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The Warsaw Voice » Regional Voice » August 26, 2010
Kielce International Defense Exhibition
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Arms Industry Innovation
August 26, 2010   
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The Polish defense industry has been on the march over the past few years. The country’s arms factories have been pushed into the ring with some heavyweight competition after the European Defence Agency, of which Poland is a member, signaled the establishment of a common EU defense market. The arms sector and its affiliated industries employ over 20,000 people in Poland.

The city of Kielce, 170 km south of Warsaw, will be playing host to the 18th International Defense Industry Exhibition Sept. 6-9. This annual trade fair, first held in 1993, will be unveiling the latest achievements in the arms industry along with logistics and security systems, together with their deployment in search and rescue operations. The Kielce fair has become one of the major military exhibitions in Central Europe and is Europe’s third largest arms exhibition.

The Kielce exhibition aims to showcase the latest defense systems and equipment manufactured both domestically and abroad. The Bumar Group, Poland’s national arms corporation, will be accounting for the majority of cutting-edge equipment on show—as it does every year. Bumar is the leading supplier and exporter of arms, ammunition and military equipment produced by the Polish defense industry. The group comprises 27 production and trading companies from the Polish arms industry specializing in fields such as ammunition, radar, missiles and tanks. Bumar helped draw up the provisional guidelines for a program tentatively called “The Shield of Poland.” The group has been working on this program with the European conglomerate MBDA for several years now.

Bumar will also be displaying some of the special projects it is presently carrying out, including a new Howitzer chassis, the HITFIST turret for the Rosomak (Polish for wolverine) armored personnel carrier, and tank maintenance technology.

Bumar has recently produced a mobile indoor shooting range to assist with firearms training. This enables a rifle range to be set up anywhere anytime. It is vastly cheaper than a standard indoor rifle range and can get around any legal problems associated with building a rifle range by virtue of its compact size and lack of permanent ground contact.

The Łucznik (Archer) factory in the central city of Radom will be demonstrating its new MSPS 5.56 small arms series, the designated replacement for the obsolete Kalashnikovs. The guns have a unique modular design where every model in the series uses the same production components. Both short- and long-barrel rifles (destined for different uses such as commandos and infantry) can be manufactured using this exceptionally economical method. A more accurate version suitable for snipers will be built from the same modules, as will a machine gun. Several buttless versions of the rifle, built from the same basic components, are also in the pipeline. This sort of gun is gaining a growing number of enthusiasts in many armies around the world. This is because it allows guns to be radically shorter and “leaner.” No technical details are available as some of these inventions are expected to be patented. The only thing known for certain is that their design will be a complete departure from the system that Mikhail Kalashnikov devised at the end of World War II.

OBRSM’s RGP-40 repeating grenade launcher will also be making an appearance. The RGP-40 is a six-shot, semiautomatic individual weapon designed to fight and incapacitate the enemy, destroy equipment, buildings, weapons batteries, and light armored vehicles, and to produce smoke screens whatever the terrain and weather conditions. The launcher can cover an area of 20 x 60 meters with grenades from a range of more than 350 meters in a few seconds without having to reload. Firepower of this intensity can neutralize the disadvantage of being outnumbered, especially when being ambushed in open terrain or an urban setting.

Maskpol, which manufactures gas masks and bulletproof vests, is one the most respected firms in the business. The company invests anywhere from zl.7 million to zl.15 million in R&D every year to match it with the world’s major players in this area and is now ready to put its latest-generation gas masks into production. Maskpol will shortly be installing specialized scanners to take soldiers’ measurements so as to make perfectly fitting vests.

The example of WB Electronics from Ożarów Mazowiecki, just west of Warsaw, is also instructive. The company, which specializes in electronics, has designed an internal communications system that has attracted the interest of military electronics heavyweight Harris Corporation from the United States. So much so that the Americans decided to purchase the license.

Mesko has been busy building a positive image for the Polish arms industry. The company produces Spike third-generation anti-tank missiles, thanks to a transfer of technology from Israeli firm Rafael. Apart from Rafael technology, Mesko produces the famous Grom (Polish for thunder) missile.

Companies whose main business is manufacturing military equipment have often switched some of their production to civilian purposes. For many years, Radom’s Łucznik factory manufactured typewriters, sewing machines and gas stoves, in addition to weapons for the army. For example, the Ursus tractor may have a whole new lease of life waiting for it. The Ursus tractor factory is now part of the Bumar group and the machines, once upgraded, have every chance of becoming the tractor of choice in many African countries, according to a spokesperson for the group. The group also has the construction machinery market in its sights. The Bumar Łabędy loader, for example, is extremely popular in Kazakhstan. Nor has the group ruled out joining a consortium building a coal mine and a power plant in Nigeria.

Any country that has invested in the arms industry can vouch for its positive impact on technological development. Many innovations originally designed for the army have later been put to use in the civilian sector. Over the past few decades, many inventions that have most profoundly revolutionized the world economy have come into being through the interaction of innovative companies and that part of the public sector associated with defense. Examples that spring to mind are satellite communications and navigation systems and, more recently, commercial access to space reconnaissance systems.
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