As the HSW S.A. company celebrates its 80th Anniversary, the events planned on this occasion include placement of a unique monument near the company’s restored HQ in Kasprzyckiego street: the 2S1 Gvozdika self-propelled howitzer, in its Polish variant, known as “Goździk” (Dianthus). The monument in question constitutes a tribute to all of the builders and employees of the HSW company who, for the last 80 years, have been making contributions to the Polish defence.
Goździk is a popular artillery platform that was being license manufactured at the HSW company within the period between 1984 and 1994, in a major quantity of 550 examples. The self-propelled howitzer in question, operated by several countries, brought a revolution to the Polish artillery units, constituting an effective, highly mobile self-propelled cannon that practically put an end to the towed artillery era. From the moment when Gvozdika came into being, no new towed cannons were being introduced into the Polish inventory. Amphibious capabilities of the Gvozdika howitzer were a major advantage, since they contributed to the operational autonomy of the artillery units during regrouping or when carrying out support activities for mechanized or armoured elements. The platform was designed on the basis of experience gathered during the R&D projects pertaining to the PT-76 light amphibious tanks and the very successful mass manufactured MT-LB platform (Multi-Purpose Towing Vehicle Light Armoured, which is a Soviet multi-purpose fully amphibious auxiliary armoured tracked vehicle).
Polish defence industry has been manufacturing a variety of ammunition types for the Gvozdika platform, including HE and cluster rounds. The platform used the 2A31 122 mm howitzer (also manufactured by HSW). It was a modified variant of the D30 cannon with rate of fire reaching up to 7 rounds per minute. The rounds were separate loading.
Howitzers as such, despite their age (design dating back to the 1960s) still exhibit a certain degree of combat capacity. Recently, both sides of the conflict in Donbas have been using this type of cannons.
Gvozdikas, even today, still form the core of most of the artillery squadrons of the Polish armoured and mechanized brigades. The current modernization concept pursued by the MoD assumes that these platforms would be replaced with Krabs, however, it is dubious whether we would witness a 1-to-1 replacement. 2S1 platforms that underwent an in-depth modernization (including the automated Polish Topaz fire control unit for squadron-level operations) can still be viewed as a valuable component of the Polish artillery units. Both HSW S.A., as well as the supplier of the ZZKO Topaz solution - the WB Electronics company - are engaged in work and contracts awarded by the Polish Ministry of Defence, pertaining to upgrades of the howitzers and their fire control systems. The companies in question are also continuously delivering spares for the said artillery systems. Back in 2016 the Ministry of Defence also ordered a major lot of ammunition for the 2S1 platform - more than 3 thousand rounds were acquired.
Despite their major modernization potential (that has been used up to a major extent now), the 2S1 platforms are being gradually withdrawn from the Polish military, after 3 decades of service. However, some components of 2S1s are still used in other HSW products. For instance, the lower portion of the hull became a basis for a new armoured platform based on the LPG chassis (Light Tracked Chassis).
Here we are referring to LPG-based command and command and staff vehicles for the Regina artillery elements involving the Krab howitzer. Obviously, these platforms feature a modern 260 kW MTU powerpack, coupled with LSG-1000 automatic transmission – replacing the obsolete 220 kW JaMZ engine. Thanks to the higher power output, the platform exhibits good performance and dynamics offroad, acting as vehicles that accompany the Regina units – including the Krab elements (batteries).
Until the moment when a new platform is introduced to act in that role (with a prospect of this happening visible in case of the Borsuk IFV), the aforesaid assets fill in the gap meeting the requirements of the military. 11. “Mazurski” Artillery Regiment, the first user of the Regina element, already operates these platforms. The LPGs will probably be delivered to at least two out of four contracted Regina modules (for the artillery regiments of the 12th “Szczecinska” Mechanized Division and 11th “Lubuska” Armoured Cavalry Division). This would extend the lifetime of the Gvozdika concept, obviously in a different role. However, scenarios as such are the case for numerous armed forces all around the world. New roles are assigned to obsolete military vehicles that no longer can be used for their primary purpose on the contemporary battlefield. This pertains to the frontline main battle tanks or IFVs that, acting as a base for the specialized vehicles, may be used for another 60 years, or more.
Gvozdika and Krab exemplify the evolution of the self-propelled howitzer in the Polish military. The Gvozdika platform, weighing 16 tonnes and using a 122 mm cannon, was capable of acting against targets at distances of up to 15.3 kilometres with the use of HB D30 rounds weighing 21.8 kg. Meanwhile, special-purpose rocket-assisted rounds made it possible for the 2S1 howitzer to attack targets at distances of up to 21.9 kilometres. The modern Krab system, with the vehicle weighing 48 tonnes, may attack targets at distances exceeding 40 kilometres, with the use of rounds weighing up to 47 kilograms.
Gvozdika howitzer manufactured at HSW, along with the spare parts supply, offered a major boost for the HSW S.A. facility, development-wise. The howitzer was a stimulus that accelerated implementation of modern metallurgy technologies (as new steel was required to manufacture this sph, along with new VAD/VOD processing technologies). Gvozdika created a requirement to procure new manufacturing equipment and provide new qualifications to the employees. It also allowed the facility to get stabilized, and to offer numerous jobs in the region.
Not only has the 2S1 platform become an important element of the history of the Polish military, as it also bears a high degree of relevance for the facility manufacturing these systems. It is justified to say this: 2S1 has been an important cornerstone of careers of more than one generation of the HSW employees. Undoubtedly, Gvozdika was also being used by more than one generation of the Polish artillerymen. It shall not be forgotten that Gvozdika, manufactured by a Polish facility, has also been used as a springboard for development of other products dedicated for the Polish military, and for R&D studies conducted over the years.
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Even though the common opinion is that Gvozdika was introduced into use in the Polish military too late and in too high numbers (which delayed work to create its replacement in a 155 mm calibre), it is undoubtedly a part of the Polish military history. Hence, it is justified to have this howitzer visible at a location exposed to the public.