MSPO 2018: The Polish Borsuk IFV Taking Shape

5 września 2018, 16:31
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IMAGE CREDIT: MARTA RACHWALSKA/DEFENCE24.PL

HSW S.A. is showcasing its new Borsuk (Eurasian Badger) IFV during the MSPO 2018 event. This is the second public appearance made in Kielce by one of the most important vehicles, playing a key role in the modernization effort of the Polish military. When compared to its form presented last year, the project is much more advanced and it presents more clearly what can be delivered to the Polish Armed Forces by the domestic industry. Unmanned turret, also destined to be used with Rosomak APCs, constitutes the icing on the cake.

The new generation amphibious IFV, known as Borsuk and showcased during the MSPO 2018 event in Kielce, acts as a demonstrator for two complex and pioneer projects pursued by the Polish defence industry. One comes in a form of the IFV itself, while the second one is the ZSSW-30 remote turret module. Both systems are being developed by consortia led by the HSW S.A. facility. The first consortium responsible for the IFV involves the leading domestic companies gathered within the PGZ Group: HSW S.A, Wojskowe Zakłady Motoryzacyjne S.A. [Military Automotive Works SA, Wojskowe Zakłady Inżynieryjne S.A. [Military Engineering Works], OBRUM sp. z o.o., ROSOMAK SA, Wojskowe Zakłady Elektroniczna S.A. [Military Electronic Works]; and the following R&D centres: Military University of Technology, Wojskowy Instytut Techniki Pancernej i Samochodowej [Military Institute of Armoured and Automotive Technology], War Studies University and Warsaw University of Technology. The “Borsuk” project is being co-financed within the framework of funding provided by the National Centre for Research and Development. HSW S.A. concluded an agreement with the Centre on 24th October 2014, acting as the consortium leader. The project value is defined as PLN 75 million (gross) and it is implemented within the framework of the 5/2014 competition resolved in September 2014. 

ZSSW-30 turret is being developed within a separate organizational/financial framework. It has been designed by HSW S.A. and WB Electronics, while the said consortium is managed by and works in collaboration with the Polish Ministry of Defence. Agreement signed by and between the HSW S.A. company and the Polish Ministry of Defence on 29th March 2013 became a launch point for this project. It was concluded after a similar project pursued by the Gliwice armour-development facility had failed.

HSW presented the first variant of the turret after a year of development, during the 2014 edition of the MSPO event. A year later a much more mature model was showcased. On the basis of that demonstrator the proper ZSSW-30 prototype was created. The prototype was then used in further stages of design and development. Not only has the ATK44 Bushmaster II cannon mount design been changed, as the new turret also has changed dimensions, when compared to the first variant. Positioning of the Spike ATGM launcher has also been changed. Same applies to the OBRA sensors and targeting systems. The turret also has a different armour architecture. Back in 2015, during the MSPO event, ZSSW-30 was distinguished by President Andrzej Duda, who awarded the product as the one which had the highest contribution to the Polish Soldiers’ safety. This is because the product in question is highly innovative, technologically advanced and it has been developed by the Polish engineers.

Two independently developed complex products should meet at the finish line, to form the Borsuk IFV that would be armed with the ZSSW-30 turret module. The latest review of the Technical Modernization Plan pursued by the Polish military expected the ZSSW-30 system to be first implemented on the Rosomak APC platforms. Deliveries were to begin next year. Deliveries of the ZSSW-30 turrets for the Borsuk IFV are to begin in parallel to those platforms being manufactured. And there is no certainty whether the APC variant of the turret would be homogeneous, design-wise, with the derivative destined for the IFV. Theoretically, it is going to be identical in both cases. However, in practical terms we may be dealing with a different scenario here.

Designing a carrier that would be created to accommodate an existing turret, similarly to designing a turret that would fit onto an existing carrier, seems to be less complicated than designing two complex systems in parallel, with those systems expected to ultimately effectively work together and having impact on each other. Especially if those systems are being developed within the framework of two programmes managed by two separate authorities. To make matters worse, the requirements set by the future user of the complete platform are a subject to frequent and significant changes.

HSW approaches these problems with a certain degree of optimism. - Whatever the path is that we cover, however complicated challenges we need to face, we still think that it is an invaluable added value for the whole Polish defence industry that when we solve such problems, a number of experiences is gathered, tied to the design procedures related to the individual product elements and to the products themselves, and to the problem solving and test programme establishment methodologies. Up until now, the Polish industry, even when manufacturing products of this kind, was using licensed solution, in case of which we were obtaining the R&D results in a form of a readily available manufacturing documentation. Now we’re learning from a scratch, also when it comes to the principles and procedures required for successful execution of the design process. Even if we fail, we obtain a precious capital of knowledge and experience – says Bartłomiej Zając, member of the Board at HSW S.A., Director for Development. This kind of growth of potential, experienced by the Polish defence industry, not only by the PGZ Group companies, is a huge added value of the programmes implemented, which is sometimes overlooked and unappreciated. – Zając adds.

Borsuk IFV model with the ZSSW-30 turret during the factory test programme. Image Credit: Jerzy Reszczyński
Borsuk IFV model with the ZSSW-30 turret during the factory test programme. Image Credit: Jerzy Reszczyński

Borsuk IFV needs to meet the requirements (of the military) now or at the further stage of work, and development of the requirements (in case of the Armed Forces) needs to be finalized - which is very important. Here one should mention the BMS solution, active protection systems, TYTAN system, as well as the ultimate ICT infrastructure embedded within the vehicle, including cryptography protection - matters that are usually associated with any IFV-related development projects. It is natural that the consortium cannot wait for all of the above problems to be resolved, as this would bring development of the IFV to a halt. And thus proceeding with work in line with the agreement and potential development of new methods of introducing new solutions into the platform later, with the Polish Ministry of Defence, remain so important. Further development could also be done within the framework of a separate upgrade project. Amphibious capability is one of the primary requirements when it comes to the new IFV.

This was a basic design criterion that had an influence on the vehicle dimensions, weight distribution, body shape, selection of materials for the hull, drivetrain and power distribution system distributing the power between the thrusters and the tracks. All of the above requirements remain independent from the conditions related to ballistic, mine and IED protection levels that are to be complied with by the vehicle. Borsuk had to meet both sides of the requirements set, even if they are contradictory.

Thrusters ensuring high maneuverability and speed of the IFV when it is moving in the water. Image Credit:  Jerzy Reszczyński
Thrusters ensuring high maneuverability and speed of the IFV when it is moving in the water. Image Credit:  Jerzy Reszczyński

Borsuk has already passed the first phase of tests related to its amphibious capabilities. The “sinking facility” of the HSW S.A. plant was used to verify the hull’s water-tightness, with the ZSSW-30 turret placed on the platform. Specialized facilities of the engineering component of the military located in Dęblin made it possible to measure the vehicle’s buoyancy (ZSSW-30 model no. 1, modified to be of the same weight as the final turret, was used for that purpose - without the expensive elements of its equipment) and in-water stability, as well as the way in which the vehicle behaves when entering the water and land environments. Furthermore initial testing was carried out with regards to efficiency of the thrusters, propelling the IFV and being responsible for its in-water maneuverability.

August 2018: Borsuk wearing the main side armour panels weight equivalents during the initial buoyancy testing in Dęblin. ZSSW-30 is emulated by a weight equivalent. Image Credit: HSW SA
August 2018: Borsuk wearing the main side armour panels weight equivalents during the initial buoyancy testing in Dęblin. ZSSW-30 is emulated by a weight equivalent. Image Credit: HSW SA

These were the preliminary tests, obviously. The main portion of the buoyancy testing is going to be carried out on specialized test stations. During the final stage of this test programme, Borsuk is going to be tested in open water with varying wave and current conditions.

Borsuk has already passed the first phase of the ballistic test programme, including the phase pertaining to resistance to mines and IEDs. The conclusions form a foundation for implementation of new design solutions, when it comes to the flat external floor and peculiar elements of the proper floor, also in the crew and troop compartments. HSW assumes that the work is going to involve two prototypes. Prototype No. 1 would be created from a scratch, with the test phase conclusions taken into account. At the same time it is an intention of HSW to create the prototype no. 2 on the basis of the Borsuk model which exists now. HSW S.A. asked the National Centre for Research and Development to provide extra funding within that regard. The two Borsuk IFV prototypes will be used for further testing, in parallel. This will shorten the period required to complete the factory and state military qualification test programmes.

When it comes to the turret, trials should begin in late September or early October. The first batch of the turrets is to be installed on the Rosomak APC. Depending on the portion of factory tests that would be considered to be a part of the qualification tests, and on what qualification (military) tests would need to be repeated, the qualification phase should end before the second quarter of 2019. The test programme is accompanied by a process of developing the series production documentation for the ZSSW-30 turret. The above means that the declaration made by HSW S.A. on launch of the series production in 2019 could be considered to be binding which, in turn, also means that the Polish Ministry of Defence would start taking delivery of these systems in 2020.

Prototype of the turret in its current variant of the Borsuk IFV. Image Credit: Jerzy Reszczyński
Prototype of the turret in its current variant of the Borsuk IFV. Image Credit: Jerzy Reszczyński

Here the twin-development path comes into play again - Borsuk and ZSSW-30 are still viewed as separate projects, as we shall recall.

At the moment HSW is developing two turret prototypes, one destined for the Rosomak APC, and one designed to be fitted onto the Borsuk platform. It is assumed that further testing is carried out simultaneously on both versions. The Rosomak turret already passed a tough traction tests programme. The vehicle with a turret covered a distance extended beyond the requirements issued by the MoD. Furthermore ATK44 cannon was tested in the turret, testing also took place with regards to integration of the Spike ATGM - the said missile was successfully test launched. Prototype no. 2 which is to be embedded on the Borsuk platform is and will be a subject to further research expanding the knowledge gathered during the test programme concerning the prototype no. 1.

Borsuk IFV effort is conducted on two paths. The initial factory tests have been going on since June, including traction tests, involving the functional model also referred to as the preprototype. Prototype No. 1 is going to be created with the results of those tests taken into account. The current model will then be reconstructed, to become the Prototype No. 2 in 2019. It is going to be used to test the solutions developed as a result, for instance, of the IED research. It is assumed that final flat floor design is going to be developed at this stage. Then both prototypes will be used in factory and qualification test programmes. Field test is going to constitute the final stage, during which IED is going to be used against a fully equipped vehicle including test dummies simulating the crew and the troops (prototype no. 2). This will be the final chapter of the IED and mine protection research that so far has been carried out with regards to models and fragments of the bottom portion of the hull.

Apart from the 25-tonnes (unofficial weight) amphibious variant, a heavy non-amphibious vehicle with better armour is also being developed. No details have been disclosed by HSW S.A., with regards to this phase. Even the information pertaining to the expected weight (35 tonnes) and the expected power-pack change has not been confirmed by the consortium leader. But no denial has been issued too.

According to the latest review of the Technical Modernization Plan, the qualification of the Borsuk IFV should come to an end in 2020, while the whole R&D project is to be finalized by the fourth quarter of 2021. If the series production documentation would be developed in parallel to the qualification test programme, then Borsuk will be ready for series manufacturing in 2022. The Polish Ministry of Defence is going to set the delivery timetable.

Borsuk IFV model with the ZSSW-30 turret during the factory test programme. Image Credit: Jerzy Reszczyński
Borsuk IFV model with the ZSSW-30 turret during the factory test programme. Image Credit: Jerzy Reszczyński

When the Borsuk IFV competition results were announced, the Polish military still operated more than 1200 obsolete BMP-1 platforms, with their design roots dating back to the early 1960s. It is too early now to speculate about the replacement ratio, considering the national economy on one hand, and plans to expand the Armed Forces quantitatively on the other. The studies conducted a few years ago assumed that delivery of 50 Borsuk IFVs per year would be a tempo which would satisfy the demand of the Polish military. HSW S.A. still significantly expands its manufacturing capacity, but in this situation that factor may be disregarded. The ability of the frontline units to receive and adopt the new equipment, their logistics-related, technical and personnel-related potential and the training attitude shall also be considered here. The main difference between BMP-1 and Borsuk, visible now, at the stage of comparing the current equipment and the NPBWP prototypes, stems from the technological gap between the two generations of the IFVs.

Jerzy Reszczyński

Defence24.com
Defence24.com
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