As Poland works to significantly modernise its defence capability with a spend of $46 billion over the next 15 years, the Minister of National Defence has talked up the potential for increased collaboration with Australia.
During Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne's visit to Poland, where export opportunities were discussed, Minister of National Defence of the Republic of Poland Antoni Macierewicz said Australia and Poland have a unique opportunity to learn from each other as both countries embark on a significant build up of military capabilities.
"Both our countries are [to] go ahead in very significant build up ... [of] military capabilities," a statement from Poland's Ministry of National Defence said.
"We want to build up our capability on our industrial base so to be sovereign. Sovereign in sustaining and maintaining our platforms, sovereign in building many of [these] platforms.
"That’s what Poland wants to do and that’s what Australia wants to do ... and to learn from each other successes and sometimes our mistakes."
Australia and Poland are both in the process of strengthening their submarine capabilities, with Poland set to decide between France's Naval Group, Sweden's Saab and Germany's ThyssenKrupp Marine System for the supply of three new submarines.
If Naval Group is selected, Australian SMEs in the supply chain for the Australian Future Submarine project may have the chance to contribute to Poland's submarines.
There are also further opportunities for Australian businesses in the Defence sector outside of submarines. During Minister Pyne's visit to Poland, he witnessed the signing of a memorandum of intent between WB Electronics, a Polish company, and Australian SME Cablex to work together and look to provide WB’s command and communication systems and unmanned air vehicle systems to the Australian government and other foreign customers
Cablex previously told Defence Connect that Poland's large aerospace sector was attractive, with many major global players already established in Aviation Valley located in southern Poland, including Sikorsky/Lockheed Martin, Leonardo, Airbus, Safran and Pratt & Whitney.
"The office will focus on providing mechanical and electrical systems solutions for the aerospace and defence industrial sectors while also servicing local and international customers," said Cablex chief executive Michael Zimmer.
"We see enormous benefits for our international customers with the new site being in close proximity to their supply chains in Europe."
Australia is also in discussions with Poland to export the Thales Hawkei vehicles. Poland is looking to initially acquire around 50 protected mobility vehicles, with follow on acquisition programs expected to increase this to approximately 700.
Defence Connect understands negotiations regarding the potential export of these vehicles has been underway for some time, with interested countries, including Poland and Indonesia, waiting for the Hawkei vehicle to reach full production before finalising any contracts.
Australia ordered 1,100 of the vehicles in 2015, with more than 20 already delivered to the Commonwealth.
The vehicles, manufactured in Bendigo, support over 170 jobs in the regional Victorian town.
Gary Dawson, vice president of strategy for Thales Australia, told Defence Connect the company is actively pursuing export opportunities for the Hawkei and has welcomed the government's support for its export campaigns.
"We welcome the strong support from the Minister for for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne for the export campaigns to promote the new Hawkei vehicle in overseas markets, particularly in Poland this week," Dawson said. "Poland is a priority as the country looks to build its capabilities, and Hawkei is perfectly suited to the Polish requirements.
"Hawkei is a great success story for Bendigo and for Australian defence industry. It is a world-leading protected vehicle with outstanding off road ability and with advanced digital technology built in to improve its effectiveness. The vehicle was designed and developed in Australia incorporating the lessons learned from the Bendigo-manufactured Bushmaster, which performed with such life-saving distinction in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Our number one focus is delivering 1,100 Hawkei vehicles to the Australian Army, with first deliveries in early 2018, but we are actively pursuing export opportunities for Hawkei in a number of countries, with strong support from the Australian government through Minister Pyne and Defence attaches in market."
Minister Pyne also confirmed discussions have taken place regarding Poland's expression of interest in purchasing Australia's Adelaide Class frigates.
Poland officially expressed its interest in the vessels in March this year when Michal Jach, the chairman of the Polish parliament's National Defence Committee, told the Safety Forum 2017 conference in Szczecin: "The acquisition of used Adelaide frigates from Australia would represent a major upgrade for Poland, it would raise the combat capability of our Navy."
The vessels could provide enhanced ballistic missile defence to Australia, given the frigates are armed with a Mark 13 missile launcher for SM-2 missiles.
Australia's Adelaide Class frigates, which come out of service over the next two years, are being replaced by the three Hobart Class Air Warfare Destroyers, one of which has been active since September this year.
The FFG frigates have been in service since 1980 and three of the original six are still in service.
The frigates are based on the US Navy's Oliver Hazard Perry Class frigates, but were modified for Australian requirements. The first four vessels were built in the US, while the other two were constructed in Australia.
Poland already operates two former Oliver Hazard Perry Class frigates – ORP General Kazimierz Pulaski (273) and ORP General Tadeusz Kościuszko (273) – and it is beleived both frigates would be compatible with the Australia's FFGs.