Europe’s Most Dangerous Rocket Artillery System: China Delivers New Polonez-M Ordinance to Belarus

The Belarusian Army has received new units of Polonez-M rocket artillery systems developed jointly with China, with the acceptance of the new assets celebrated in a ceremony attended by the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces Major General Viktor Gulevich. “Our state’s leadership places significant emphasis on the development of missile forces and artillery, learning from the combat experience of warring armies,” the defence chief stated at the event, highlighting the advanced capabilities of the Polonez-M. While Belarus has been responsible for producing vehicles and launchers for the missiles, China itself produce the ordinance – with the Chinese defence sector producing by far the longest ranged surface to surface artillery assets in the world. It was thus notable that only the rocket launchers of the missile complexes were showcased at the ceremony, indicating that delivery of the rockets themselves from China could be pending. 

The Polonez-M is widely considered the most capable rocket artillery system in Europe, and has no near peer rivals among systems fielded by either NATO member states or by Russia. Its most notable feature is its 300km engagement range, giving it a similar reach to the Scud-B ballistic missile and two to three times that of most other modern rocket artillery systems. The competing Russian Tornado-S system has an engagement range of just 90km, which is reportedly set to be extended to 120km. M20 rockets used by the Polonez were specifically designed for export by the 9th Academy of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, and allow each system to simultaneously engage eight targets with high precision. 

Accelerated acquisitions of Polonez systems comes as Belarus has belatedly begun to invest significantly in modernising its armed forces’ inventories, with the new assets complementing its acquisitions of longer ranged Iskander-M ballistic missile systems from Russia. As a portion of the Iskanders carry the country’s nuclear warheads under a new nuclear sharing agreement with Russia, the Polonez provides the Belarusian Army with a formidable upper rung on its escalation ladder before needing to escalate to use the larger nuclear-capable missiles. For China arming Russia’s treaty ally provides a means of bolstering Moscow’s position against NATO without intervening in the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian War, with Beijing having provided similarly significant armaments to Russia’s only other military partner in Europe Serbia in April 2022 when it rapidly delivered of HQ-22 air defence systems