After the end of the Second World War, Poland – like many other countries - fell under the influence of the Soviet Union, a course that heavily influenced the development of the Polish People's Army ("Ludowe Wojsko Polskie", LWP) from 1945 to 1990. A part of these changes saw the Polish forces rearmed with various equipment of Soviet origin. This did not, however, mean that Polish armor development would stop. In the decades following the end of the war, the Polish managed to produce dozens of interesting designs, from modifications of Soviet vehicles to entirely new projects. Today, we will take a look at some of those vehicles, which may appear in Armored Warfare.
The Polish T-55AM was an upgrade of the T-55A medium tank in LWP service. It was deployed from 1986 with 630 built. The vehicle had its original armament (the D-10T2S 100mm gun) that was improved by the addition of the local "Merida" fire control system. Additionally, the turret armor was upgraded by two blocks of frontal plates (improving the thickness to 290mm) and the protection was further enhanced by the "Bobrawa" laser detection system and indigenous smoke grenade launchers. The T-55AM was powered by the Polish version of the V-55 engine designated W-55 Wax (producing 640 horsepower). This vehicle stayed with the Polish army for nearly two decades with the last units being withdrawn in 2002. Latvia was the only other operator (5 vehicles were donated to Latvia in 1999).
The "Twardy" ("tough" or "hard" in Polish) is a very deep modernization of the T-72 Soviet medium tank by Zakłady Mechaniczne Bumar-Łabędy in Gliwice. Its origins can be traced back to the mid-80's when the Polish army was deciding how to improve its armored forces. Multiple options were discussed (including buying more modern Soviet T-72S tanks) but the final decision was to attempt to modernize the T-72M1 tanks to improve their survivability on the battlefield. A number of proposals and projects were presented (the T-72M2 Wilk was among the more notable) and the entire program, which ran for practically a decade, ended with the introduction of the PT-91 main battle tank.
The PT-91 is a heavily modernized T-72 variant with many indigenous Polish elements. The biggest change is represented by the set of ERAWA (Erawa-1 and Erawa-2) explosive reactive armor. Unlike the original T-72, the PT-91 is powered by the Polish S-12U 850hp engine. The main armament remains the same (125mm 2A46M smoothbore gun) but the FCS is different – an indigenous SKO-1 DRAWA-T system with an improved ballistic computer. The firepower was further upgraded by Polish-developed sub-caliber ammunition ("PRONIT") with an improved penetration of 540mm (at 2km/30 degrees).
The vehicle is also equipped with an Obra-3 laser detection system and a Tellur 81mm smoke grenade launcher set.
The PT-91 was accepted in Polish service in 1995 and production ran until 2002 with 233 PT-91 tanks built in total. Numerous upgraded versions and programs were also developed as well as an export version, which was also sold to Malaysia. Overall, the PT-91 is one of the best non-Russian improved versions to the T-72.
When speaking about the Anders, the most common version referred to is the light tank but the Anders was actually the chassis on which an entire family of vehicles was built (including an IFV and an engineering vehicle). Named after Władysław Anders (a famous Polish general in the Second World War and later a politician in exile), the Anders vehicle family was designed between 2008 and 2012 by OBRUM (Ośrodek Badawczo-Rozwojowy Urządzeń Mechanicznych – Research and Development Centre for Mechanical Appliances) in order to replace the aging BMP vehicles in the Polish army. It was first shown to the public during the 2009 MSPO expo in Poland in the form of a light tank, equipped with a Swiss 120mm compact tank gun (CTG) in an unmanned turret (a 105mm Cockerill version was also developed).
The main advantage of the Anders vehicle family was its modular design – the vehicles could be upgraded quite easily and could also be modified to carry out various roles. Even the light tank version was capable of carrying several infantrymen and the protection of the vehicle was also customizable (from protection against small arms fire to protection against 25mm autocannon fire at 500 meters). The vehicle in its light tank configuration weighed 33 tons and was powered by a German MTU engine producing 720 horsepower, allowing it to go as fast as 72 km/h. It was jam-packed with the newest electronics including the Israeli Trophy APS and the Obra-3 laser detection system.
Unfortunately, despite the interest of the Polish military – which at one point considered buying over a thousand of these vehicles – the project was cancelled following political pressure combined with a slanderous campaign by competing developers.
The wheeled IFV "Rosomak" ("wolverine") is a variant of the Patria AMV – a modular, heavily customizable wheeled vehicle designed to take on multiple roles from a simple APC to fire support. Like the Anders, the more successful Rosomak was part of the program to replace the aging Soviet vehicles in Polish service. In 2002, the Polish Ministry of Defense decided to purchase a modular infantry vehicle. Patria won the contract over Steyr's Pandur and the popular MOWAG Piranha. The Polish decided to license-produce this vehicle and selected the WZM S.A. company as the producer.
The initial contract called for the delivery of 690 vehicles (this later increased to 997 to be delivered by 2019). The Polish vehicles have a Hitfist 30P turret (equipped with a 30mm Mk.44 Bushmaster II autocannon and Israeli-made Spike-LR ATGM system). They are powered by Scania 490 horsepower diesel engines. The vehicles are lighter (compared to the original Patria AMV design) because the Polish military requires these IFVs to be air-transportable by C-130 Hercules aircraft.
The first 9 Rosomak vehicles were delivered by Patria in 2004 and Polish production began on 4.4.2005. The vehicle saw some combat with the Polish troops deployed in Afghanistan and demonstrated excellent reliability and durability. Fast, agile and upgradeable, the Rosomak was a good choice for the Polish military.