Monday, April 03, 2006

Polish Artillery

1S15 artillery command vehicle.

Last week Polish Army withdrew 2S7 Pion 203 mm howitzers, the heaviest guns ever used by the service. Polish Army acquired eight guns of such types in 1986 and equipped with them a single battery at 23rd “Silesian” Artillery Brigade in Boleslawiec, western Poland.
This left the Polish artillery only with rather obsolete 2S1 Gvozdika 122 mm howitzers, used not only by brigades’ artillery battalions, but also by artillery regiments of mechanized divisions. There are four divisions in Polish Land Forces and every of them has an artillery regiment with one battalion of Wz. 1977 Dana 152 mm wheeled self-propelled howitzers, two battalions of 2S1 Gvozdika, a battalion of BM-21 40x122 mm multiple rocket launchers, artillery reconnaissance battalion, command & signal battalion and support elements. The whole Polish Army uses 509 2S1 Gvozdika howitzers, 111 Wz. 1977 Dana howitzers and 257 BM-21 or Czech RM-70 systems. The command system is still based on Soviet built command and control vehicles, thought equipped with communication equipment in accordance to NATO standards.

2S1 hwitzer from 1st Armored Brigade, Weosla.

There were plans to improve Polish field artillery capabilities by introduction of Krab 155 mm howitzers, based on British AS-90 type, produced on license in Poland. However the program ended on two prototypes and is now shelved (thought not cancelled). The artillery modernization is low on priority list and probably will be very prolonged process. Polish artillery generally has too small range, can use only classic, unguided ammunition, does not posses adequate reconnaissance and fire control means (for example not a single UAV is used for this purpose) and above all, every caliber and gun system used is not NATO standard (122, 152 mm etc.).
The artillery is not high on NATO priority list and this is probably mistake. Even in stabilization operations precise artillery fire can support ground forces in the bases vicinity (in 35-40 km radius under certain circumstances (probably not in urban areas) and artillery could respond much more quickly than combat helicopters or air force for request of a land element in trouble.