The Piorun man-portable air-defense system (MANPAD) programme has been delayed due to a technical issue, Poland’s newspaper Rzeczpospolitа reported.
The Piorun system is the successor of the Grom MANPAD solution, which currently is in service with the Polish Armed Forces. Piorun MANPADs may be used in their mobile form, they offered extended range and daytime/night sight, among other advantages.
The Polish Armed Forces were set to receive the first batch of the new generation Piorun, however there is a delay of a few months. According to the original assumption the weapons were to be provided before the end of 2017. Nonetheless, even now they are not yet ready to be delivered.
The 150 new anti-aircraft missiles cannot be delivered, because during tests in September of 2017 the launch engine chamber burst out. The tests in April and June had a similar outcome. The manufacturer has to pay to the Polish Ministry of Defense over PLN 20 million for the delays.
The Ministry of Defense signed a contract for 420 launch mechanisms and 1,300 Piorun missiles back in December of 2016. They were to replace the aforementioned Grom MANPADs. The Piorun was primed to be better than the American Stinger and due to the unique technological innovations were covered by export ban. However, there were shocking audit results. The manufacturer had many quality issues. The results of the audit, commissioned by Mariusz Kolankowski, the previous president of the company, said that the missile was deemed a danger to the life and health of both employees themselves and the soldiers operating the systems manufactured by MESKO S.A.
During the test in September 2017, the launch engine chamber burst, luckily the warhead did not explode, otherwise there would be numerous soldier deaths. Out of 81 units of launch chambers, around 15% or 12 chambers were below standard, all of the systems have passed quality control in the past.
What is interesting is that conversations with Mesko, as reported by Rzeczpospolita show that the company lacks proper testing equipment, it does not even have a special work station for measurements. The inspection staff even reported to the auditors that the launch chambers were sub-standard and were dangerous. The lacks in quality were neglected, because there was a lot of pressure to continue production. Auditors have suspicions that scrapped prefabricated parts were used for production.
The tests in April and at the end of June this year also failed. The problem was the same during all 3 tests – the launch engine chamber. The auditors have written in their report that the technologists have been unable to master the technology of producing the engine chamber of the Piorun rocket. There are also issues with the fuel, as well as with the RAD mortar grenades and the 120 mm sub-caliber shell for the Leopard Tank.
The audit commissioned by Kolankowski, the company’s former president covered the years 2012-2017, but he was unable to complete it because he was removed from his post on April 3rd. The new president Dariusz Szlafka suspended the audit and withdrew the auditor’s authorization, thus stopping the audit before it finished.
The supervisory bodies have since received the report, after it was completed by the auditor. Now Mesko has to answer for its negligence.