Pakistan’s collaboration with Poland over critical military equipment on cards

  • HIT chairman-led delegation visits Poland, holds meeting with Polish Armaments Group

LAHORE/WARSAW: The possibility of Pakistan striking a deal with Polish Armaments Group (Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa, PGZ) over collaboration in the provision of critical military equipment may just be in play after a successful meeting between delegations from both countries.

According to details, Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT) Chairman Lt Gen Muhammad Naeem Ashraf led a delegation to visit the PGZ on November 28. This was the third and final official bilateral meeting involving PGZ and various Pakistani defence industry vendors this year. Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF) and the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) leadership met with PGZ on November 16 and November 24, respectively.

In the PGZ’s official response, first reported by defence watchdog and advisers Quwa, the HIT delegation discussed “the potential of cooperation in the field of land-based platforms” at the meeting. Furthermore, new top of the line equipment may also be part of the deal, after pictures released by PGZ show HIT officials reviewing product catalogues, including those for night-vision sights for small-arms, which is a technology the Pakistan armed forces are yet to acquire.

HIT Chairman Lt Gen Naeem Ashraf in a meeting with Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa

It is worth noting that the HIT is Pakistan’s primary supplier of main battle tanks (MBT), armoured personnel carriers (APC) and light armoured vehicles. HIT also manufactures 125 mm and 105 mm smooth bore guns and can forge barrels for cannons with munition calibres ranging from 105 mm to 203 mm. In fact, under this new set-up of modernisation, the HIT is rapidly transitioning its tank production process towards automated manufacturing by June 2018.

COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT) on July 19, where he was given a detailed briefing on defence production of the industry

PGZ (Polish Armaments Group) is a body that represents Poland’s defence companies—of which there are 60. So it’s a significant entity, providing manufacturing for the Polish forces (of armoured vehicles, small arms, aircraft, etc.) to long-term maintenance support. Among the Polish defence companies are Rosomak S.A., which manufactures an 8×8 armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) designated KTO Rosomak and Military Zakłady Motoryzacyjne SA, which provides maintenance and overhaul services for armoured vehicles.

Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa in numbers. Pic courtesy PGZ

Collaboration between Islamabad and Warsaw could mean an increased understanding between the two nations due to the increased defence-related trade, as well as a boost to Pakistan’s recent shift towards getting more modern defence-related technology. The meeting comes fast on the heels of speculations, reported earlier by Pakistan Today, that Pakistan and Turkey are also looking towards an increased understanding of defence-related expenditure and trade.

According to Quwa defence analyst Bilal Khan—who spoke exclusively to Pakistan Today—compared to the US, China or Turkey, PGZ is small, but “within PGZ there are several firms with strong human capital and expertise in key areas, such as land vehicles and aviation.”

When asked whether he thought the meeting would come to fruition, Bilal explained that HIT’s meeting with PGZ is actually the last of three official meetings between Pakistani entities and PGZ: the first was POF meeting PGZ, including the Polish firearms makers Fabryka Broni and ZMT; the second was the PAF and PAC meeting PGZ to discuss aviation cooperation; and the third was HIT meeting PGZ to discuss cooperation of land systems.

It is pertinent to mention here that on November 24, PAF chief Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman visited Warsaw to discuss bilateral aerospace industrial co-operation with PGZ, and was pictured looking at the company’s unmanned aerial vehicle designs.

Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman examining a Polish unmanned aerial vehicle

Explaining his hopes for the collaboration, Bilal said that it was not a simple trade deal and could involve much more—which would help Pakistan bring its defence capabilities to the most modern standards.

“Pakistan is looking for less apparent support. For example, having Polish engineers and scientists teach at the Kamra Aviation City to support the PAF’s domestic aircraft development aspirations; having Polish companies assist with design and development of subsystems for next-generation armour programmes, such as the al-Khalid 2 main battle tank,” he told Pakistan Today.

As HIT embarks on the development of next-generation programmes—such as the al Khalid 2 MBT—PGZ could work to connect its companies to fulfilling specific requirements in HIT’s channel. For example, PGZ could propose HIT with support in the development of new ballistic armour, main turret design, co-developing complementary weapons, such as heavy machine guns and remote-controlled turrets and electronics subsystems. PGZ could also pitch its machining and factory equipment companies to HIT.

Additional reporting by Abdullah Niazi



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