Korean K21-based IFV. The Australian variant, AS21 ‘Redback’ is also often mentioned.

On 7 June, Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak confirmed that “after the in-house examinations, the qualifying examinations will begin in a month’s time. We have ordered 4 additional prototypes to improve Badger and use the opinions of the soldiers to build it.” A week earlier, on 30 May, Blaszczak also confirmed the need for a complimentary IFV as he met with Korean representatives of Hanwha Defense and tweeted about meeting for talks about the accelerated procurement of Korean self-propelled howitzers and IFVs.

The selection of a ‘complimentary’ IFV from South Korea, however, could lead to a weakening of Poland’s domestic industrial capabilities. While Blaszczak stated on 30 May that Poland intends to “use the production capacity of the Polish arms industry to the maximum when purchasing the Borsuk IFV and the Krab howitzer.” He noted that “equipment from Korea will further strengthen our potential in this area.” Confirmation of the Ministry of Defense’s choice to split procurement could have serious implications. The decision to purchase Korean-made IFVs could impact the outcome of the Badger program, with domestic manufacturer, Huta Stalowa Wola, potentially facing a cut to the numbers of vehicles ordered. This could in turn lead to a rise in a unit price of Badger and shake the program’s foundations.