Cost: 8 billion zlotys. Goal: to procure three multirole frigates which will significantly increase the striking force of the Polish Navy. The contract on building three Miecznik-class vessels has already been signed. The work has been commenced. The first vessel is to be ready in 2028.
“The vessels will have firepower comparable to the Naval Missile Unit squadron and air and missile defense capabilities similar to the Patriot Battery. The frigates will constitute a major force on the Baltic Sea,” emphasized the Polish Minister of National Defense, Mariusz Błaszczak. Miecznik-class vessels will be built by a consortium made up of PGZ (Polish Armaments Group), PGZ Naval Shipyard (PGZ Stocznia Wojenna) and Remontowa Shipbuilding, supported by foreign partners. Ultimately, the new ships will replace Oliver Hazard Perry-class missile frigates received from the USA at the start of the 21st century, which had earlier served for 20 years in the US Navy. They still have numerous advantages, but their service life is nevertheless slowly coming to an end.
Ball Already in the Game
The Ministry is planning to spend 8 billion zlotys on the new vessels. The task has been divided into three phases. The first phase assumes developing three conceptual designs along with offers to transfer technology according to which subsequent vessels will be built. In this case, the work is already ongoing. At the beginning of August, foreign companies that Poland had invited to cooperate, presented their offers. The Spanish company Navantia submitted its F-100 design as a starting point. Álvaro de Bazán-class frigates used by the Spanish Navy, as well as Australian Hobart-class and Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen-class frigates were all built on the basis of that design. Frigates for Poland would have displacement of over 6,500 t, length of 148 m and range of over 5,400 NM. The F-100 design ships use various armament, including the Mk 41 VLS (Vertical Launching System) with SM-2MR surface-to-air and Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and a 127-mm gun.
Another offer submitted to Poland is the MEKO design by the German company ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems. Corvettes and frigates for, i.a., the German, the Algerian and the Malesian navy have been built on the basis of different versions of the design for the last several decades. The version offered to Poland is called A-300 PL. The latest MEKO frigates are equipped with, i.a., Harpoon anti-ship missile launchers and the RIM-116 surface-to-air system.
The third offer is by the British company Babcock. Five Type 31 frigates will be built for the British Navy on the basis of a design called Arrowhead 140. The frigates will be armed with, i.a., the Sea Ceptor air defense system with CAMM missiles.
The Armament Inspectorate will choose the best offer. After that, an industry feasibility study and an initial Miecznik design will be developed. The next phase assumes building a prototype vessel in Poland in cooperation with a foreign partner. The undertaking is to be a test for the local industry and an impulse for its development. “We want the first vessel to be launched in four years,” announced the minister. According to plan, the frigate should enter service in 2028. The third and last phase assumes building two more Miecznik-class frigates. The white and red flag is to flutter on the mast of the last one in 2034.
Frigate for Wide Seas
It is definitely the last call for the Polish Navy. If it does not get new ships very soon, it will lose its basic capabilities for a long time. Such a situation would be unacceptable, as a strong navy is of key importance to our security. The significance of the Baltic Sea in the economic puzzle is constantly growing. According to the statistics published in the spring of this year, Gdańsk has become the largest container handling port of the Baltic Sea. Poland has also been striving for some time now to diversify the deliveries of basic raw materials.
In 2015, Świnoujście launched an LNG terminal, which has a regular traffic of tankers. The current capacity of the terminal is 5 billion m3, which will soon significantly increase, as the complex is being developed and enlarged. On top of that, the Baltic Pipe is under construction. The pipeline, partly running across the bottom of the Baltic Sea, is to provide Poland with access to gas from Norway. Any attack on this infrastructure could shake the balance of the whole region. It must be watched and protected, which is hard to do exclusively from the air and land.
There are some skeptics claiming that frigates are too big and too expensive for Poland. Their main argument is that the vessels will become an easy target on the Baltic Sea in the event of a conflict. The fact is, however, that ships of this class are equipped with very advanced systems that will enable them to effectively protect themselves and at the same time conduct lethal attacks, particularly as a group.
It must also be kept in mind that Poland’s interests and obligations to the allies are not limited to the Baltic Sea. Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates have fitted perfectly in the activities of the North Atlantic Alliance. ORP Gen. K. Pułaski has twice been included in the SNMG1 (Standing NATO Maritime Group One), a part of the NATO Response Force. It has also taken part in the anti-terrorist Operation Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean Sea. ORP Gen. T. Kościuszko, on the other hand, has taken part in activities aimed at preventing human and arms trafficking on the waters between Europe, Africa and Asia, together with ships of the SNMG2 (Standing NATO Maritime Group Two). Polish ships have also participated in dozens of international exercises organized from the Baltic Sea to the Atlantic Ocean, and from the North Sea to the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Miecznik-class frigates are to play a similar role in the upcoming years.
autor zdjęć: ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems