Polish Armed Forces

Armed Forces of the Republic of Poland
Siły Zbrojne Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej
POL Wojska Lądowe.svgPOL Wojska Lotnicze.svgPOL Marynarka Wojenna.svgPOL Wojska Specjalne.svg
Service branches Polish Land Forces
Polish Air Force
Polish Navy
Polish Special Forces
Commander-in-Chief Bronisław Komorowski (Current President of Poland)
Minister of Defense Tomasz Siemoniak
Chief of staff General Mieczysław Cieniuch
Military age 18 years of age
Conscription No
Active personnel 100,000[1]


Reserve personnel 20,000[1][3]
Budget $10.8 billion (FY2009) 21st [4][5][6]
Percent of GDP 2% (FY2008)[4][5][6]
Domestic suppliers Bumar Group
Foreign suppliers  Russia
 United States
 European Union
Related articles
History List of Polish wars
Timeline of the Polish Army

Siły Zbrojne Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej ("Armed Forces of the Republic of Poland", abbreviated SZ RP; popularly, Wojsko Polskie, abbreviated WP—roughly, the "Polish Military") are the national defense forces of Poland. The name has been used since the early nineteenth century, but can also be applied to earlier periods.

The Armed Forces of the Republic of Poland are the Army (Wojska Lądowe RP), Navy (Marynarka Wojenna RP), Air Force (Siły Powietrzne RP) and Special Forces (Wojska Specjalne RP) and are under the command of the Ministry of National Defense (Ministerstwo Obrony Narodowej). As of 2009, Poland has the world's twenty-first highest level of military expenditure, according to SIPRI. Polish soldiers have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and 23 Polish soldiers were killed in Iraq between the invasion of 2003 and Poland's withdrawal in 2008. [7]



Pursuant to the National Security Strategy of the Republic of Poland, the supreme strategic goal of the Republic of Poland is to ensure favourable and secure conditions for the realization of national interests by eliminating external and internal threats, reducing risks and rightly assessing undertaken challenges and ably using existing opportunities.[8] The Republic of Poland’s main strategic goals in the area of defence include:

  • ensuring independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Poland, its integrality and inviolability of its borders;
  • defence and protection of all the citizens of the Republic of Poland;
  • creating conditions to ensure continuity of implementation of functions by public administration authorities and other entities competent in the area of national security, including entities responsible for running the economy and for other areas important for the life and security of its citizens;
  • creating conditions for improvement of the state’s defence capabilities and ensuring defence readiness in the national and Allied structures;
  • developing partnership military cooperation with other states, especially neighbouring ones;
  • implementing commitments arising from Poland’s NATO and European Union membership;
  • engagement in international crisis response operations led by NATO and the EU in the first place, as well as by the UN or as part of emergency coalitions.


General Józef Haller with Polish troops of the Blue Army in France 1917.

The List of Polish wars chronicles Polish military involvement since 972, but the present armed forces trace their roots to the early twentieth century. Yet the history of Polish armed forces in their broadest sense stretches back much further. After the partitions of Poland, during the period from 1795 until 1918, Polish military was recreated several times in Poland during uprisings like the November Uprising of 1830 and the January Uprising in 1863, and outside Poland like during Napoleon Bonaparte wars (Polish Legions in Italy). The Kingdom of Poland, ruled by the Russian Tsar with a certain degree of autonomy, had a separate Polish army in the years 1815-1830 which was disbanded after the unsuccessful insurrection. Large numbers of Poles also served in the armies of the partitioning powers, Russia, Austria-Hungary (before 1867 Austria) and Germany (before 1871 Prussia). However, these powers took care to spread Polish soldiers all over their armies and as a rule did not form predominantly Polish units.

During World War I, the Polish Legions were set up in Galicia, the southern part of Poland under Austrian occupation. They were both disbanded after the Central Powers failed to provide guarantees of Polish independence after the war. General Józef Haller, the commander of the Second Brigade of the Polish Legion, switched sides in late 1917, and via Murmansk took part of his troops to France, where he created the Blue Army. It was joined by several thousand Polish volunteers from the United States. It fought valiantly on the French front in 1917 and 1918.

The Polish Army was recreated in 1918 from elements of the three separate Russian, Austro-Hungarian, and Prussian armies, and armed with equipment left following World War I. The force expanded during the Polish-Soviet War of 1919–1922 to nearly 800,000 men, but then was reduced when peace was reestablished.

Second World War

Polish 7TP tanks in formation during the first days of the 1939 Defensive War.

During the Second World War, on 1 September 1939 the force was nearly one million men strong, but was overwhelmed by the German attack in September 1939, which was followed on 17 September 1939 by an invasion by the Soviet Union. Some Polish forces escaped from their occupied, divided country, and joined Allied forces fighting in other theatres while those that remained in Poland splintered into guerilla units of the Armia Krajowa ("Home Army") and other partisan groups which fought in clandestine ways against the foreign occupiers of Poland. Thus there were three threads to Polish armed forces from 1939; the Polish Armed Forces in the West, the Armia Krajowa and other resistance organisations fighting the Germans in Poland, and the Polish Armed Forces in the East, which later became the post-war communist Polish Armed Forces (LWP).

The Polish Armed Forces in the West comprised army, navy, and air force units, and were loyal to the Polish government-in-exile. Army formations and units included the Polish Army in France (1939-1940), the Polish I Corps in the West, the Polish II Corps, and the rump Command in the Middle East that was briefly designated the III Corps.[9] Amongst their most notable operations were the actions of the 1st Armoured Division at Mont Ormel, during the Normandy campaign, the Battle of Monte Cassino (Operation Diadem) scaling of the mountain by elements of II Polish Corps, and actions during the Battle of Arnhem by the 1st Polish Parachute Brigade. The Polish Air Forces in France and Great Britain numbered fifteen squadrons under Royal Air Force and Army Air Corps operational control, as well as units under the direction of the French Air Force. The Polish Air Force fought in the Battle of France as one fighter squadron (GC 1/145), several small units detached to French squadrons, and numerous industry defence flights (approximately 130 pilots, who achieved 55 victories at a loss of 15 men).[10] Naval units comprised three destroyers of the Polish Navy that had escaped from Poland under the Peking Plan to fight alongside the Western allies from Britain, as well as many other vessels that later came to be manned by Polish crews under Royal Navy auspices. These vessels included the cruisers ORP Dragon and Conrad, seven destroyers, three Type II Hunt class destroyers, and five submarines.

What later became the communist LWP was formed during the Second World War as the Polish 1st Tadeusz Kościuszko Infantry Division, also unofficially known as the Berling Army. The majority of officers were Polish. It was not the only Polish formation that fought along the Allied side, nor the first one in the East - although the first Polish force formed in the USSR, the Anders Army, had by that time moved to Iran. Polish forces soon grew beyond the 1st Division into two major commands - the Polish First Army (Berling's) and the Polish Second Army (commanded by Karol Świerczewski). The Polish First Army participated in the Vistula–Oder Offensive and the Battle of Kolberg (1945) before participating in it's final offensive with the Battle of Berlin. The Polish Second Army served under command of the Soviet 1st Ukrainian Front in 1945 and fought in the vicinity of Bautzen and Dresden. In the east these two armies were supported at times by Polish air units, part of the Air Force of the Polish Army.

The communist-aligned Polish military formation was the People's Army of Poland, formed in the Soviet Union and partially integrated with Red Army formations. It became the core of the armed forces of post-war Poland. It was known officially as the Armed Forces of the Republic of Poland from 1945 to 1952 (the same as the current name), and Armed Forces of People's Republic of Poland from 1952 to 1990, reflecting the country's name change from Republic of Poland to People's Republic of Poland.

After 1945

Soldiers of the First Polish Army which fought alongside the Soviet Army in the East, entering Warsaw on January 19th 1945.

The first postwar Minister of National Defence was Michał Rola-Żymierski, promoted by Stalin's order to the rank of Marshal of Poland on 3 May 1945. However, Michta writes that while the 'army was formally under Zymierski's command until 1949, it was in reality controlled by ..two Soviet officers, Generals Korczyc and Poplawski.'[11] From 1949 to 1956 the Polish armed forces were under the command of Zymierski's successor as Minister of National Defense, Marshal of the Soviet Union Konstantin Rokossovsky, who was given the additional title Marshal of Poland. Rokossovsky was succeeded by Marian Spychalski, who was released from prison to take the post. The People's Army of Poland was prepared to defend the country against a possible new invasion from the West (based on the plan by Stefan Mossor). It was increasingly tied into the Soviet structures. This process was however stopped in the aftermath of the Polish October in 1956, however, and brigades began to be formed in the engineering and artillery arms.

Marshal of Poland Marian Spychalski with US General Dwight David Eisenhower surveying the destruction in Warsaw on September 21st, 1945.

After the war the Polish Army was reorganized into six (later seven) military districts. These were the Warsaw Military District, headquarters (HQ) in Warsaw, the Lublin Military District, HQ in Lublin, the Krakow Military District, HQ in Krakow, the Lodz Military District, HQ in Lodz, the Poznan Military District, HQ in Poznan, the Pomeranian Military District, HQ in Torun, and the Silesian Military District, HQ in Katowice, created in autumn 1945. They were later reduced to four, then three and later into the two military districts active as of 2011.

Until the fall of communism the army's prestige continued to fall, as it was used by the communist government to violently suppress opposition several time, during the Poznań 1956 protests, the Polish 1970 protests, and during Martial law in Poland in 1981-1982. The LWP also took part in the suppressing of the 1968 democratization process of Czechoslovakia, commonly known as the Prague Spring. That same year Marshal Spychalski was asked to replace Edward Ochab as chairman of the Council of State, and General Wojciech Jaruzelski, at that time the Chief of the General Staff, was named to replace him.[12] Michta argues that Jaruzelski, as a known Soviet loyalist, reflected the Soviet decision to 'put a trusted group of officers in control of one of the least trusted armies in the Warsaw Pact forces.'[13] The command post for the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia was actually located on Polish soil, at Marshal Ivan Yakubovsky's Legnica headquarters.[14]

In 1953 Poland began to make contributions to peacekeeping operations, initially the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission on the North Korean/South Korean border. Poland has maintained for decades a long-standing commitment to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (500 personnel). The Polish Armed Forces took part in the United Nations-sanctioned coalition during the Gulf War in 1991, deploying two ships, the Piast and Wodnik, and a medical team (see pl:PKW Zatoka Perska (1991)). In 1994-95 53 GROM special forces personnel were despatched to Haiti for Operation Uphold Democracy.

After January 1990 the name of the armed forces was changed to 'Armed Forces of the Republic of Poland,' to accord with the Polish State's new official name.

Polish soldiers of Battle Group B in Afghanistan guarding Highway 1 connecting Kabul and Kandahar.

In March 2003 the Polish Armed Forces took part in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, deploying special forces and a support ship (see pl:PKW Zatoka Perska (2003)).[15] Following the destruction of Saddam's regime the Polish Land Forces supplied a brigade and a division headquarters for the 17-nation Multinational Division Central-South, part of the U.S.-led Multi-National Force Iraq. At its peak Poland had 2,500 soldiers in the south of the country. Other completed operations include 2005 'Swift Relief' in Pakistan, in which NATO Response Force-allocated personnel were despatched. Polish Land Forces personnel sent to Pakistan included a Military Engineers company, a platoon of the 1st Special Commando Regiment, and a logistics component from the 10th Logistics Brigade. Elsewhere, Polish forces were sent to MINURCAT in Chad and the Central African Republic (2007-2010). As of 2008, Poland had deployed 985 personnel in eight separarate UN peacekeeping operations (the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, MINURSO, MONUC, UNOCI, UNIFIL, UNMEE, UNMIK, UNMIL, and UNOMIG).[16]

Polish–Ukrainian Peace Force Battalion Brigade Insignia

Formerly organised according to Warsaw Pact standards, the armed forces are currently being re-organised according to NATO standards. 'Eagle Guardian' is apparently the NATO planning designation for contingency plans to deploy and defend Poland and the Baltic States.[17] Poland is also playing an increasingly larger role as a major European peacekeeping power in the world through various UN peacekeeping actions, and cooperation with neighbouring nations through multinational formations and units such as the Multinational Corps Northeast and POLUKRBAT. As of 1 January 2010, the Armed Forces of the Republic of Poland have transitioned to a completely contract-based manpower supply system.

On 10 April 2010 a Polish Air Force Tu-154 crashed near Smolensk, Russia while in transit to a ceremony commemorating the Katyn massacre. On board the plane were the President (Commander-in-Chief), the Chief of Staff, all four Branch Commanders of the Polish Military, and a number of other military officials; all were killed. However, the Minster of Defense stayed in Warsaw, avoiding the crash in the process.

Current operations

Currently Poland has 2600 personnel and 13 helicopters in Afghanistan with the International Security Assistance Force, 200 personnel in Bosnia and Herzegovina with EUFOR Althea,[citation needed] 288 personnel in Kosovo as part of KFOR's Multi-National Group-East (MNBG-E), a rotational deployment for the NATO Baltic Air Policing operation in Lithuania carrying out Quick Reaction Alert duties with approximately 100 personnel and four air defence fighters,[citation needed] and periodic commitments with Standing NRF Maritime Group 1 in the Atlantic Ocean and with Operation Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean Sea.


The Polish Armed Forces consist of 100,300[18] active duty and 20,000 active reserve personnel. If needed, a further 240,000 personnel can be mobilized. Troop strength in the four different branches was in 2010, as followed:

  • Polish Land Forces: 68,704[19] (three divisions; 11th Armoured Cavalry Division, 12th Mechanised Division, 16th Mechanised Division, with 1st "Warsaw" Mechanised Division having disbanding on September 1, 2011).

All four branches are being reinforced and supported by:

In addition, the Polish Armed Forces employ around 46,000 civilians which are split through all branches of the military.[24] In 2010 the Ministry of National Defence of the Republic of Poland announced its intention about reducing its number by around 10% until 2012[25]


Land Forces

Air Force



As of 2011, the Polish military is in the middle of a long-term modernisation programme. Immediate plans involve new anti-aircraft missile systems, Lead-In Fighter Trainer (LIFT) training aircraft, an aerial refueling aircraft, VIP transport aircraft, attack helicopters, a submarine and self-propelled howitzers. However, predictions suggest that the budget might not cope with the need to replace ageing equipment, since several programs such as acqcuisition of two air-to-air refueling tankers, 50 transport helicoters or seven multirole corvettes have been already postponed or completely cancelled. Recent and ongoing modernisation projects include:


The Polish Armed Forces are the only military entity in the world to use a two-finger salute which is only used while wearing a hat (it refers to the fact that the salute is given to the emblem itself) with the emblem of the Polish eagle, such as military hat rogatywka. The salute is performed with the middle and index fingers extended and touching each other, while the ring and little fingers are bent and touched by the thumb. The tips of the middle and index fingers touch the peak of the cap, two fingers supposedly meaning honour and fatherland (Honor i Ojczyzna).

See also


  1. ^ a b International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2010, pp. 153–155
  2. ^ (Polish) Profesjonalizacja Wojska Polskiego
  3. ^ a b "..:: Ministerstwo Obrony Narodowej - serwis internetowy :: Kadry ::..". Polish Military. http://www.wp.mil.pl/pl/strona/47/LG_54_55. Retrieved 22 February 2011. (in polish)
  4. ^ a b "SIPRI Publications". Milexdata.sipri.org. http://milexdata.sipri.org/result.php4. Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  5. ^ a b "Poland". State.gov. 2011-08-30. http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2875.htm. Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  6. ^ a b http://www.sipri.org/research/armaments/milex/resultoutput/milex_15
  7. ^ Polish Casualties in Iraq
  8. ^ Ministry of National Defence, Defence Strategy of the Republic of Poland, Warsaw, 2009. Strategic defence goals, p.7-8.
  9. ^ see pl:III Korpus Polski (PSZ)
  10. ^ (Polish) Wojsko Polskie we Francji. Świat Polonii. Sources give estimates that can differ by few percent.
  11. ^ Andrew A. Michta, 'Red Eagle: the army in Polish politics 1944-1988,' Hoover Press, 1990, p.44. Source see footnote 19, p.44
  12. ^ Michta, 1990, p.59, citing the Polish army daily Zolnierz Wolnosci, April 12, 1968
  13. ^ Michta, 1990, p.62. Michta's footnote emphasises that Spychalski would not have been the right officer to have in charge of the LWP during the invasion.
  14. ^ Michta, 1990, p.62. Michta's footnote cites 'Testimony of Col. Ryszard Kuklinski, who participated in the preparation of the invasion plans. See Kuklinski p.10'
  15. ^ Around 200 Polish soldiers took part in combat, including GROM (Mobile-Operational Reaction Group) and FORMOZA (Naval Frogmen Group) special forces, a chemical decontamination unit as well as the ORP Kontradmirał X. Czernicki logistical ship. (Rafał Domisiewicz, Consolidating the Security Sector in Post-Conflict States: Polish Lessons from Iraq, Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  16. ^ SWiSH v2.0. "Wojskowe misje ONZ z udziałem Polaków" (in (Polish)). Skmponz.w.interia.pl. http://skmponz.w.interia.pl/misje.htm. Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  17. ^ The Guardian, [1]
  18. ^ Polish Military personnel
  19. ^ a b c d http://www.bip.mon.gov.pl/pliki/file/wersja%20polska.ppt
  20. ^ http://www.biuletyn.mon.gov.pl/pliki/File/Dz_Urz_MON/2009pdf/Dz%20U%20MON%20Nr%201a%2009.pdf
  21. ^ ":: Żandarmeria Wojskowa - Komenda Główna ŻW :: Brak Strony ::". Zw.wp.mil.pl. http://www.zw.wp.mil.pl/pl/49.html. Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  22. ^ ":: Ministry of National Defence - Polish Army :: Military Police ::". Mon.gov.pl. http://www.mon.gov.pl/en/strona/136/LG_96. Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  23. ^ Onet.pl, Rewolucja w polskiej armii- Wiadomości, 21.03.2009
  24. ^ "Klich: dla cywilnych pracowników wojska podwyżka 180 zł brutto - Praca i ubezpieczenia - Gazeta Prawna - Partner pracodawcy, narzędzie specjalisty". Praca.gazetaprawna.pl. http://praca.gazetaprawna.pl/artykuly/320649,klich_dla_cywilnych_pracownikow_wojska_podwyzka_180_zl_brutto.html. Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  25. ^ "Tysiące pracowników wojska pójdą na bruk | Gorący Temat". Blog.rp.pl. 2010-06-16. http://blog.rp.pl/goracytemat/2010/06/16/tysiace-pracownikow-wojska-pojda-na-bruk/. Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  26. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Ministry of National Defence, :: Ministerstwo Obrony Narodowej - serwis internetowy :: Uzbrojenie ::
  27. ^ "BLMW" (in (Polish)). BLMW. http://www.bl.mw.mil.pl/index.php?akcja=wyposazenie. Retrieved 2011-11-20. 

External links

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