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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » April 30, 2014
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Monitoring sky and sea
April 30, 2014   
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The history of CNPEP Radwar (formerly WZR Rawar) officially began in May 1954, but the decision to establish the company was made some years earlier when the Polish authorities decided to build a national industry to supply the Polish armed forces with radar devices. The postwar period was a good time for the development of radiolocation technology.

The war years had proved the all-round usefulness of the radar when it first appeared as a practical piece of equipment. During the Cold War arms race, military radar was a very important area of rivalry, which helped spur the development of the radar industry.

Five production departments were launched in 1955 and the facility employed 1,870 people. The first product to be manufactured here was the SON-4 radar for artillery fire control, made under a Soviet license; it was a copy of the American SCR-584 radar that was reconstructed in the Soviet Union from documentation provided by the United States when the two countries were allies in the war against Germany.

The company’s first export success was the Nysa-B/C radar set. The first harbinger of this success was a contract signed in 1957 for deliveries to Syria, implemented the following year. In 1958 a contract was signed, and implemented by the end of the following year, for the first three test sets for Indonesia. The next decade saw the delivery of 12 sets for use in tropical areas of the world.

Next to the main line of development—military radar—as of 1956 work began at WZR on marine navigation radar systems. The first Polish navigation radar, the RLM-61, was built as early as 1958. By the end of the 1950s WZR had produced several dozen radar systems for Polish merchant vessels.

After tests were completed on the RLM-61 radar and necessary improvements made, serial production of the modernized version began in 1959. Production expanded over the next decade. This was also when tests began with the aim of using the RLM-61 series radar in the protection of Poland’s sea border by the Border Protection Forces.

At the same time, design work continued on a new surveillance radar of improved parameters. Analyses were conducted and the L band (approx. 1300 MHz) was chosen as being optimal for medium-range radars. This work yielded a prototype of the Jawor radar in 1961. This was a very advanced device compared to its predecessors, with several major technical innovations.

The 1970s were a time when many licenses appeared on the market. The strictly followed rule that military products could not include elements and materials from capitalist countries meant that Polish technology inevitably lagged behind Western achievements in this field.

The prototype of the Narew radiolocation station was built in 1975; it was specially designed to detect low-flying objects and involved advanced digital technology systems. Narew radiolocation devices represented many different levels of innovation. They were based on components from the Nida altimeter. A large part of the receiver elements were made using electron tube technology, but at the same time this equipment included the first attempt in the history of Polish radar to use digital signal processing. The design of an analog-digital signal processing block (AC BOS) was commissioned for this device. Its introduction was a breakthrough event. The block and its elements were used to train many designers and military specialists, leading to a strong expansion of digital technology in radiolocation. In its consecutive versions the AC BOS system found application in the early 1980s in improved, export versions of the Jawor and Nida radar stations as well as the new generation of Avia-C/D radar for air traffic control.

The 1980s were a time of rapid development in the production of a new category of military equipment directly related to radar—automated command and control systems. This is the name used to describe IT systems that mediate in radar information processing and transfer to command posts where decisions are reached on how to treat any detected airborne objects.

The Ministry of Defense’s research and development program launched at the time was given the codename Dunajec. Production of the RPT-11 and RPT-21 systems began in 1978. These were sets of stationary devices for installation at radiolocation stations of lower and higher level, respectively. The system received visual data and synchronizing signals from several radars, generalized the information received, traced the routes of objects under observation and transmitted them to a higher level.

Special deliveries based on Soviet licenses formed a separate group of automated command equipment. In the late 1970s the Warsaw Pact countries decided to build an automated field command system as part of a broad international collaboration effort. The system’s name, PASUW, was based on the Russian acronym. Under the division of tasks among Warsaw Pact allies, Poland was tasked with the production of three command and control vehicles that were part of a much more extensive system. About 25 sets in all were made, the majority of which were delivered to Warsaw Pact allies.

The disintegration of the communist bloc and the Warsaw Pact and Poland joining NATO were all factors that left the entire Polish defense industry in a situation that no one could have predicted in 1988. These changes caused the defense sector serious difficulties but also included elements that promised to stimulate development.

A new economic policy, founded on the real value of the zloty, and rigid financial discipline affected budget spending the quickest in such areas as arms and military equipment purchases. The collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union reduced international tensions as well as reducing the demand for weapons. The anticipated accession to the powerful NATO alliance had a similar effect.

The Ministry of Defense limited its purchases from the defense industry. This became a trend, contrary to the expectations of many managers of arms factories who had counted on this being a temporary situation. However, while reducing the budget for buying equipment, the ministry did not reduce spending on research and development. Extra opportunities were provided by the process of integration with NATO. Joining a new alliance required adjusting existing equipment to joint operations, in other words ensuring “interoperability.” Radwar did excellently in taking advantage of this niche, and that was how the production diversification process began.

The 1990s were a time of continually decreasing production of the company’s earlier flagship products – radar systems – but with optimism stemming from two huge R&D programs that Radwar carried out for the ministry as the main contractor. The first one involved comprehensive equipping of the Polish armed forces with an Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system compatible with NATO’s, codename Supraśl, while the other was the Loara anti-aircraft artillery system. Besides these two pillars, the company carried out several other programs that enabled it to stay in good financial condition and maintain its leading position in the defense industry.

Radwar was transformed into a joint-stock company in late 1994, incorporating the following facilities: Rawar, Zurad (in Ostrów Mazowiecka), Profel (in Szydłowiec) and Zanten (in Kobyłka).

After 1990 production orders were few. Ideas for the modernization of already manufactured devices emerged, a natural reaction to the drastic cuts in the Ministry of Defense’s budget. At the same time, the situation was quite good as regards orders for research and development work.

Poland’s accession to NATO gave momentum to the Supraśl project. Naturally the first area of NATO interoperability was Poland’s air defense system, which needed to be compatible with the NATO air defense system. That is why a few years before Poland officially joined the organization in 1999, intensive consultations were held under the Partnership for Peace program and the first stages of air space integration were completed. For obvious reasons, the most urgent matter involved completely replacing the previous Soviet IFF system with a new, NATO-compatible one. Designing the equipment locally was not an option due to the deadlines for completing consecutive stages of interoperability with NATO forces, so the natural solution was license support from a Western company with the necessary experience in this field. April 1993 saw the signing of the first license contract with France’s Thomson CSF-CNI for Radwar to manufacture interrogators and transponders from the IFF Mk XII system.

The Supraśl program is a model example of a well-utilized opportunity provided by Poland’s NATO accession. It was one of the pillars of the company’s development in the tough times of economic transformation in the 1990s. Another example of a NATO-related opportunity well used, though on a lesser scale, was the Kosówka project.

In 1997 the Ministry of Defense launched a project to adjust radar stations working in the air space control system for working with the Air Sovereignty Operation Center (ASOC). The task was to outfit N-31, N-11M and N-12 radars with digital interfaces enabling data on detected airborne objects to be sent to the information collection center for further use in creating a Recognized Air Picture (RAP) that is made available to all interested allies.

Apart from Supraśl, another project worth mentioning for its contribution to the company’s development is the Loara project involving an anti-aircraft missile/artillery system (PZRA). The company was the main contractor carrying out the project from 1992.

PZRA, comprising a set of anti-aircraft missiles or cannon placed on an armored chassis, was initially treated by the Ministry as a task for a manufacturer of heavy equipment. Such a contractor was chosen but encountered serious problems already at the stage of defining the requirements for subcontractors handling electronic systems such as sensors and fire control computers. Success became possible when the role of main contractor was given to a manufacturer of professional electronic systems, namely Radwar.

The conceptual design was ready in June 1992, which does not mean the work took so little time – the company had begun work in advance, counting on receiving an official order. The conceptual design was approved and in November a contract was signed for R&D work on the Loara system. The next year was a time of intensive work on the preliminary design and analyses conducted at Rawar and by numerous cooperating partners on individual subsystems and the whole system’s potential capabilities. Meanwhile, in February 1994 the ministry suspended the contract and demanded that accounts be settled for work performed and capital goods purchased; the reason was a ministry budget cut.

After many months of efforts, company managers were able to get the government to adopt a strategic program called “Advanced technologies for developing a system of anti-aircraft defense for armed forces and objects” and encompassing the production of the Loara system and Grom short-range missiles. Thus, after a hiatus of 14 months, in September 1995 the suspended contract was reactivated.

After the construction of a prototype and testing, in February 2003 the Loara artillery system received final certification as equipment suitable for the armed forces.

The Loara project gave rise to many new developments. The first product directly originating from the Loara program was the S-60 anti-aircraft artillery system, codename Blenda. The idea to build the Blenda system came from the desire to give a new lease of life to 57 mm anti-aircraft guns (the well-known S-60 cannon, widespread not only in Poland) by fitting them with an automatic fire control system that radically improved their effectiveness.

The Blenda project was carried out in 1994-1997. In 1997 a prototype successfully passed government tests conducted by the Anti-Aircraft Defense Training Center in Koszalin and supervised by a state commission appointed by the Ministry of Defense. The first user of the Blenda system was the Navy, which conducted extra operation tests on the prototype in 1999. The Navy also ordered the first manufactured system.

A summary of the 1990s should also mention the development and production of the Łowcza-3 automated command vehicle. Work on automating the anti-aircraft defense command process had begun back in the 1970s. A tracked version of the Łowcza-3 automated command vehicle was developed as an original project in early 1990, but after positive test results in 1993 its production launch was halted when the ministry decided the system had to be compatible with the new military radio communications network that was starting to be developed based on the PR4G family of radio stations made by Radmor of Gdańsk under a license from Thomson-CSF. It was not until 1998, at the production launch stage, that the Ministry of Defense presented the new requirements for an anti-aircraft defense automated command vehicle.

The Łowcza-3 prototype passed government tests in 1999. Five vehicles were made by 2003. Apart from the tracked version, there is also a wheeled version of the vehicle based on the chassis of the Star-944 truck. Making this equipment available to the land forces led to growing user interest in the modernization of anti-aircraft systems that were in active service.

The Loara project led to further products later on, such as the MMSR, Soła, Poprad and Rega.
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