MLRS “Polonaise” leads the Belarusian-Chinese defence cooperation to a new level. After implementation of this project the supply from China to our country weapons systems, the need in which for Belarus may be assessed as critical, can be expected.
Belarus is known as a manufacturer of a wide variety of accessories for different types of weapons and military equipment. However, finished armaments appear in Belarus quite rarely. At this rate it is no wonder that the new long-range multiple rocket launchers “Polonaise”, produced in Belarus and for the first time demonstrated at a military parade on May 9, 2015 in Minsk, attracted worldwide attention. In the parade were two 8-warhead launchers and two transport-charging vehicles — all of them performed on all-terrain four-axle chassis MZKT-7930 8×8.
According to official information, long-range multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) “Polonaise” was created by national organizations of the defence sector of the economy and corresponds to the best world standards. Each combat vehicle of the system “… is able to simultaneously perform a surgical strike on eight targets at a distance of over 200 km”.
On May 13, the Minister of Defence Andrei Raukou told that the new Belarusian MLRS “Polonaise” is planned to be put into service in 2016. The Minister didn’t say whether these systems will be used in the future for military training in Belarus or it will happen at the firing ground Ashuluk in Russia. According to him, this issue is studied. It can be understood: in Belarus just size of the country doesn’t allow to organize complete testing of the MLRS, easily shooting from Minsk to Vitebsk. For the “Polonaise” even the largest Belarusian firing ground — Almanski (along the river Stviga) is small.
The presentation of “Polonaise” was announced in advance, and then the main intrigue was born: what missiles would be used? The point is that Belarus has no own technical base for the production of any missile, especially a long range one. And a missile is a key element of the MLRS. All other components (chassis, launchers, transport and charging vehicles, control and guidance systems) are produced in Belarus.
As a result, experts on military equipment had to wonder: where Belarus is going to purchase missiles for “Polonaise”. There are three variants. The first one is Ukraine. This country has an advanced full cycle missile industry. Moreover, in recent years the Belarusian-Ukrainian military-technical cooperation is developing very rapidly.
The second one is Russia. Russians conduct their own development in the field of MLRS. However, according to reports, they are testing a missile with a maximum range of 160 kilometers, while the Belarusian military talk that the missile with the range of more than 200 km is ready to be put into service.
The third one is China. The country pays special attention to the development of MLRS and today offers to the world market the models with the missiles of different range. Such MLRS, in particular, were presented (in the form of miniature models) by China at the military exhibition MILEX-2014 in Minsk. In particular, that were: the model Type 82, Type 89 (copy MRLS “Grad”, but based on crawling traction), WM-80, WM-120, WS-1, WS-2, WS-3, A-100, Type 90, AR1A. In some way Belarusian “Polonaise” is alike to WS-2 and WS-3, which are armed with missiles of similar range.
So who helped Belarusian gunsmiths to get heavy long-range MLRS? Characteristics of MLRS “Polonaise” and look of its square in cross-section missile containers suggest that the system uses high-precision long-range missiles from China. It is most likely that 301-mm rockets A200 developed and produced by China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT, also known as the “First Academy”), a part of the Chinese state-owned aerospace company China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), are used.
On the global market A200 systems are promoted by the foreign trade association Aerospace Long-March International Trade Co., Ltd (ALIT), which is a part of CASC, as well as by well-known Chinese corporation Poly Technologies.
In this regard, we have already drawn attention to the fact that On April 27, 2015 National Security Council Secretary Alexander Miazhueu reported to Alexander Lukashenka on the results of his visit to China on April 7-10. Among other things, he “reported about the agreements reached, the outcome of negotiations on the provision of support to Minsk from Beijing in order to strengthen defence capabilities”. It was noted that Mr. Miazhueu had meetings with the leaders of the two trade unions of the corporation CASC — with the president of China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC, specialized on the export of missile and space products) Yin Liming and ALIT President (specializing in the export of defence products) Go Zhaopin.
Presumably, Belarus became the first foreign customer of A200 missile system. A200 has calibre of 301 mm, length of 7264 mm and stabilizers wingspread of 615 mm. The weight of the missile if 750 kg. The warhead (there are three different types) is separated, the combined guidance system is inertial with satellite correction (using GPS). Firing range is from 50 to “more than 200” km. The circular error probable (CEP) of the warhead at a maximum range is in the range of 30 to 50 m. A volley of eight missiles on eight different targets can be performed within 50 seconds, the preparation for the volley takes 8 minutes.
It is known that the Belarusian military are confused with one thing — the rockets are using the correction according to GPS (its open civil part). They fear that in case of military conflict, the Americans can just shut off the system or make some artificial distortion it in, drastically reducing accuracy of the missiles.
In addition, on the parade in Minsk for the first time lightly armoured vehicles, “Lis-PM” with machine-gun and grenade battle module, were shown. These vehicles are produced by the Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant in cooperation with the Russian defence industry, equipped with domestic reconnaissance, communications, surveillance and electronic warfare, and are designed for a wide range of tactical goals. They are equipped with 12.7mm NSV machine gun and 30-mm grenade launcher AG-17. This year the vehicles are to be put into service of Belarusian special operations forces.
It is necessary to pay attention to mistrust of Belarusian generals to GPS system: obviously not everybody yet realized that the US in particular, the West in general are no longer considered as a real threat. And therefore the threat of shutdown of GPS is not considered by the political leaders of the country.
The shipment of the A200 missiles is a landmark stage, indicating the going of the Belarusian-Chinese cooperation in the field of defence and security up to a new level. It is obvious that in the future we can expect shipments from China of missiles with a range of 400 km (a kind used for MLRS WS-2D). Given the fact that these weapons change the balance of forces in the region and their delivery can be politically sensitive, batch supply seems the most likely in this case. In addition to missiles, Belarus could receive Chinese fighters J-10. Especially taking into consideration the fact, that the matter of replacing the Soviet MiG-29 is acute and traditional partner — Russia doesn’t produce single-engine light fighters.
Denis Lavnikevich for Belarus Security Blog.