Son Jae-il, president of Hanwha Defense. Since joining Hanwha Group in 1990, he has accumulated various experiences in the defense industry. He is also the leader of Hanwha Defense, which makes the K-9 self-propelled howitzer and the K-21 infantry fighting vehicle, the Cheonmu multiple rocket and the Australian infantry fighting vehicle project candidate, the Red Bag.
As such, President Son, who is in charge of the production of key equipment for the ROK Army, has recently received attention from the defense industry.
On the 29th of last month, Polish Defense Minister Mariusi Włashchak, who visited Korea on the 29th, met President Son before Defense Minister Lee Jong-seop.
On the 31st, Minister Bwashchak visited the Hanwha Defense plant in the process of visiting domestic defense companies such as Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and Hyundai Rotem, and inspected K-21 and Chunmu with President Son. During his not-so-long visit to Korea, he met President Son twice.
The reason that Minister Włashchak, who visited Korea in the midst of war in neighboring Ukraine, gave considerable weight to the schedule related to Hanwha Defense with President Sohn was interpreted that it was due to the rapid increase in interest and demand in Poland for domestic weapons such as self-propelled artillery and infantry fighting vehicles. this comes out
Poland sent arms to Ukraine… stock plummet
Poland has an independent defense industry base, but the war in Ukraine accelerated its plans to increase its power and the military equipment demand was high, making it difficult to increase its power in a short period of time only with its own capabilities. This is why they are interested in the introduction of weapons or R&D from other countries.
The domestic weapons that Poland is interested in are ground equipment such as infantry fighting vehicles and self-propelled artillery (Hanwha Defense), K-2 tanks and K-808 wheeled armored vehicles (Hyundai Rotem).
Poland has been deploying Krab self-propelled howitzers since 2014, with a 155mm turret mounted on the K-9 self-propelled howitzer hull. Recently, it has decided to support Ukraine in some quantities.
The importance of self-propelled artillery, which accurately strikes the enemy from a distance and moves quickly, seems to be emerging as the Ukraine War is focused on artillery battles. Accordingly, if Poland increases the production of crab self-propelled artillery, additional exports of the K-9 chassis are expected.
The replacement of infantry fighting vehicles is an urgent task. The Polish infantry fighting vehicle is the BMP-1, which appeared in 1966 during the former Soviet Union. It is an old piece of equipment for modern warfare.
The Russian Army, on the other hand, is operating the BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicle with a 100 mm main gun, and the BMPT fire support tank armed with an anti-tank missile and a 30 mm machine gun. It is evaluated that there is a high possibility of early replacement among Polish Army equipment.
The K-21 equipped with a 40mm cannon is equivalent to the British CV-90, which has the strongest firepower among western infantry fighting vehicles. Even in the absence of a floating bridge, it is possible to cross on its own.
The Redback infantry fighting vehicle, which is being exported to Australia, has applied many new technologies such as composite rubber tracks, active defense system using multi-function phased array (AESA) radar, and condition monitoring system (HUMS).
It is equipped with a turret capable of firing anti-tank missiles, a 30mm cannon, and a 7.62mm machine gun, and is equipped with a thermal camouflage film to avoid thermal monitoring equipment and heat-seeking missiles.
The K-2 tank has been discussed for export to Poland for several years. However, it is evaluated that the possibility of a success has increased even more with the war in Ukraine.
After visiting Hyundai Rotem, Minister Włashtsak said, “It is very important for the Polish army to have Hyundai Rotem’s modern tanks, and it is a very good proposal for cooperation with Polish industry. It is important. We hope that the K-2 tank will soon be used by the Polish Army.”
“We want to replace the Russian MiG-29 and SU-22 fighters with new ones,” said Minister Bwashchak. Korea is producing aircraft compatible with the F-16.” He also showed interest in KAI’s FA-50 light attack aircraft.
During his visit to Korea, Minister Bwashchak met with Minister Lee Jong-seop and signed a letter of intent (LOI) related to defense R&D and weapons production.
Effectiveness of all-out warfare preparedness and defense cooperation enhancement
Poland, located between Russia and Western Europe, is the largest member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Eastern Europe and shares a border with Ukraine 534 km.
Poland is providing large-scale military support such as Russian-made T-72M1R tanks to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In the process, weapons stocks plummeted.
To replenish its inventory and increase its high-tech force, Poland is aggressively buying weapons. The US has decided to introduce 250 M-1A2 tanks through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) method guaranteed by the US government, and 500 M142 high-speed mobile artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) are also in the process of being introduced.
However, reliance on only the US to purchase weapons is limited in a situation where the Polish military is rapidly expanding and strengthening its forces.
Weapons from Western countries that use NATO standards should also be introduced, but the demand for heavy weapons has decreased due to the war on terror, and the production capacity of heavy weapons in advanced countries has decreased. Since the quantity introduced is not large, the price per unit is also high.
On the other hand, South Korea, preparing for an all-out war with North Korea, has the ability to rapidly mass-produce heavy weapons such as tanks and self-propelled artillery. Thanks to the achievement of ‘economies of scale’, the introduction and subsequent logistical support costs are also low.
It also has interoperability with the US military to maintain the ROK-US combined defense posture. Poland’s use of NATO military standards has significant advantages.
In fact, after meeting with Defense Minister Lee Jong-seop on the 31st of last month, Minister Bwashchak said, “Korea has excellent and proven weapons. “It is built on the basis of cooperation with the United States and is interoperable with the weapons we have (Poland), so I am confident that it will greatly strengthen the Polish army in a short period of time,” he said.
It also has a positive effect on cooperation in the defense industry between the two sides.
Poland has experience in manufacturing and exporting tanks and helicopters. There is also the will to maintain and develop an independent defense industry base.
Including local production of K-2s and K-21s, it can promote measures such as combining Polish and Korean weapon systems like Crab self-propelled artillery to create new weapons and sell them to third countries.
In this regard, Hyundai Rotem is reported to have proposed joint development of the next-generation K-2PL based on the K-2 tank to PGZ Group, a Polish state-owned defense company, and plan to produce it locally.
Poland can easily secure weapons with improved performance, and Korea has the effect of creating a bridgehead in the European defense industry market.
By establishing a bridgehead related to domestic ground equipment in Poland, it is also possible to overcome the perception that it is difficult to provide rapid follow-up logistics support to Europe because Korea is geographically far away.
In fact, when trying to sell the T-50 trainer to Israel, it is known that the Italian M-346, a competing aircraft, emphasized that it is geographically close to Israel and that it is possible to provide follow-up logistics support and parts within a short period of time.
The variable is a counterattack from defense companies in the US and Europe. There is a risk that South Korea will be pushed back if it puts forward ties between NATO member states or proposes an intergovernmental transaction method. There is also the possibility that defense companies in Germany, Sweden and Finland, which are adjacent to Poland, will move forward actively.
In response, domestic companies are also showing moves to strengthen their activities in the European defense market. It is known that 20 companies including Hanwha Defense, Hyundai Rotem and Poongsan will participate in ‘Euro Satori 2022’, a defense and security exhibition to be held in Paris, France in the middle of this month to promote and win orders.
However, some have pointed out that comprehensive support from the government and military is necessary for South Korea, a latecomer in the European defense market, to succeed in winning orders.