DEFENSE and SECURITY (Russia)
BAKU CHOOSES THE "POLONEZ"
by Alexandra Jorjevich, Kuala Lumpur; Ivan Safronov, Kirill Krivosheev
CIS DEFENSE; No. 1172
Source: Kommersant, N67, April 18, 2018, p. 3
In 2018, Belarus plans to start the implementation of the first export contract for the supply of ten "Polonez" multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS). The probable customer of the system is Azerbaijan. Its minister of defense has already visited Belarus, where he got acquainted with the technology of the MLRS production. "Kommersant" sources say that such a contract will be negatively perceived in Armenia, but "Iskander" tactical systems located there should play a deterrent in Armenian-Azerbaijani relations.
The fact that the first export supply of "Polonaises" may take place aa soon as in 2018 was told by a source close to the Ministry of Defense of Belarus. According to him, the first firm contract involves the transfer of ten sets of MLRS (including missiles, transport-charging machines, control stations, radar stations, etc.). Legal documents are at the final stage, and the client "finishes solving its financial problems," the source stressed, adding that it is not "about the loan from Minsk." The source refused to disclose the name of the customer, however, two top managers of Russian defense enterprises say that the customer is from Azerbaijan.
The "Polonaise" project began to be implemented against the backdrop of the disagreements between Moscow and Minsk, which began in 2012, about the delivery of "Iskander" operational tactical missile systems to the Republic of Belarus. However, Russia agreed to relocate the MLRS to Belarus only together with the combat crews of the Russian Armed Forces. Having not received the desired result, Mr. Lukashenko instructed to create Belarus's own system, not inferior to Iskander in its capabilities. It was difficult to do this from scratch and quickly, so the Belarusians decided to purchase, and later locate, the Chinese A-200 type missiles (produced by China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology) at the Minsk plant of precise electro-mechanics, installing them on the Belarusian MZKT-7970 chassis. For the parade on May 9, 2015, two "Polonaise" were shown to the public. Subsequently, the system was tested at artillery ranges in China and Belarus, and the check was recognized as successful. According to sources, now the volume of localization of production of the missiles in Belarus is about 30%: the plant expects to master the full assembly cycle, but they admit that so far "it is still too far away".