Poland Readies Buy of South Korean Multiple Rocket Launchers

Negotiations for an expected 300-unit purchase of South Korean K239 Chunmoo multiple rocket launchers (MRLs) have wrapped up, and a contract should be signed this week, according to Poland’s defense minister, Mariusz Blaszczak. The launchers – built by Hanwha Defense – are expected to arrive by 2023.

The upcoming deal continues the burgeoning Poland-South Korea defense relationship, which took off in July when the two countries agreed to a massive arms sale bundle estimated at $14.5 billion. The giant-scale agreement involved Poland purchasing 48 FA-50 Golden Eagle light fighters, 180 K2 Black Panther tanks, and 672 155mm K9 “Thunder” self-propelled howitzers (SPHs).

Under the agreement, all the land systems are to be adapted for Polish requirements. Further down the line, the two sides would cooperate on developing next-generation variants of the tanks and SPHs, while in the case of the FA-50, the aircraft producer, Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI), will establish a servicing center in Poland, with the target date to open set for 2026.

The arms sales meet multiple Polish needs: increased firepower, capability gap-fillers with newer-generation technologies, industrial workshare, and technological transfer. Further, the procurements will enable Poland to diversify its arms import chain from heavy reliance on U.S.-sourced hardware, while allowing for accelerated delivery timelines.

The latter aspect is of crucial import concerning the Chunmoo MRLs, as Warsaw’s plans to purchase up to 500 M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) from the U.S. are running into difficulties related to production timelines and supply chain issues. The U.S. is providing HIMARS to Ukraine to aid in its effort to beat back Russia’s invasion, while requiring backfilling of its own inventory. The success of HIMARS in the Ukrainian theater has helped further increase interest from potential buyers, with Australia one of the latest to express intent on buying the system.

Defense Minister Blaszczak signed a letter of request to purchase up to 500 HIMARS back in May, but now it appears the scale of that order will shrink by necessity due to elongated timelines. Instead, Poland shifted its attention to South Korea, with the K239 Chunmoo purchase seen as a supplement to the HIMARS acquisition.

To arm its K239s, Poland will acquire a substantial number of precision-guided missiles with ranges from 70 kilometers (43.5 mi) to around 300 kilometers (186.4 mi).

About Daniel Darling

Dan Darling is a senior analyst covering both the Europe and Asia-Pacific regions for Forecast International's International Military Markets group.

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