When the “Iron Curtain” fell Poland stood strong and looked immediately to the future for opportunities to create new bonds with former foes that had been separated by minefields and barbed wire during decades of the Cold War. The result was Poland becoming a full NATO member in 1999. For the Polish forces entry in NATO meant some significant changes and upgrading to transform Polish forces from the traditional Warsaw Pact organization to a much lighter, faster, and more professional force structured to tackle the newly evolving threats both domestic and abroad during NATO missions.
Units were reorganized, land forces were reequipped, and the command element evolved with new tactical and strategic planning. The Polish 10 Brygada Kawalerii Pancernej (The Polish 10th Armored Cavalry Brigade) was one such unit that undertook a radical change to restructure, retrain, upgrade, and become a powerful armored force within the NATO ORBAT (Order of Battle).
A huge consideration for the major changes in the Polish forces was to keep in line with a strict budget. This was done with the view of making new additions as cost effective and as manageable as possible. This new and improved Polish military would also and conscription and increase the professional soldiers to 60-70% of the forces to comply with NATO standards.
This book shows both historians and modellers the changes and improvements to Polish land forces concentrating on the 10th Armored Cavalry Brigade. Not only does the book provide a great overview of the Brigade’s equipment but a very good explanation of the changes and the ORBAT of Polish land forces and the Brigade is provided in text and ORBAT graphics.
As reader’s move through the pages of the book it is easy to see how the Brigade has combined very old Cold War technology with very modern technology and how they operate together on the battlefield. It is truly amazing to see Soviet era armor painted in NATO three color camouflage!
This Tankograd book is a soft-cover A4 format (210mm x 297mm) book with a total of 64 pages. It is part of the Tankograd “Missions and Manoeuvres” series. There are 127 color photos and a variety of organizational charts and unit graphics. The text is presented in both German and English. The authors are Daniel Nowak and Tim Matzold.
The book can be broken down as follows: 1. Pages 2-11: A brief history of Polish involvement in NATO and the transformation of Polish land forces since the end of the Cold War. A breakdown of land forces organization, Military Districts, Military Police, and Special Forces is provided. Strategic tasks and objectives of the land forces is also provided and this transitions into an ever expanding list of international operations that Polish soldiers have participated in. A very detailed explanation is provided on how the 10th Armored Cavalry Brigade was “westernized” and brought into its current configuration. Add to this a historical description of the origins of the Brigade and a full picture of this significant fighting force is provided to the reader. A detailed ORBAT of the 10th Armored Cavalry Brigade is provided naming the different types of equipment used by the different components of the Brigade. A very interesting and important breakdown of all of the ex-Bundeswehr equipment purchased from Germany is provided and this provides the basis for what the reader will see as they move through the remainder of the book.
2. Pages 12-27: Images and text are provided for the wide variety of soft skin vehicles used by Polish land forces. These vehicles range from Honda Quads to a variety of eastern and western transport trucks to NBC decontamination vehicles to tank transporters. It must be a very unique logistics issue to maintain and service this wide variety of vehicles due to parts and that fact that some of the vehicles date back to the 1960s.
3. Pages 28-42: Images and text are provided of the tracked vehicles used by Polish land forces. The reader will see M577 Command Posts sharing the pages with the ZWD-1, M113A2, BRDM-2b, MT-LB, Kroton mine launcher, and the BWP-1. I found this section very interesting as the BWP-1 (Polish version of the BMP-1) has been in service since 1973 and can now be seen with NATO camouflage and upgrades such as Diehl tracks.
The BWP-1 was scheduled for further upgrades with a new turret and a 30 mm cannon but this was cancelled due to budget cuts. While it is not mentioned in the book as the Bundeswehr moves to the Puma in the future large numbers of Marder MICVs may become available for Poland to replace its aging BWP-1s cost effectively.
4. Pages 43-57: Images and text of a 120 mm mortar, 2S1, the brand new but delayed “Krab” 155 mm self propelled howitzer, Grom SAM, very old ZRU-23-2 twin cannon, ZSU-23-4, the upgraded ZSU-23-4 MP, and the very unique looking PZA Loara. The Loara in particular is very eye catching and looks like a combination of a PT-91 and a Gepard!
5. Pages 50-57: Images and text relating to the BAT-M heavy dozer, the BLG 67 bridgelayer, the Biber AVLB, the MID armored engineer vehicle, WZT-3M ARV, Bergepanzer 2 Standard ARV, PT-91A Twardy main battle tank, and the Leopard 2A4 main battle tank. The intermixing of ex-Soviet era and ex-Bundeswehr armor lends itself to some excellent images and a unique merging of old and new technology.
6. Pages 58-64: Images and text relating to wheeled armoured vehicles with Poland’s land forces. These include the stunning KTO Rosomak eight wheeled vehicle mounting a Mk. 44 cannon. Images also show the Rosomak deployed to Afghanistan and Chad. The remaining images in the book show a mix of U.S produced vehicles used by Polish forces in Afghanistan such as the M1151 HMMWV, the Cougar MRAP 4x4, the MaxxPro Dash 4x4, and the M-ATV.
I really like the approach the authors and Tankograd took in laying out and producing this book. As the Polish land forces continue to modernize and take part in NATO exercises and operations I believe we will see more of this emerging professional army. The book provides a great cross section of the history and evolution of the Polish land forces and an equally good look at the wide and diverse variety of vehicles used in the 10th Armored Cavalry Brigade. If you a modern military historian the book should interest you from the perspective of how a Warsaw Pact nation has taken on the task of modernizing and entering NATO successfully. If you are interested in modern armored vehicles or modern armored vehicle modelling from either a western or Soviet era view then this is a great reference book for you and plenty of ideas as to how to build a modern Polish military vehicle.
Highs: A very unique mix of ex-Warsaw Pact and NATO vehicles operating under one flag.Lows: It would have been nice to see more images of the Leopard 2A4s and the KTO Rosomak given the importance of them in the Brigade.Verdict: A very good look at a military transformed after the Cold War. The development of the Brigade and the vehicles that equip it are well covered.
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