Poland has donated 54 of its now locally produced KRAB self-propelled 155mm howitzers to Ukraine. Poland is manufacturing more and will soon deliver another 54 KRAB systems to Ukraine. Poland has given Ukraine priority on receiving these newly manufactured artillery vehicles and currently Ukraine has more than half the KRAB vehicles in service. The rest are used by Polish forces.
Ukrainian weapons specialists and manufacturers had followed the KRAB development from the beginning. Both Ukraine and Poland had become major weapons-producing countries even while under Russian (Soviet). Once both were free of Russian control in 1991, they worked on joint projects for new weapons. While Poland was eager to join NATO to obtain some protection from Russian attack, Ukraine managed to get written assurance from Russia that Russia would never attack and try to annex Ukrainian territory. The 1994 treaty was guaranteed by the United States and Britain and by association, Russia agreed to this in order to get Ukraine to give up the nuclear weapons it had inherited during the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Despite the treaty, Ukrainians worked with Poland and other NATO nations as well as Russian in developing and building new military equipment. Poland was the closest development partner. In 2014 Russia did the unexpected, at least to Ukraine, tore up the 1994 treaty and grabbed Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine (Donbas). Poland was less surprised about this development, having been the victim of much Russian bad behavior for centuries. In 2014 Ukraine realized it needed NATO and Poland was one NATO member who strenuously backed NATO support for Ukraine in case the Russian sought to take more of Ukraine. As expected, the Russians did just that in early 2022. Poland has provided more military aid for Ukraine (as a percentage of GDP) than the United States, which has supplied the bulk of this aid. The Polish donation of most of its new KRAB systems to Ukraine was just the latest example of Polish enthusiasm for keeping Ukraine free from Russian control.
KRAB was not a surprise to the Ukrainians because they had closely followed its development since the 1990s. In 2016 Poland ordered 96 KRAB vehicles and nearly as many support vehicles needed to equip two KRAB artillery battalions. Deliveries began in 2017 and were to be completed by 2024. It took Poland nearly a decade to develop the design for the KRAB and develop the manufacturing resources needed to build KRAB locally. This included obtaining a manufacturing license to modify and build the South Korean chassis used for the South Korean K-9 Thunder self-propelled artillery. This deal was necessary because efforts to design and build a KRAB chassis locally were taking too long and costing too much. The K-9 Thunder artillery vehicle was already in service and its chassis was found to be suitable for the similar Polish KRAB. The first 36 chassis were built in South Korea with the rest built in Poland. This was for 120 KRAB self-propelled howitzers. Poland eventually planned to have five KRAB battalions in service, each with 24 KRAB vehicles. Ukraine was using the American style artillery battalion, which had 18 guns.
KRAB is a 48- ton self-propelled howitzer operated by a crew of five using a NATO standard 155mm gun. The idea for KRAB emerged in the early 1990s when Polish military planners began developing a locally produced self-propelled 155mm artillery vehicle. This led to the KRAB vehicle, which was to include new command, communications and fire control subsystems. KRAB was designed to deliver accurate fire at targets 40 kilometers away. This was farther than the existing Russian 122mm and 152mm artillery used by Polish forces. Poland wanted to join NATO and to do that had to have a reasonable plan for replacing much of their Cold War era Russian weapons with Western “NATO Compliant” equipment. Poland was able to join NATO in 1999 and is now nearly finished with replacing all its Russian designed weapons.
Ukrainian forces consider KRAB their most effective weapon. Unlike most other recent self-propelled 155mm artillery vehicles, KRAB has lots of combat experience. After the Russians invaded in February Poland agreed to begin deliveries to Ukraine as soon as possible. So far Ukraine has lost only two KRABs in combat and the Ukrainian crews consider the heavily armed and easy to operate KRAB a superior weapon. Poland hoped to find export customers for KRAB and that became a lot easier once Ukrainian troops began using it.