Contract in days
As reported by Mariusz Blaszczak, followed by the Lieutenant Colonel of the Armaments Agency, Krzysztof Platek, the negotiations with the Korean side regarding the purchase of 300 units of K239 Chunmoo missiles have already been completed, and a contract is expected to be signed soon. The first launch stations should be delivered to Poland next year. The agreement also provides for a major, though as yet undisclosed, purchase of Korean missiles.
The Ministry of National Defense announced that the K239 will be mounted on a Jelcz 8×8 chassis with an automatic transmission. The launchers will be fully integrated into the Polish BMS Topaz system, equipped with the Fonet communication system, together with Polish radio stations and will cooperate with Polish command vehicles. The contract also provides for the acquisition of a license and the start of production of containers and missiles with a range of 70 and 290 km in Poland (data: AU).
It is worth adding here that the K239 launchers are two-packs, which means that they are actually equivalent to 600 HIMARS M142, which we also want to buy at the same time (the famous monovian diversification). Therefore, the latter order will be much smaller and will be 200 units, the MoD plan also means that the firepower of all 500 launchers will be greater than before (800 M142 equivalent).
The Korean MLRS system was created relatively recently, its development began in 2009, and production began 5 years later. Like HIMARS, it is a containerized system, the missiles are prepackaged, and such a ready-made “platform” is directly delivered and loaded onto the launcher, greatly simplifying both logistics and field maintenance of these kits. If someone has seen how Grady is loaded, for example, he will quickly understand why this is a truly revolutionary solution.
The main effector of this system (via GPS/INS) is the 239mm 3.96m long missiles packed in 6 canisters. Since each launcher has two “holes”, one K239 salvo is 12 rounds. Twice as much as with the M142. Their current range is estimated at 80 km, with a new jet-powered version being developed that should extend it to 200 km.
In the K239 you can also use 227mm unguided rockets from the HIMARS system, also packed in pairs of 6, and much smaller K33 130mm unguided rockets packed in 20s (40 per salvo). Also available are KTSSM 400 and 600mm guided missiles, packaged 2 and 1 per container (salvo 4 and 2) with a range estimated at 300+ km.
Compatibility with HIMARS missiles is often brought up in discussions of this system, but it appears to be very limited. From what I could find in the sources, only basic unguided HIMARS missiles, ie M26 missiles, can be fired from the K239 launcher. I have not found any mention of the possibility of using M30 / 31 guided missiles. Whether it’s due to technological or licensing restrictions, I couldn’t find either.
There is also the question of whether the M26 containers themselves are compatible between the two systems. I suspect not, and if I’m correct, the potential use of the M26 in the K239 would involve splitting their logistics channels already in the packaging stage. It should also be noted that the opposite will not work, none of the Korean missiles will fly from HIMARS.
Interestingly, although one of the effects of the K239 is the already mentioned 130 mm K33 rocket, this does not mean the end of the development and purchase of the Polish 122 mm Feniks unguided rockets. Mesko’s product, however, will not integrate with the K239, which is already a big surprise. Why not bundle it into one unified solution?
According to the Armaments Agency, the Langusta z Feniksami will be purchased and used in the organic rocket artillery squadrons of our major units. So our K239 will not get the lowest missile “floor” at all, or will we use 122 and 133 mm missiles in parallel? It will become clear only when the executive contracts are signed.
The decision to buy the K239 is probably the best of all the ideas of the Korean Ministry of Defense. According to information that can be found on Korean websites, the system is believed to be at least as good as HIMARS (many sources say better), and at the same time much cheaper. Well, one can only regret that Korea did not decide to support Ukraine with this, it will give us comparative material with HIMARS, and the Koreans themselves with virtual “combat proven” stickers.
An equally important aspect is that Korea relies heavily on rocket artillery and is therefore trying to rapidly develop and improve its systems. Korean websites have information about the performance of the Chunmoo II and III kits, which are more suitable for launching larger caliber missiles. It should be noted here that the 600mm missile often shown in Hanhwa materials is probably not compatible with the currently produced K239, and will only be with its larger development variants.
Of course, transferring the technology behind K239 and its effectors to Poland is a huge plus. This is something that could only be counted on to a very limited extent with HIMARS. Here it seems that our country will eventually be able to independently produce both launchers and missiles. Of course, there’s no chance that every item inside will be “Made in Poland,” but there’s a chance that the polarization will run really deep.
Also from a purely military perspective, the K239 seems to be a better system than the HIMARS M142 / M270 duo. The K239 has double the firepower than before and is more comfortable to use thanks to the two slots. Of the latter, due to the use of wheel traction, it will be much cheaper and easier to use. I do not consider the lack of a tracked vehicle as a mistake, the missile troops of this range are not pushed to the front line.
Is the pilot flying with us?
Although the purchase of K239 itself does not raise any objection, the whole program of expansion of the missile force and the general army still raises serious doubts. Aren’t those programs sometimes “from outer space” or can they be implemented in such a form? Has anyone counted the massive facilities and supplies we need?
Well, if one believes in the construction of 6 divisions, the expansion of the army to 300+ thousand. soldiers, 1000+ tanks and 96 Apaches, and quickly understanding the infrastructure and facilities needed for all the plans of the Ministry of National Defense, the purchase of 500 MLRS launchers will certainly not intimidate him. If we can carry that much, we will be able to operate 500 launch stations. Unfortunately, I am not so optimistic.
I do not believe in such a large expansion of the army, nor in its ability to absorb such a large amount of equipment in such a short time. I have no doubt that a significant number of these ideas will be lost for purely financial reasons, regardless of the outcome of future elections, and the scheme of framework agreements with subsequent smaller implementing agreements will delay such a thing.
The entry of the K239 is being treated as the first, still shy, swallow to force the decision makers of the Department of National Defense to make a real purchase. I only hope that the quantitative reductions that the situation will force in the coming years will be implemented wisely so as not to complicate logistics, multiply entities unnecessarily and not cause unnecessary costs. There was a fitting saying about hope…
Realism and the Polish question
In an optimistic version, such a rational scenario for our missile forces should mean the cancellation of the order for the above-mentioned 200 HIMARS stations. The batteries we have already ordered plus 300 K239 is still a quantity that will be hard to fathom. It is enough to analyze the financial consequences of such a purchase.
If our launching stations are to be more than parade equipment, they must be provided with an adequate amount of ammunition. Missiles, especially with longer ranges, are simply expensive. At the same time, it makes perfect sense for them to buy a HIMARS class launcher.
So let’s count in the simplest, even crudest way. According to estimates, the cost of one M31 missile is ~ 150 thousand. dollar. and ATACMS ~ 700 thousand. dollar. Let’s assume our purchase includes the minimum number of missiles per launch, the same as we ordered in 2019 with the first HIMARS squadron. In this package we have 270 M31 class missiles and 30 ATACMS class missiles for 18 combat launches (there were also 2 training ones).
In case of HIMARS we have 2 volleys of smaller missiles in this way of single launch, ATACMS will not be so fragmented, they are used in a different mode. The cost of such a package would be about $60 million, and since we are buying 10 more squadrons, we will close the cost of the missiles for HIMARS to the amount of $600 million.
We don’t know the prices of Korean missiles, but let’s assume they cost even 2 times cheaper (I wouldn’t bet on such a difference or zloty). Therefore, the cost of the salvo will be the same, and since we are buying 25 squadrons, we need to provide another 1.5 billion. dollar. It costs more than PLN 10 billion for a microscopic reserve, calculated with a huge distortion and rounding in favor of our military. Personally, with this amount of ammunition, I bet that the costs of the ammunition itself and handling it will be three times more.
Where is the reserve in that, so that after two volleys, the units that will have to fire intensively, do not spread their hands? During Desert Storm, the Americans shot 17,000. M26 rockets. Guided munitions are used less, but I bet the intensity of fire in Ukraine is many times higher.
Unfortunately, we still don’t know the hard numbers from this conflict, but the truth is that Poland must have had at least a few units of fire per launcher in the early days of the war. Of course, not all units will fire them, but teleportation does not exist yet, so the number of missiles cannot be separated from their location.
Other expenses should be added to all this. In peacetime, our units will also have to fire from these systems once in a while, even if they use training missiles, we will have to order a large number of them as well. Stocks, service and Jelcze mentioned above are irreplaceable. And this is just one of the many huge projects of our Ministry of National Defense in recent months.
Unfortunately, I have the impression that the current policy of min. Blaszczak talks about surviving as a paper government until the election, and then either they will have 4 years to cancel it, boasting that “we wanted to do well, but it’s impossible”, or in case of a loss, this reduction. Political fuel contracts will work against whoever will rule now.
The purchase of K239 is the best idea of the Ministry of National Defense so far. If it is fully implemented, it will be beneficial to both the army and the arms industry. If anything is surprising, it’s the reluctance to switch to the K33 130mm rocket or to integrate the Feniks with the K239 and change the Langusta II concept, especially since this one will also use the Jelcz 8×8 as a carrier. Why not go for unification, especially since even in an optimistic scenario with so much hardware absorption, there will be problems.
In the context of missile forces, the greatest threat to this program is the totality of the activities of the Ministry of National Defense, which, in my opinion, is of the genre of delusion and economic and organizational fantasy. I am afraid that we will only implement the first executive contracts, we will buy a few dozen HIMARS and K239 off the shelf, and there is no money, opportunity and space for the transfer and development of production in Poland. I would very much like to be wrong, because the very idea and form of the contract with K239 is very promising.