Poland deal with South Korea represents new era of European defenceReading Time: 3 minutes
Poland will sign executive agreements with The Republic of Korea on Friday to equip the Polish Army with its first shipments of K2 Black Panther battle tanks and K9 self-propelled gun-howitzers, Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak announced in an interview on Thursday.
“The contracts for the whole package total USD 3.37bn for the K2 tanks and USD 2.4bn for the K9 cannons,” Blaszczak said, adding that the first deliveries will arrive from the Asian country this year.
The Polish Ministry of Defence says it wants to replace the equipment it has provided to Ukraine, including T-72/PT-91 and Krabow tanks.
Hyundai Rotem will supply Poland with the K2 tanks and Hanwha the K9 cannons. The signing of the contract on Friday will take place in Morag, north Poland, according to polskatimes.pl. Poland is also hoping for a technology transfer with South Korea, so it can eventually launch domestic production.
The military supply agreement is not South Korea’s first with Poland. The fuselage of its Krab howitzer has been license-built in Poland since 2014, after Hanwha Defense won two production contracts for a total of 120 chassis, with 84 to be assembled in the European country.
However Friday’s deal represents a milestone on military cooperation between these two countries, who share tense security situations.
After taking office in May, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol pledged to increase defence cooperation with democratic nations. The following month he became the country’s first leader to visit a NATO summit, in Spain, which he attended as an observer.
“The contract fulfills the framework of the contract signed earlier and will apply to 180 K2 tanks and 212 K9 gun howitzers, the equivalents of Polish Krabs, Blaszczak said on Thursday, adding that “we will buy as many Krab guns as the Polish defence industry produces”.
Last month Poland signed framework agreements for defence equipment from South Korean companies Korean Hyundai Rotem Co., Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd (KAI) and Hanwha Defense.
If that framework agreement is fully implemented, Poland could become Seoul’s most lucrative defence export destination, as it is potentially worth USD 15bn in total.
Blaszczak said Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) plans to spend 524 billion zlotys (USD110.2bn) on defence by 2035, although full details of this arrangement have not been released.
Days before the signing of that framework deal late last month, ruling party PiS chairman and Poland’s de facto leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said the country plans to devote 3% of GDP to defence, and to raise this over time to 5%.
The country is already spending around 2% of its GDP on defence for 2022, as is the official NATO requirement, and is planning to reach 3% next year.
This would make Poland the biggest spending NATO country, in terms of percentage of national GDP, ahead of the US and Greece.
“Our allies will help us, but only when we are able to defend ourselves,” Kaczynski said, and criticised Poland’s leadership since 1989.
PiS “never had any illusions that this broken empire would not counterattack”, Kaczynski added, referring to his own party’s view of Russia.
KAI, working with US firm Lockheed Martin, will also provide FA-50 light fighter aircraft, which Poland wants to replace the post-Soviet equipment, Blaszczak said. The contracts for the aircraft will be signed this year.
“The first 12 will be sent to Poland next year and will be stationed at the military airport in Minsk Mazowiecki (eastern Poland),” Blaszczak said.
Over the last six months, since Russia commenced its invasion of Ukraine, Poland has been sending Soviet-era MIG-29 warplanes to the war-torn country, and the Polish defence ministry has said it intends to replace these with the purchase of FA-50s.