Poland missile/rocket/PGM projects

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Should a decision be made to upgrade the “Poprad” mobile anti-aircraft system with extended range missiles, then solution as such would offer range comparable to the post-Soviet “Osa-AK” SAM system. The Polish industry remains ready to develop and manufacture an effector as such.

The fact that “Osa-AK” system is still being operated by the Polish military can be perceived as a proof of relevance of systems as such in the domain of direct air defence, with those capabilities provided for the fighting military units. However, neither the “Narew” SHORAD solution, nor the “Poprad” VSHORAD system (the latter being introduced into the inventory of the Polish military now) can replace the Osa (SA-8 Gecko) platform.

Putting the “Narew” system into use in a manner that would be optimized would mean that it the system in question shall be used against targets at ranges from 10 to 40 kilometers. Launching these missiles against threats closer to the launcher would be a major waste of their capabilities. “Poprad”, meanwhile, utilizes “Grom” or “Piorun” effectors coming from MANPADS launchers. Thus, the range and altitudes at which these missiles would be effective are relatively small (up to 4.5 kilometers of altitude and up to 6.5 kilometers of range).

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“Piorun 2” missiles could also be used, potentially, to extend the range of the “Biała” anti-aircraft system. Image Credit: M. Dura

Despite the fact that “Osa-AK” SAM and “Biała” and “Shilka” AAA systems will be approaching the end of their service very soon, introduction of a replacement has only been a subject to analysis and discussions resulting in definition of new operational requirements (such as the “SONA” operational requirement, aimed at obtaining the capability to provide direct air defence for the armoured units).
Meanwhile, using technologies and capacities already acquired and available, the Polish industry may, in three years, develop and manufacture a test-ready, relatively cheap anti-aircraft missile with a range of 12 kilometers, capable of neutralizing threats flying at the altitude of up to 7 kilometers. Furthermore, this missile could be integrated on the existing mobile “Poprad” systems without any issues.

“Błyskawica” - a Failure with Usable Conclusions

“Błyskawica” programme has been the most significant of the Polish missile development projects over the last decade, alongside the “Piorun” project that turned out to be a major success. The objective adopted “Błyskawica” was to develop an anti-aircraft missile with “10 km+” range that would be able to neutralize threats flying at the altitude of 7-8 kilometers. These performance figures would be slightly better than the ones associated with the ex-Soviet “Osa-AK” solution (range of 10 kilometers, altitudes of up to 5 kilometers).

Polish engineers used the Russian mobile “Pantsir” system as an inspiration. Back in the 1980s the platform in question was, most probably, considered as a potential missile donor for the missile variant of the “Loara” system. Later on the idea was revisited and a plan was born to autonomously develop a counterpart of the Russian missile that was, ultimately, to become a replacement of the “Osa-AK” solution.

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“Błyskawica” missile

The consortium established to work on this task was led by the WAT Military University of Technology (Faculty of Mechatronics and Aviation). As it turned out, the missile had to be developed from a scratch, propulsion section included. It was assumed that the Polish missile would be a two-stage design. Hence, a new propulsion system needed to be developed for the first stage, and also the second stage was to be designed. The second stage was to have no engine - it was only to be accelerated. After the first stage detached, the second one, using the kinetic energy, was to fly along a controlled ballistic trajectory.

It was clear that at short (not “very short) range of beyond 10 kilometers, proper commands should be sent to the missile, or an INS system should be used instead. Needless to say, in both cases this was an entirely new tech for Poland. During the second part of the flight the missile should use a radar seeker of its own, for guidance purposes. Theoretically it all came down to transfer of control signals from the tracking radar to the second stage that would decrypt them and execute the control inputs. The tracking radar was to verify whether everything was going on as planned.

The Polish engineers, however, did not succeed in building a system as such for a missile flying at a speed of Mach 2 - Mach 3. Never before did anybody try to accomplish a task as such in Poland. A few years ago Poland carried out an upgrade of its “Vega”, “Neva”, “Kub” and “Osa” systems. Nonetheless, the modernization concerned, primarily, the ground equipment. When digitalizing the whole system, no steps were made to modernize the missiles or their guidance elements.

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The military urgently needs the “Osa-AK” system to be replaced. Image Credit: M. Dura

Not having a readymade solution available at hand and not being able to design it from a scratch, solely the autopilot system was created as a part of the second stage demonstrator, that had commands programmed with those commands being executed by the missile in flight. The first stage was built in its entirety. It was developed by the ZPS Gamrat S.A. facility (with a new composite propulsion system body, developed at Mesko S.A.). The whole work was conducted under the guidance of Mesko S.A.

The rocket motor installed in Błyskawica was accelerating the missile to the velocity of 1280 meters per second in 2.4 seconds. This has been a major feat, considering the fact that total weight of the missile was about 70 kilograms. After 2.5 years the “Błyskawica” missile was tested at the Wicko Pomorskie range. Following the initial failures, the tests went well later on. The first stage was separating correctly with the second being able to maneuver to the maximum distance of up to 6-7 kilometers. The tests were carried out in Wicko and the missile could have been launched only with an elevation of 10 degrees, due to the fact that range area was quite small.

The project came to an end in 2014. However, it could not have been considered as a total success. The engineers had no idea who, in Poland, could create a missile control system that could use the radar commands. The work was abandoned. However, Mesko gathered relevant experience required and necessary to continue development of this sort. It turned out though, that the Polish industry could develop a single-stage missile of this class derived from the Piorun MANPADS. Initially the project received the name “Piorun 2” or “Piorun Plus”.

“Piorun 2” - A New Missile for the “Poprad” System

“Piorun 2” project is not an extension of the “Błyskawica” research initiative. It shall rather be viewed as an extension of the original “Piorun” programme. Being aware of the limitations of the Polish industrial expertise, the engineers assumed that a single-stage missile would be developed. It would also not have a control system using the tracking radar. Instead of that, it was decided to create a twin-stage guidance system. First, the missile would be operated as a beam-rider, on the basis of laser guidance. Then, during the second stage of flight (self-intercept), the missile would be using an IR seeker.

The concept was presented during a discussion panel that was a part of the “95 years of Mesko serving the Homeland” conference, involving Gabriel Nowina Konopka, Mesko Vice-President and Janusz Noga, President at the Telesystem-Mesko company.

In case of the control unit, a decision was made to continue the work on the basis of experience gathered during the development of APR 155/120 mm artillery rounds and during the PIRAT programme.

Preliminary design of the Piorun 2 missile was developed at CRW Telesystem-Mesko. In case of the engines, the experts at Mesko S.A. shall get them more powerful by widening and elongating them slightly. This could, as simulations have confirmed, extend the range of the “Piorun 2” missile beyond 11 kilometers. As the seeker itself can intercept the target at a distance of around 8 kilometers, depending on the weather, it was assumed that the missile would be operated as a beamrider during the first part of its flight towards the target. The technology in question has been mastered quite well in Poland, contrary to radar-based guidance solutions. Thus, documentation concerning a laser receiver for this missile is already available. A concept is being prepared for a laser emitter that would need to be placed in the launcher tracking-guidance system, such as the one installed on the “Poprad” platform.

The emitter itself needs to send properly encoded signals. This is why it remains quite important to develop it domestically. Only then the emitter would allow the user to attain complete autonomy and security in employment of the whole system. To create a beam generator, cascade lasers would be used, developed by the ITE (Institute of Electron Technology) based in Warsaw. Let us recall that ITE was the very entity that developed receiving detectors for the “Piorun” missile proximity sensors.

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The “Poprad” system’s combat section has enough space available to accommodate laser guidance system of the “Piorun 2” missile. System as such would be developed by a consortium formed by CRW-Telesystem-Mesko, ITE, and Institute of Optoelectronics at the Military University of Technology. The whole consortium would be led by CRW Telesystem-Mesko. Image Credit: M. Dura
Thanks to use of cascade lasers an ability to fine tune the wave would be available and thus the wavelength that would not be detectable by the laser warning receivers the enemy uses could be adopted. The wavelength could also be optimized weather-wise, e.g. for foggy conditions. The laser system would be then able to guide the missile through weather during the first stage of the flight.
Should guidance solution as the one described above be employed in case of the “Poprad” system used to launch the “Piorun 2” effectors, the engagement sequence would be defined as follows:
  1. Detection of the threat and interception by the automated tracking system;
  2. Missile launch command;
  3. Ignition of the motor, deployment of stabilizers and control surfaces;
  4. Ignition of the sustainer motor;
  5. Flight of the missile in the information area for the laser guidance instrument;
  6. Interception of the target by the missile seeker;
  7. Ignition of the secondary motor;
  8. Transition to autonomous guidance mode, according to the predefined algorithm.
To start the process of replacement of the “Osa-AK/AKM” systems, the military only needs to place a relevant order, everything else seems to be ready. The multispectral IR seeker may achieve the 6th level of technology readiness by the end of 2019. The Polish industry declares that three years would be required, from the moment the programme begins, to start the test launches. This tempo is attainable. Starting from the first tests, an existing seeker developed by Telesystem-Mesko may be used. It allows for scanning of the airspace and locating the target after the missile is placed in the guidance cone with the use of the laser-based initial guidance system.

Obviously, this means that half-a degree detector is only available then - the cone within which the airspace would be scanned has as angle of 1 degree. However, as the research has shown, it would ultimately be enough to refine the detection system so that the scanning angle is extended. Solution as such remains “within reach” of the Polish industry then.

Missile and the System

The initial estimates show that a missile with a range of several kilometers with a dual guidance system would weigh, container included, around 40 kilograms. Thus the missile is, undoubtedly, too large for employment in MANPADS. However, it is light enough so that rotation system is designed for it along with integration on the “Poprad” platform, even when 4 missiles are installed. Nonetheless, it seems that 2x”Piorun” and 2x”Piorun 2” would be an optimal solution. Noteworthy, the launch turret of the “Poprad” platform has some reserve payload capacity that may be used now.

The length of the “Piorun 2” missile (ca. 1980 mm), when compared to the “Piorun” and “Grom” effectors would not really have a limiting impact on mobility of the Poprad missile system optoelectronic unit. This, however, needs to be confirmed by further analysis. Thanks to the above, the sensor would still be able to perform a 360 degrees rotation with available elevation angles between -10 and +70 degrees. Precision positioning of the laser seeker needs to be verified. This seeker is the element that needs to deal with guiding the missile in the laser beam.

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Size comparison between the Osa, Striela-10, Grom and Piorun 2 effectors. Image Credit: Telesystem Mesko/M.Dura

One of the features that distinguishes “Piorun 2” from “Grom” and “Piorun” is the fact that “Piorun 2” utilizes two motors. The larger sustainer motor that is in operation during the phase I of the flight is placed in front of the auxiliary motor ignited during the terminal phase of the engagement. However, “Piorun 2” is not a two staged missile, none of the stages would be jettisoned during the flight. The peculiar nature of the propulsion system has also been conditioned by the fact that the missile is operated as a beam-rider, during the first phase of the flight. For that reason the nozzles cannot be placed in the rear of the missile - they would be arranged on its sides.

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Main elements of the “Piorun 2” missile. Fromj the left: multispectral seeker, proximity fuse, warhead, sustainer motor, extra motor, guidance section with navigation unit. Image Credit: Telesystem Mesko

Contrary to what may seem, the project aimed at development of the “Piorun 2” missile, undertaken by Mesko S.A. and CRW Telesystem-Mesko is the fastest way to obtain a replacement of the “Osa-AK” system and to modernize and gradually enhance performance of the “Jodek” and “Biała” solutions. Consortium working on the “Piorun 2” effector could be jointly managed by Mesko S.A. (missile) and Telesystem-Mesko (guidance system). The remaining facilities and R&D entities should be tasked with accomplishing the specific portion of work in the aforesaid programme. One of the important features of solutions of this kind that is the fact that they may be used to create a passive CIWS.

Presence of the “Piorun 2” missile alone would create a threat that would force the potential adversary to operate the helicopters at distances outside the missile envelope that would also remain outside of the envelope of the ATGMs carried by those helicopters (8-10 kilometers radius).

“Piorun 2”’ missile has yet another advantage: it may become quite common as it would not require any extra, dedicated infrastructure. It is proposed that the effector is installed on unmanned land platforms. This would constitute a natural evolution of the “Perkun Grom/Piorun” system. It would become a “Perkun Piorun 2” solution.

Another possibility is to use the “Piorun 2” missile technology for the purpose of creating armament for the Polish UAVs and helicopters, providing these with an air-to-air capability.

 
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They had a project to put the tel for their upgraded S-125 system on a converted scud launcher, but this was only done for the radars and T-55 bodies were used for the tels
 
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Mesko S.A. has manufactured the 3000th GROM MANPADS on 7th December 2021.

Grom MANPADS has been a part of the inventory in the Polish Army since 1995.

The 3000th Grom system belongs to the last lot manufactured this year that is soon going to become a part of the inventory of the Lithuanian Armed Forces.

 
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WB Group to delivered Warmate loitering munitions for an undisclosed customer

 
Mesko, a member of the Polish Armaments Group, is ending production of a batch of Spike-LR anti-tank missiles for the Polish Armed Forces this year. Currently, its offer includes Spike-LR2 missiles, with significantly increased combat capabilities and fully compatible with existing and new launchers, learned BulgarianMilitary.com, citing Defence24.

“We are ready to gradually move to the production of Spike LR2 missiles, especially as some elements, such as low-smoke missiles, have already been implemented for production as part of the current batch of Spike LR1” emphasizes Elżbieta Šreniawska, Chairman of the Board of Mesko SA.

Spike-LR anti-tank missiles are one of the main means of anti-tank defense in the Polish army. They can hit armored targets up to 4 km away, including those invisible to the operator from both the front and top of the hemisphere. This is possible thanks to the guidance system integrating optical connections, as well as thermal and television cameras. All these elements contribute to the high efficiency of the ATGM Spike, even against heavily armored tanks.

Today, Mesco’s offer includes a new version of the Spike rocket, namely the Spike LR2. It has several new capabilities and is compatible with all Spike LR starters. Mesko can start producing the new version of the Spike missiles as soon as the current batch is over.

In an interview with Defense24.pl, Przemyslaw Kovalchuk, a member of the board of Mesko, stressed that the smooth transition to the production of Spike LR2 will avoid the cost of re-certification of the entire production line and speed up the delivery time of missiles.

The company in Skarzysko is already largely prepared to deliver a new type of rocket, as some of its elements, such as a low-smoke rocket engine, have already been introduced under the Spike LR1 program. The action of the latter element was confirmed during test shootings conducted in Poland.

The introduction of Spike LR2 missiles will significantly strengthen the anti-tank defense of the Polish Armed Forces. They have several new capabilities and at the same time are fully compatible with both existing portable launchers and those of ZSSW-30 towers.

Compared to the currently used Spike LR1, the LR2 missiles have an extended range of up to 5.5 km and a new warhead, but also a significantly modernized guidance system.

All these possibilities can be made available for new and existing Spike ATGM launchers in the Polish Army – Przemyslaw Kovalchuk, Member of the Management Board of Mesko.

The Spike LR2 guidance system has a new uncooled thermal imaging camera, which increases surveillance capabilities but also allows to reduce the time to reach combat readiness. The day sensor has also been modified, and the targeting system ensures the simultaneous use and connection (merging) of data from both cameras. The warhead has also been improved.

The Spike program has been running in Poland for almost two decades. Today, these missiles are an important element not only of the anti-tank defense of the Polish army but also of the Mesko factories, owned by PGZ.


The delivery agreement concerning the SPIKE-LR missiles, signed back in 2003, was accompanied by an offset deal covering the transfer of the final assembly process and some manufacturing processes to Poland as well. Poland manufactures the missile's tandem warheads (a modified variant was introduced in the second lot), launch and sustainer motors, compressed argon tanks (seeker coolant), and launch containers. Some elements of the launcher and the missile are manufactured as well. The transfer of technology happening over the course of the first agreement has been gradual, up until potential defined by the offset agreement has been attained.
 
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It is own design of ZM Tarnow. First news about it were around 2014. it was designed for Gluszec armed helicopter that never materialize. Then it is coming from time to time in different applications - last I saw it was maritime application.
 
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As Defence24.pl learns, Mesko Skarżysko has positively concluded negotiations with the US Department of Defense. The US government’s order will eventually include several hundred missile sets. These systems are the most modern very short-range weapons used by the Polish Army. Lightning plays a key role in the air defense system, serving primarily against helicopters, attack aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles.

The conducted negotiations and contracting constitute another element of the export offensive of Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa. It is worth emphasizing that the entire implementation of this project, starting from the offer construction stage, through monthly reviews with the Ordering Party, risk management and organization of production processes, is carried out strictly according to the American methodology. Mesko introduces these new processes using the experience of other Group companies, such as WZE, WZU or ZM Tarnów, which have already gone through a similar path. In addition, the missile sets that we export are secured, inter alia, by an authorization system protecting against unauthorized use, under the strict control of the manufacturer. These solutions guarantee the safe use of the sets both by the Polish Armed Forces and after they are handed over to our allies
dr inż. Przemysław Kowalczuk, Member of the Management Board of Mesko SA for Development

The purchase of Pioruns by the United States is an achievement of the Polish arms industry, which will provide equipment to a very demanding user, but also a response to the needs reported by the American army, among others in connection with the threat from Russia. The US Army has to fill the “gap” in the potential of very short-range air defense. During the decades of reigning in the air, the Americans did not attach much importance to this, but the course of recent conflicts, for example in Ukraine, showed that there is a real threat to soldiers USA deployed in the areas of operations by enemy helicopters or unmanned aerial vehicles.

The Americans, to rebuild their capabilities, opted for portable MANPADS sets, due to their flexibility and high efficiency, at a relatively low cost. The first step towards restoring the direct air defense potential of US troops was to increase the use of Stinger kits and their partial modernization. However, it was decided that this was not enough and there was a need for a new generation of MANPADS sets with higher parameters, better suited to operation in the conditions of the modern battlefield. That is why the Americans decided to buy Piorunów. Previously, the Pentagon acquired a number of Grom kits, delivered in 2016 and 2018-19, which could have influenced the decision to acquire a newer Polish system.

The Grom and Piorun missile systems are an important element of the core business for our Company. Both products have their export versions, and the interest of potential foreign customers is growing rapidly. Without neglecting the needs of our main recipient, the Polish Armed Forces, we are gradually developing the export segment. We are currently in the process of several proceedings for both types of rockets, where we see a really good chance of success.
Elżbieta Śreniawska, President of the Management Board of Mesko SA
PPZR Piorun was developed as a result of development work started in 2010 by a consortium consisting of Mesko SA, CRW Telesystem-Mesko and the Military University of Technology. Its main goal was to develop a new MANPADS as a result of the modernization of the existing Grom PPZR. The development of the new design was successfully completed after five years in 2015, and its public premiere took place during the 24th International Defense Industry Exhibition MSPO 2016 in Kielce, when it received the President of the Republic of Poland award.

In December of the same year, a contract was concluded with the Ministry of National Defense for the supply of 420 launchers and 1,300 missiles for the Polish Armed Forces with a deadline for completion by 2022. Lightning bolts can be fired from portable launchers, as well as from Pilica sets (used in the Air Force, in air defense units) and Poprad, used in all divisions of the Land Forces.

When developing it, it was decided, first of all, to increase the range and ceiling for the detection and countering of air targets, as well as to extend the capabilities compared to its predecessor, i.e. the PPZR Grom. In the starting mechanism, cooperation with targeting devices and a target type switch changing the guidance algorithm were introduced, new observation devices were installed on a special rail, a new battery cassette and an authorization system for use were installed.

The homing head has been modernized through the use of a new detection system, new homing algorithms and a proximity sensor. The warhead, the starting engine and the coolant were also modified. As a result of the introduced changes, the sensitivity of detection, the range of detection and destruction of the target as well as resistance to interference have been increased. This system is infrared guided and can fight various types of air targets both day and night at a distance of up to 6500 meters, and at an altitude of 10 to 4000 meters.

The new demand for the supply of ammunition and rockets allowed the Company to increase its key production capacity located in the country. It is, of course, a long-term process, associated with large investments both in Skarżysko and other Mesko branches. Export production required the implementation of additional solutions, in particular following the quality standards based on Aerospace Standard 9100. For the Company, it is both a challenge and a natural way of developing most of its areas
Marcin Ożóg, Member of the Management Board of Mesko SA for Production – Marcin Ożóg, Member of the Management Board of Mesko SA for Production.

Piorun sets will also be delivered to Ukraine to support its defense against the Russian threat. A relevant application was positively received by the Council of Ministers, submitted by Minister of National Defense Mariusz Błaszczak. In turn, the Ukrainian armed forces have so far operated several different versions of the post-Soviet Arrow and Igla MANPADs. In recent weeks, parties of the American Stinger systems are also receiving military aid from other NATO countries

The export of lightning bolts to the USA, as well as the transfer of these systems to Ukraine as part of military aid, open up potential opportunities for its producer for further international contracts. It is no secret that the American market is very demanding, also when it comes to quality standards. At the same time, US purchasing decisions are often seen as a beacon for many other countries, including those that work closely with US military forces.

Currently, Poland is one of the few countries in the world that offers and produces MANPADS with full intellectual rights. Meanwhile, the market of countries interested in replacing the currently exploited and increasingly aging American Stingers and Soviet Arrows / Needles is growing. Piorun’s predecessor, i.e. the PPZR Grom, achieved export successes, such as the purchase by Indonesia in 2007 (152 missiles for Kobra anti-aircraft systems), Georgia in 2008 (30 launchers and 100 missiles) where they were used in combat, and Lithuania in 2014. (an unspecified number of launchers and missiles), as well as the aforementioned US purchases, which could “pave the way” for Piorun sets. All this shows that MANPADS systems are promising weapons, and Poland has the potential to offer them and further develop them both for Armed Forces of the Republic of Poland, as well as foreign partners.

 

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