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These assault rifles are supposed to “teleport the army into the future”. Problems with the contract

TVN24 News in English

The negotiations lasted until the early hours and, as planned, the contract was signed in front of live TV cameras in the presence of Minister Antoni Macierewicz. A great success was announced. Without a doubt, this is a historic moment as, for the very first time, the Polish soldier will be equipped with an all Polish assault rifle that is really good. The problem is that this success is based on trust, as the final tests are still in progress. In addition, the contract bypasses the traditional Army procurement procedures.

“Maybe someone just wanted to boast about a big contract at the International Defence Industry Exhibition held in Kielce”, said Dariusz Cielma, the Editor-in-chief of the “Dziennik Zbrojny” daily. The contract for Grot assault rifles was the only significant contract that was signed by the Polish armaments giant – Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa – during the Defence Industry Exhibition held in the first week of September in Kielce.

The detailed provisions of the contract remain confidential. Official information is such that 53 thousand Grot rifles are to be received by the Polish Army by 2020 for the total of PLN 0.5 bn. The first thousand rifles are to be delivered by the end of 2017.

Research, tests, certification...

The disclosure caused a lot of controversy, as officially the Grot rifle is still under qualification tests, also referred to as national tests. These are to end in December. This means that the contract signed concerns a purchase of a product that has not been given the final formal Army’s approval yet.

However, in their interview for, the experts stated that there is nothing to worry about, as the Grot rifle itself can hardly be called “untested”.

As the Editor-in-chief of the “MILMAG” magazine – Remigiusz Wilk – said that national tests verify whether the rifle meets the detailed requirements of the Polish Army set forth in the tactical and technical assumptions being a document that defines the particulars of the armament order. “This is a voluminous document containing a number of different details. For example, the barrel’s manufacturing tolerance with the accuracy to a micrometre (one thousandth of a millimetre - ed.) is tested”, Wilk explained.

The Grot rifle, previously called the MSBS-5.56 assault rifle has however undergone a number of tests in the past years and it passed them all. Wilk noted that, as early as in June 2014, the rifle passed the certification tests conducted by the Military Institute of Armament Technology, which means that then it complied with all the applicable standards. “The sale of the rifle was theoretically possible from that very moment”, said Wilk.

Thorough in-house tests of the rifle at its manufacturer’s plant – Fabryka Broni Łucznik – followed. National tests commenced only after the said in-house tests ended. In the meantime, small batches of several dozen rifles were sent for testing to the Special Forces, Territorial Defence Forces and the Internal Security Agency. These are still in progress, but from the procedural point of view they do not matter.

Just some minor issues are still to be dealt with

Wilk is sure that no material faults of the new rifles will be revealed. “At this stage of Grot’s development, only ergonomics- or functionality-related issues are voiced”, said Wilk. Mateusz Kurmanow, a journalist with the “SpecOps” is of the similar opinion. He says that Grot has a number of minor flaws, but they are “typical at this stage of the rifle’s maturity”.

“These regard the materials, minor ergonomics- or completion-related problems. But none of them are the issues that would disqualify this rifle”, stressed Kurmanow. Wilk adds that there is no such thing as a “perfect” and finished weapon. “Should the design engineers be given a free hand, the work on the weapon would last forever”, he said.

In practice, despite certification and qualification tests, a number of details that are likely in need of modifications will emerge only once the soldiers receive more weapons and start using them. And this is what the first batch of a thousand of Grot rifles is for. As per the contract, they are to be delivered this year, but as the Army states, this will happen once the national tests have been finished. In practice this will most probably mean the end of December.

“They will be used in training and will be used by the Army. This is when certain modifications will be called for. The first small batch is perfect for this purpose”, said Wilk. Cielma is of the same opinion. According to him, deeming the first batch of a thousand of Grot rifles to be a trial batch “is most definitely justified”. However, he doubts whether the Radom-based Fabryka Broni Łucznik has the capacity to increase the production of the rifles.

According to Kurmanow, what counts the most now is the ability of the Radom-based manufacturer to respond to the remarks of the military professionals and to introduce possible changes. The expert adds that Grot would benefit from the sales on the civil market that would very quickly verify its value and point its potential flaws.

Additional encouragement to act

The form of the contract signed raises additional doubts. Contrary to the standard procedure, the contract was not entered into by the Armaments Inspector but by the Nil Military Unit that makes purchases for Special Forces that are governed by separate laws and can purchase armaments far more quickly and easily than the regular Army. Their purchases are far less transparent but in their case this is permitted due to the confidential nature of the majority of their operations and the necessity to quickly respond to the new needs.

The Ministry of Defence under Macierewicz’s rule decided to apply the same simplified armaments procurement principle to the newly formed Territorial Defence Forces. This made easier the purchase of equipment for the quickly formed unit that is now the apple of minister’s eye. This option was also exercised in the case of Grot rifles, and as a result the contract could be made in Kielce even before the finalisation of the national tests. Though legal from the formal point of view, this disturbs the previously applied system of Army purchases and potentially makes it less transparent.

Wilk has no doubt that the contract for the delivery of Grot rifles, though “unorthodox”, is not in breach of the provisions of laws, is lawful, and no one will try to withdraw from it. “In my opinion, this should be the Armaments Inspector to be effecting the purchase, but I do understand why a different, and maybe faster track was chosen”, the expert stresses and says that he would like the purchase “to be always conducted in the same way.” “In practice, certain departures from the rules may take place due to a number of different reasons”, he added. 

Despite that, Kurmanow is sure that it is good that the contract has been finally signed. “This will encourage further actions. Otherwise, we would never know how long this would last”, the expert says adding that in his opinion the works on the Grot rifle lasted far too long and there were “no logical reasons for that”.

These were almost a decade-long works even though the rifle was practically ready in 2014, as proven by the certification tests passed. However, 2015 and 2016 were wasted on procedures and only 2017 saw progress in that regard, but in the meantime, as Kurmanow says, the Grot rifle “has lost its innovative character”.

“Historic moment” clouded by confusion

Wilk regrets that all the confusion accompanying the signing of the contract has clouded its importance. “It’s painful. For me it is a historic moment. For the very first time, the Polish soldier is to receive an all Polish rifle”, the expert says and stresses that the Grot rifle is “incomparable” to the Kalashnikov-based Beryl assault rifle that is currently used by the Polish Army. - “Grot is a totally new quality. I understand why the soldiers of the Territorial Defence Forces were so fascinated with it when comparing it to the older generation weapon”, he added.

Kurmanow is of similar opinion. “Potentially this is a pretty decent modern weapon. Generally, all’s fine, but it can be even better”, he said. “Compared to Beryl, this is even teleportation into the future”, he added.

When referring to the criticism of how the contract was made, Wilk stresses that we should not forget that each and every purchase for the Army is conditional upon politics. “The procurement decisions are after all made by the politicians”, he said.

Źródło: Maciej Kucharczyk/tłumaczenie

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