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What we know about Polish anti-aircraft weapons sent to Ukraine
Poland, which recently joined the club of nations supporting Ukraine with weaponry against the looming Russian aggression threat, decided to provide Ukraine with better weapons than previously expected.
Instead of PZR Grom, the Polish military's workhorse anti-aircraft missile systems promised to Kyiv, Poland is sending a more advanced and modern weapon of the kind – the PPZR Piorun, as well as munitions to it.
The Polish government approved a request by Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak to do so on Feb. 2. The Boryspil Airport is yet to welcome expected dozens of Pioruns, along with unmanned aerial vehicles also promised to Ukraine. According to official statements, they will arrive in the nearest future.
So what do we know of these weapons?
PPZR Piorun is a short-range, man-portable anti-aircraft missile system produced by Polish company Mesko. It is alternatively known as Grom-M (where M stands for "modified"). As the name suggests, it is a deeply modified and modernized version of Grom (Polish for "thunder"), which in its turn is a localized Polish version of older Soviet-made 9K38 Igla systems (NATO reporting name SA-18 Grouse) operated since the early 1980s.
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Piorun (Polish for "thunderbolt") was introduced in the Polish military as recently as 2019 to gradually retire increasingly obsolete Groms. Defense Minister Blaszczak in his Feb. 2 announcement said Poland is giving Ukraine its "newest weapon."
The system weighs 16.5 kilograms and is 1.6 meters long in total. The weapon is designed to target low-flying airplanes and helicopters, as well as drones. According to developers, Piorun is capable of hitting targets at a distance of up to 6,500 meters and at an altitude of up to 4,000 meters, which is enough to engage any Soviet or Russian-made combat helicopter.
The missile's fragmenting warhead's infrared targeting system was seriously improved, which gave the system a wider operational range and stronger ability to resist interference. Besides, the weapon has an individual authorization system for operators and is also adapted to be used in night time.
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Upon its specifications, the Piorun is generally comparable or even superior to its newest Russian rival, 9K333 Verba system, which has been in operation since 2014.