Aerial Warfare

United States to Procure Polish PPZR Piorun Man-portable Air-defense Systems (MANPADs)

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United States to Procure Polish PPZR Piorun Man-portable Air-defense Systems (MANPADs)

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Piorun Man-portable Air Defense Systems
Piorun Man-portable Air Defense Systems

The United States is set to sign a contract with the Polish defense industry for the acquisition of several hundred Piorun man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS). This marks the second contract between the two nations, building upon the initial agreement for an undisclosed number of Piorun systems signed in late 2021. The decision to procure the Piorun system underscores the evolving security landscape and the need for advanced capabilities to address emerging threats. The United States recognizes the necessity to fill the capability gap in the Very Short-Range Air Defense (VSHORAD) potential, a domain that has gained prominence due to recent conflicts, including the one in Ukraine. For decades, the U.S. military did not prioritize VSHORAD capabilities. However, the changing nature of conflicts, especially with the threat posed by enemy rotary-wing assets and unmanned platforms, has prompted a strategic shift. The Piorun MANPADS emerges as a solution, offering flexibility, effectiveness, and cost efficiency.

PPZR Piorun Man-portable Air-defense Systems (MANPADs)
PPZR Piorun Man-portable Air-defense Systems (MANPADs). (Photo by PGZ)

The U.S. Army had initially taken steps to enhance its VSHORAD potential by increasing the utilization of Stinger systems, albeit undergoing a partial upgrade. Recognizing the need for more advanced, high-performance MANPADS weapons tailored to contemporary threats, the decision was made to procure Piorun missiles. The Piorun system, a Polish-manufactured MANPADS, is designed to destroy low-flying aircraft, airplanes, helicopters, and unmanned aerial vehicles. A modernized version of the PPZR Grom set, the Piorun represents a deep upgrade, with the full name being PPZR Piorun (Przeno?ny Przeciwlotniczy Zestaw Rakietowy Piorun). Developed through a consortium formed by Mesko S.A., CRW Telesystem-Mesko, and the Military University of Technology, the Piorun MANPADS project commenced in 2010. The system’s development was completed in 2015, with a public unveiling during the 24th edition of the MSPO event in Kielce in 2016, accompanied by a Presidential award.

PPZR Piorun Man-portable Air-defense Systems (MANPADs)
PPZR Piorun Man-portable Air-defense Systems (MANPADs). (Photo by PGZ)

The Polish Ministry of Defence signed a contract in December 2016, covering the delivery of 420 launch systems and 1300 missiles for the Polish Armed Forces, with the deadline set for 2022. The Piorun missiles can be launched using portable systems, Pilica SAM systems operated by the Air Force, or the Poprad VSHORAD system employed by all Army divisions. During the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported the successful deployment of Piorun missiles, claiming the downing of Russian jet fighters (Su-34, Su-25) and helicopters (Mi-24, Ka-52). The upcoming agreement between the United States and the Polish defense industry not only signifies a strong bilateral partnership but also highlights the prowess of the Polish defense sector in providing cutting-edge solutions to meet the evolving needs of modern warfare. The acquisition of Piorun systems is a crucial step for the U.S. in fortifying its air defense capabilities and addressing the dynamic challenges posed by contemporary threats.

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