Polish Leopard 2 tank commander reflects on Allied Spirit 22 experience

Training in the cold, bitter Bavarian winter is something Polish Army officer 1st Lt. Jakub Szulczyk relishes – there’s nowhere else he’d rather be. As a company commander in 1st Tank Battalion, 10th Armoured Cavalry Brigade, Szulczyk has been participating in Allied Spirit 22, a U.S. Army Europe and Africa directed, 7th Army Training Command conducted training exercise that is designed to develop and enhance NATO and key partner interoperability and readiness across specified warfighting functions. Capt. Alun Thomas reports on U.S. Army's website.
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A Leopard 2A4 tank from the 1st Tank Battalion, 10th Armoured Cavalry Brigade (Polish), pushes to a staging point at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center's Hohenfels Training Area, Germany, Jan. 29, 2022. The tank battalion is part of Allied Spirit 22, an exercise that comprises more than 5,000 soldiers from 15 nations and is designed to enable the integration of the U.S. military and its allies in a competitive combat training environment. (Picture source: U.S. Army/Capt. Alun Thomas)

This is Szulczyk’s first experience as a tank commander at Allied Spirit and one he is focusing on intently. “Right now, we are trying to align our tanks with the German Army, doing maintenance and waiting for an attack,” Szulcyzk said. “We are focused on keeping our tanks aiming straight at the enemy in these scenarios.”

Allied Spirit is the perfect environment to create interoperability with the other NATO allies in the exercise and is the battalion's main purpose for being here, he said: “Interacting with the other countries is profitable for my soldiers because we have to use English as our primary language and also the tactical scenarios with the Germans,” Szulcyzk continued. “We are checking our interoperability with the other nation’s armies and using the same language to do it”.

Being a commander in this environment is also challenging, but one Szulcyzk has taken full advantage of. “This is the greatest opportunity I’ve had as a commander so far, being in charge of movement and radio frequencies, but also to have the overall picture of what we’re providing to the battalion,” he noted. “I love doing this and have been waiting for this since I was a private”.

A long-term program, designed to modernize the Polish Armed Forces, was introduced in 2019. Over the period of the next 10 to 14 years, a large portion of the equipment currently used by the Polish Army will be either upgraded or replaced. Some elements of this program are already in place. Polish Ministry of Defence signed a contract on modernization of all Leopard 2 tanks used by the Polish Army to Leopard 2PL prior to 2023 (the first Leopard 2PL arrived in March 2018). In 2017, the Polish Army had a stock of 1,009 tanks. There are a total of 249 Leopard 2 tanks (137 Leopard 2A4, 105 Leopard 2A5, 5 Leopard 2PL, 2 Leopard 2NJ), 232 PT-91 tanks that underwent modernization in 2016, and 328 T-72 tanks. 230 of the T-72s are being upgraded in Bumar-Labedy arms manufacturer plant. Some of the improvements are installation of new radio communication systems, digital engine control and start-up system, 3rd generation thermal imaging cameras, external transport baskets, and any necessary overhauls and repairs that can improve their longevity and combat ability on the modern battlefield.

Army Recognition Global Defense and Security news
Polish soldiers from 1st Tank Battalion, 10th Armoured Cavalry Brigade, await orders for their next mission at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center's Hohenfels Training Area, Germany, Jan. 29, 2022 (Picture source: U.S. Army/Capt. Alun Thomas)