Why is Hungary building its military capabilities?

image sourсe: mil.in.ua Мілітарний

Zrnyi 2026 is a modern program in Hungary to reinforce its armed forces (Magyar Honvédség). The Hungarian army’s weapons, combat capabilities, and strength are set to improve. Budapest aims at building up its defenses. After all, as stated by Istvan Igyarto, Hungary’s ambassador to Ukraine, “Up until now, Hungary has not produced weapons. They were provided by Great Britain, Germany, and many more nations”.

Hungary to produce its weapons

The Austrian firm Hirtenberger Defense Systems (HDS), which is a member of the Hirtenberger Holding GmbH group and produces weapons and ammunition, has been fully acquired by the state-owned HDT Vedelmi Ipari Kft in Hungary. It has recently focused on making sights, ammo, and 60, 81, and 120 mm mortars. New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Austria are all home to subsidiaries of HDS.

Budapest has committed to keep the company’s trading activities, development, and previous profile. Budapest’s plan to resume domestic weapons manufacture includes the acquisition of Hirtenberger Defense Systems. Till now, this plan is not a very visible element of Budapest’s strategy.

The growth of Hungary’s defense industry in the context of Russia’s war with Ukraine

Representatives in charge of the investment expressed hope that Hungary would start exporting weaponry. Some are concealing this project. Hungary’s demand for weapons has increased due to global wars and geopolitical tensions. Hungary is not the only country that has decided to reactivate its weapons production.

Establishing an armored combat vehicle plant in Zalaegerszeg, where Rheinmetall will initially construct Lynx infantry fighting vehicles, partially for use by its army and partly for sale, has been one of the primary objectives of the Hungarian military industry in recent years.

Despite the growing political and financial unrest in Europe, numerous elements will affect the growth of the Hungarian military industry’s exports in the near and medium terms.

European armed forces’ need for modernization

Almost all European states have started updating their military forces, and Europe is arming itself. Even traditionally militarily powerful nations that have taken part in international operations lack the necessary equipments.

Many European nations lack modern armored personnel carriers that can transport drones, long-range artillery equipment, and air defense command equipment.

Weapons manufacturers are setting up production facilities in Hungary

Activities for both production and research and development are planned. According to Prime Minister Orban’s official “Zrinyi 2026” program for military equipment modernization, Hungary will uphold its NATO obligations by increasing defense spending to about 2% of GDP. 

The duration of the official government program “Zrinyi 2026” for the modernization of military hardware has been extended to 2030–2032. Newly ordered and purchased equipment consists of new helicopters, transport, and training planes, tanks, armored vehicles, radars, surface-to-air missiles, and new CZ BREN 2 assault rifles (to be produced locally).

Hungary has placed orders for 16 H225M and 20 H145M. By the end of 2021, all H145M aircrafts have been delivered. Between 2023 and 2024 is the projected arrival date for the H225M.

44 Leopard 2 A7+ tanks and 24 PzH 2000 howitzers will be delivered to Hungary under a €300 million contract between 2021 and 2025. The Lynx series of infantry fighting vehicles will begin manufacture in Hungary in 2020, under an agreement between that country and Rheinmetall Group. The Hungarian Army will also receive the first batch of 200+ Lynx vehicles in 2024–2025, and they are expected to be operational in 2026–2027.

Hungary conducts research and manufacture of weapons

Hungary has set the objective of satisfying the requirements of its armed forces and promoting military and dual-use goods on international markets, boosting competitiveness and participation in global supply chains.

Hungary has high chances of success if it takes advantage of its location, the availability of weapons production infrastructure, the capability to ensure the production of high-tech products, and partnerships with top defense companies.

In the time of the war between Russia and Ukraine, concerns have been raised about the localization of modern weapon production on Hungarian soil and the expansion of combat capabilities. Hungary, after all, has not helped Ukraine since the start of the full-scale Russian invasion and has advocated for the continuation of trade ties with Russia and the lifting or easing of economic sanctions against it. Budapest has arguably adopted the most pro-Russian stance inside the EU. Thus, unanswered questions regarding the militarization of the nation remain.

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