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Developments in the Hungarian military reaching global standards

The Magyar Nemzet is the main daily outlet of Hungary. Founded in 1938, the Magyar Nemzet (Hungarian Nation) is a reference journal for the conservatives of Hungary. The conservative newspaper is close to the current Hungarian government lead by Viktor Orbán.

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Hungary – Gáspár Maróth: The government is forging unprecedented improvements despite the country’s hindrances.

Within just a few years, Hungary has not only built-up Central Europe’s most adept army, but also the most modern military industry which surpasses those of neighboring countries by decades—said Gáspár Maróth to Magyar Nemzet. The government commissioner for defense development also introduced the role of German company, Rheinmetall, and outlined joint research projects which evoke the stuff of science fiction.

The current government seized the opportunity that NATO’s binding defense budget spending provided. If organized wisely, this will be an exceptional industrial and economic development program for the country, said Gáspár Maróth.

According to Maróth, the military force and defense development program along with the associated military investments offer large government orders which are the flagships for manufacturers settling here. This process also determines the research and development program based on it. “With this, we basically follow the coherent thinking that exists in the business world rather than planning backwards as is the case in many EU countries” said the government commissioner.

Starting from scratch

Gáspár Maróth reminded that in 2015-2016, the Hungarian military was essentially nonexistent. “Our disadvantage suddenly became our historical advantage, because in the last few years we have been able to cut into an industrial development that is technologically decades ahead of the military standards in our surrounding countries. While our neighbors are struggling to keep their obsolete military industry alive, we can raise the Hungarian military industry to a completely different level through our investments” elaborated Maróth.

He continued to say that in 2016, the Hungarian government went in two directions of military industry development: on the one hand, they cultivated their German relations stemming from historical tradition, and on the other hand, they tried to harmonize the efforts of the Visegrad countries. However, the V4 countries followed a variety of strategies. In the case of the Czechs and Slovaks, and partly the Poles, their main goal was to maintain the old military companies. “At the same time, concerning Germany, large military companies have been able to innovate continuously over the past 100-150 years. German cannon barrels for instance, played a major role in many conflicts throughout history. Rheinmetall still produces the most efficient cannons in its state-of-the-art factories. In this process of revitalization, they’ve now begun to look for new sites while Germany is undergoing a major socio-political transformation. Additionally, in regard to newer and newer technologies, there is a shortage of skilled labor” said Maróth, listing the reasons why the patinated German company has become the main partner of Hungarian defense investments. According to the government commissioner, the Germans know that quality Hungarian vocational and engineering education is coupled with an extremely stimulating economic environment.

“We were able to compensate for our nonexistent military industry with quick decision-making and reliable cooperation” he said.

As a parallel example, he cited the automotive industry: Hungary started from the last position in the region thirty years ago and has now become one of the world’s leading manufacturing sites.

A protected sector

Concerning the joint venture with Rheinmetall, it is important to note that they are investing in Hungary for the long term. “We will be introducing our own plants under the Rheinmetall company name in the international market which is an extraordinary advantage” stated the government commissioner. While the Lynx armored fighting vehicles will be made in Zalaegerszeg, the 4×4 armored off-road vehicles and other wheeled combat vehicles in Kaposvár, the future of Rába in Győr, the state-owned company with a long history, is undergoing a very serious reorganization.
“It’s essential that the company undergoes this transformation because it is incapable of partnering with the Hungarian defense forces in its current state” emphasized Maróth.

Maróth Gáspár szerint a pandémia alatt az is bebizonyult, hogy nem kell számolni a védelmi iparág ázsiai kitettségével. A szektor NATO-n belüli nagyarányú védettsége biztosítja a folyamatos gyártási lehetőséget. – Az első hullám idején a magyar állam által megvett osztrák Hirtenberger fegyverüzemben továbbra is több műszakban, folyamatosan folyt a termelés, míg az alapító család tulajdonában maradt autóipari alkatrészgyártó üzem leállni kényszerült – hozott közeli példát a kormánybiztos.

According to Gáspár Maróth, it has become clear during this pandemic that we don’t have to depend on Asian production in the defense industry. The sector’s prioritization in NATO ensures continuous production opportunities. “During the first wave, the Austrian Hirtenberger weapons plant bought by the Hungarian state continued production in several shifts, while the automotive parts plant owned by the founding family was forced to shut down” elaborated the government commissioner.

The Hungarian model

He also noted that there may be problems on the orders end of things. Certain countries with large defense budgets have cut back on military procurement. This however does not apply at all to Hungary; coming from a very low level Hungary is still far from the NATO 2% commitment. In other words, there is plenty of room for increased military order.

“The military industry is a very sensitive sector, if it is too profit-oriented, then large companies can easily create a demand for their products which raises very serious political issues. That is also why we believe in the Hungarian model: if the state takes on a role, these joint ventures will operate differently than an offshore or listed company with an uncertain background. Rheinmetall undertook this partnership and it wasn’t an easy decision” divulged Maróth, sharing another reason for cooperation.

Young Hungarian engineer graduates can get involved in military technology development. The military industry is at the forefront of materials science, kinetics, laser technology, automation and many other fields. “Few people know that domestic laser technology experiments were conducted dating back to the Warsaw Pact. The question is when the technology will reach a level that it can be used safely. Within the Rheinmetall agreement, the laser development program got very lucky as Hungary has one of the most important research centers in the Europe and the world—ELI (Extreme Light Infrastructure) in Szeged. It’s no coincidence that after laying the cornerstone for the infantry combat vehicle factory in Zalaegerszeg, the company’s delegation traveled to Szeged” revealed Maróth concerning the joint development program with the Germans.

Ahead of Everyone

As far as military technology research in the European Union—PESCO—is concerned, Hungary joined several initiatives and then came up with its own program to which Germany, France and Poland were among the first to join. “According to the armaments directors of the EU states, the parameters of the individual weapon systems must be approximated within NATO. The first step of this process is unifying operational management and training simulator systems” reported Maróth.

While in 2020, among other things, the equipment of the Tata heavy brigade, the procurement of military transport aircrafts and air defense missiles and radars were on the agenda, next year the focus will be on continuing and completing the industrial deployment and related research and development programs.
“The most important element is the establishment of the Defense Industry Research Institute (Védelmi Ipari Kutató Intézet), which we are preparing with ministers Tibor Benkő and László Palkovics. We are discussing research and development that are not directly related to the current programs of the Hungarian Armed Forces, but are far ahead of them in the field of innovation” listed Maróth, concerning the important tasks for the next year.
He added: military development procurement will also continue, but he cannot comment on these as long as the negotiations continue.

Billion dollar target

The government commissioner said: the original goal of the force development program launched in 2016 and the industrial development behind it, was to be the first Hungarian company in the industry with a turnover of one billion euros within ten years. “Now it seems that by 2024 we will far exceed this target, ahead of several neighboring countries. The already completed and domestic plants underway represent the highest technological level available in the world. The proportion of so-called white- and blue-collar workers will be very close. A good example of this is that while 1,200 people in the Czech company produce the same number of handguns, two hundred people do the same in the Arsenal plant in Kiskunfélegyháza, in our plans.

“A high-tech industry of two or three thousand people is being built where, together with our suppliers we can keep most of the tax revenue and profit in the country” outlined Gáspár Maróth regarding the impending Hungarian military industry.

Gábor Baranyai