HomeGlobal Defence UpdatesEastern European nations reshape their fleets of fighting vehicles

Eastern European nations reshape their fleets of fighting vehicles


WARSAW, Poland — With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine fueling military acquisitions along NATO’s eastern flank, several European allies are advancing purchases of new wheeled and tracked infantry fighting vehicles.

Military budgets are soaring across the region, and lessons drawn from the ongoing war are triggering a robust increase in defense acquisitions. Numerous Eastern European allies have supplied tanks and infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine, generating a spike in demand for replacements.

Some seek to buy foreign-made vehicles, while securing domestic participation in their manufacturing and maintenance, and others intend to have their own industry develop new vehicles fitted with foreign-designed weapons.

Here’s a snapshot of what that looks like:

Polish fleet

Poland’s Defence Ministry is developing the largest tracked vehicle acquisition program in Eastern Europe in terms of the number of units planned for production. Earlier this year, the ministry signed a contract with a consortium led by Huta Stalowa Wola — an offshoot of Polish defense giant PGZ — to buy about 1,400 vehicles on a tracked platform.

Developed under the Borsuk program (or “Badger” in English), the initiative is to enable Poland to replace its outdated fleet of BWP-1s, a version of the Soviet-designed BMP-1 vehicle.

“The framework agreement concluded on 28 February 2023 foresees the delivery of about 1,400 vehicles based on a universal modular tracked platform, including 1,000 Borsuk infantry fighting vehicles,” a spokesperson for the ministry told Defense News. “The delivery time of these vehicles will be stipulated in the further executive contracts.”

The 400 tracked vehicles that are to accompany the Borsuk are to come in several variants, including command, medical evacuation, engineering reconnaissance, contamination reconnaissance and more.

The Borsuk is equipped with a ZSSW-30 turret armed with a Mk44 Bushmaster II 30 mm chain gun, a Spike LR anti-tank missile system and a UKM-2000C 7.62mm machine gun, among other weapons, according to the ministry.

Poland plans to implement the entire project by 2035.

Foreign designs for Romania

Romania is spearheading a similar initiative. The nation’s MLI-84 infantry fighting vehicle is a design from the early 1980s. About 180 such vehicles were produced for the country’s land forces, some of which were later modernized in cooperation with Israeli partners. The Romanian Defence Ministry now plans to replace them with a new platform in what could represent one of the country’s largest acquisition programs in the coming years.

Contrary to Poland, which decided to develop its new generation of tracked vehicles through its domestic defense industry, Romania is seemingly planning to acquire a foreign product to be manufactured with the participation of its domestic defense sector.

Other Eastern European nations have employed a similar model. Among others, the Czech Republic and Slovakia selected the CV90 made by BAE Systems Hägglunds in Sweden, and Hungary opted for the German firm Rheinmetall’s Lynx.

A spokesperson for the Romanian ministry told Defense News that Bucharest “intends to buy a total number of 298 IFVs in different configurations.”

“There is a mix of technical criteria, regarding both the armaments systems and the performances of the vehicle, that will be evaluated, together with financial, economic and delivery conditions,” the representative said.

In March 2023, the ministry requested lawmakers’ approval for several programs, including its tracked vehicle acquisition plans. Publicly available information suggests the program is worth about €2.99 billion (U.S. $3.28 billion).

“There is a cross-party consensus that military spending is needed, given the war that is taking place just across the border in Ukraine,” a senior Romanian defense analyst told Defense News on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of military acquisition efforts.

“The program is divided into two phases. The first phase will take place between 2023 and 2031, and involves the acquisition of 246 vehicles. The second phase will begin after 2031, and involves the procurement of 52 vehicles for the strategic reserve,” the analyst added.

Slovenia’s commitment

For Slovenia, developing a fleet of eight-wheel-drive infantry fighting vehicles is part of the nation’s commitment to NATO.

The country has vowed it will be able to deploy a midsized battalion battle group and a midsized reconnaissance battalion to take part in NATO activities. According to Slovenia’s 2020 defense whitepaper, the government will establish the former by 2027 and the latter by 2030.

In July 2023, the government amended the Defence Ministry’s acquisition program for the years 2023 to 2026, authorizing it to allocate about €695.2 million toward the purchase of 106 wheeled infantry fighting vehicles.

The ministry is currently “in the process of purchasing 8×8 wheeled combat vehicles on a government-to-government model. We estimate that the procurement process will be completed this year with the signing of the relevant intergovernmental agreement,” a spokesperson for the Slovenian ministry told Defense News.

The latest development follows the government’s decision last year to scrap a deal to buy 45 Boxer armored vehicles with related equipment and services for a total of €343.4 million from the international entity Organisation for Joint Armament Co-operation. The move was based on findings from an internal audit commissioned by Defence Minister Marjan Šarec.

In a July 2023 interview with local broadcaster RTV Slovenija, Šarec said his ministry is evaluating five offers, but he did not disclose the names of the companies involved.

“This purchase will definitely be carried out according under the government-to-government system, which means without intermediaries,” he said.

Jaroslaw Adamowski is the Poland correspondent for Defense News.

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