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[KH Explains] Kia eyes expansion into European defense market

Poland signs $293m contract for 400 Kia Light Tactical Vehicle units

By Kan Hyeong-woo

Published : Aug. 23, 2023 - 14:34

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Poland's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defense Mariusz Blaszczak announces the approval to acquire South Korean automaker Kia's military vehicles at the defense ministry's headquarters in Warsaw, Poland on Aug. 14. (Polish Ministry of National Defense) Poland's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defense Mariusz Blaszczak announces the approval to acquire South Korean automaker Kia's military vehicles at the defense ministry's headquarters in Warsaw, Poland on Aug. 14. (Polish Ministry of National Defense)

Poland has decided to acquire military vehicles made by Kia, opening up more possibilities for the South Korean automaker’s defense products in Europe.

The Polish Ministry of National Defense announced last week that it had approved the Polish Armaments Group’s 270 million euro ($293 million) contract to acquire 400 units of Kia’s Raycolt reconnaissance vehicles, called Kia Light Tactical Vehicles. PGZ is an arms procurement holdings company established by the Polish government.

"The vehicles that we ordered in the amount of 400 units will be produced in a very short time at the Rosomak plant," said Mariusz Blaszczak, Poland's deputy prime minister and minister of national defense. "The vehicle meets the needs of the Polish Army. We intend to introduce this vehicle to the Polish Army as soon as possible."

The Polish Defense Ministry said the vehicles will be used for reconnaissance units in the Polish military, saying that the war in Ukraine shows that strengthening the ability to collect reconnaissance data translates into later successes on the battlefield.

The KLTVs are scheduled to be delivered from 2024 to 2030 and replace Honkers, Poland's existing tactical vehicles that ceased production in 2016. The Korean reconnaissance vehicles, which are in the form of sports utility vehicles, can drive on extreme terrain up to about 130 kilometers per hour with a maximum driving distance of 640 kilometers per full fueling. The South Korean military began operating KLTVs in 2016.

According to Polish media, PGZ subsidiary Rosomak plans to receive the production technology of the military vehicle from Kia over the next few years and modify them to fit the needs of the Polish Armed Forces. Rosomak will eventually secure capabilities for the production, maintenance and repair of the tactical vehicles. The Polish version of the KLTV, known as the LPR, will be equipped with a rooftop turntable capable of loading 12.7 mm and 7.62 mm carbines as well as a 40 mm grenade launcher.

Kia Light Tactical Vehicle (Kia) Kia Light Tactical Vehicle (Kia)

The Polish deal is expected to pave the way for Kia’s special vehicle unit, which has been producing military vehicles since it was designated as a defense contractor by the Korean government in 1973, to enter the European market.

Kia has so far exported the KTLV to Chile, Mali, Nigeria, the Philippines and Turkmenistan. The automaker’s special vehicle unit operates overseas businesses in 27 countries: 11 in Asia, 6 in the Middle East, 5 in Central and South America and 5 in Africa.

As of July, Kia has sold 1,073 military vehicles including 261 units of export. It sold 302 military vehicles overseas last year. It produces seven types of military vehicles.

Kia plans to showcase its military vehicles and their latest technology at the upcoming International Defense Industry Exhibition, also known as MSPO, which is scheduled to take place in the Polish city of Kielce September 5-8. The MSPO began in 1993 as an annual defense exhibition and has become one of the largest military exhibitions in Europe, drawing some 600 exhibitors from over 30 countries with nearly 20,000 visitors.

Poland is a key export market for the Korean defense industry. Korean defense firms inked contracts worth $12.4 billion to deliver various types of arms to Poland, such as the multi-caliber rocket launcher, the Chunmoo, K2 tanks, K-9 self-propelled howitzers and FA-50 light combat aircraft.