If BUFFEL is Selected, Polish Industry Will be Major Contributors
Rheinmetall has a recent history of high activity and deep industrial involvement in Poland. The most obvious illustration of this is Rheinmetall Landsysteme’s collaboration with PGZ’s Bumar-Łąbędy in the modernisation of the 128 LEOPARD A4 acquired from Germany in 2002-2003 to the LEOPARD 2PL configuration. This project, which Rheinmetall itself admits to being a flagship programme in its strategic collaboration with Polish partners, is due for completion towards the end of 2021 and has seen the majority of the work – including systems integration – systematically handed over to Polish industry. By the end of the programme, Bumar-Łabędy will have fully acquired the capabilities to serve as a project leader and technology integrator.
At MSPO 2018, however, it was auxiliary vehicles, not tanks, that formed the main element of Rheinmetall’s presence. The company confirmed it is offering Poland its BERGEPANZER 3 BUFFEL Armoured Recovery Vehicle (ARV), which was also presented in 2016. It is based on the same chassis as the LEOPARD 2 MBT and the Polish Army, which currently has roughly 30 BERGEPANZER 2s (capable of supporting vehicles up to 55t), is now seeking new and more capable ARVs able to support heavier vehicles (at least 60t), such as the LEOPARD 2A5 and 2PL main battle tanks, as well as the KRAB 155 mm self-propelled howitzers. It was suggested that if BUFFEL is selected, a high degree of participation by Polish industry, including local production, will be a significant factor.
Rheinmetall’s main competitor in this project is BAE Systems, offering its M88A2 HERCULES ARVs. It is estimated that Poland will order several dozen vehicles of this class but, at the same time, is also seeking to modernise its ARVs based on the LEOPARD 1 chassis. Rheinmetall confirmed during MSPO 2018 it has already been in discussions on this issue.
Another vehicle offered by Rheinmetall to Poland is the HX81 heavy equipment transporter vehicle (HET) with an armoured cab, though the version on display in Kielce featured an unarmoured cab. Rheinmetall confirmed it is currently waiting for an announcement of the technical requirements from the Ministry of National Defence, which is expected shortly.
Also on display was the FIELDRANGER Multi remote controlled weapon station, which can be fitted with a 12.7mm machine gun or 40mm automatic grenade launcher and can also integrate 7.62mm and 5.56mm rifles.