During the Cold War, Polish military industry was fully dependent on the USSR and there were but a few projects they undertook that deserved any attention from the military experts. Still, Poland is nowadays a member of NATO and that has brought some new partnerships and a real breakthrough in certain fields of weapons design.
Certainly, the project that caused the most hype is PL-01 infantry support vehicle. It is a step forward for the entire NATO as it introduces the new dimension in the armed forces and it shows the future path of the infantry support vehicle development.
On a first glance the PL-01 resembles on a classical main battle tank, with its 105/120mm gun and an unmanned turret, but it is built on a CV-90 chassis, thus it is much more similar to the infantry vehicles of modern NATO armies in that segment. It also introduces the concept of the tank that is capable of carrying infantry and it is the first stealth tank in the world. All of this makes it a very interesting concept and it should set new standards in future armored forces design.
The PL-01 is a joint project of BAE Systems and OBRUM. It had its first public appearance in September 2013 and the comments were largely positive both by the press and military experts, despite the fact that the final configuration is still unknown. It is predicted that the first operational prototype will be ready in 2016 and the serial production is scheduled for the 2018 at best.
Armament, protection and combat characteristics
The entire concept of PL-01 is based on a CV-90 chassis but with some significant modifications. The hull is designed to be resistant to close artillery explosions, landmines and IEDs. Frontal armor is also enhanced and is compliant with the highest NATO standards. Its 750hp engine is quite sufficient to make the vehicle very mobile so it can reach 70km/h on the paved roads. The new diesel engine of at least 940hp is predicted for serial vehicles and that will increase its maneuverability even further. This chassis allows it to carry its 3 crew members and 4 infantrymen in the transport compartment.
The turret is unmanned and of a very low profile. This makes the PL-01 a pretty hard target to hit even when it is in visual range. The additional problem for the potential enemy will be the special radio wave absorbent material with which the PL-01 is covered as it makes it hard to detect by radar. Additionally, it has an exhaust gas cooling system which makes it hard to spot with the IR seekers.
Serial specimens of this tank will be armed with 105mm or 120mm gun able to fire both conventional ammunition and guided anti-tank rockets. As a secondary weapon, it will have 7.62mm or 12,7mm machine guns. Of course, the entire arsenal will be remotely controlled so the exposure of the crew to infantry fire will be minimal.
The time will tell how successful this model will be but at the start it promises a lot. Its design was based upon the experience of the NATO forces in Iraq and Afghanistan so it may prove to be just the addition to the NATO military concept they need. It is almost certain that some features it has will be the inspiration for other military equipment designers.