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Od 25 maja 2018 r. obowiązuje w Polsce Rozporządzenie Parlamentu Europejskiego i Rady (UE) 2016/679 z dnia 27 kwietnia 2016 r. w sprawie ochrony osób fizycznych w związku z przetwarzaniem danych osobowych i w sprawie swobodnego przepływu takich danych oraz uchylenia dyrektywy 95/46/WE (ogólne rozporządzenie o ochronie danych, zwane także RODO).

W związku z powyższym przygotowaliśmy dla Państwa informacje dotyczące przetwarzania przez Wojskowy Instytut Wydawniczy Państwa danych osobowych. Prosimy o zapoznanie się z nimi: Polityka przetwarzania danych.

Prosimy o zaakceptowanie warunków przetwarzania danych osobowych przez Wojskowych Instytut Wydawniczy – Akceptuję

New Face of the Navy

The Miecznik frigates will revolutionize both the Polish Navy and the domestic shipbuilding industry.

It all started 10 years ago. The Technical Modernization Plan for 2013–2022, adopted in 2012, assumed that during those ten years our army would mainly concentrate on building its deterrence capabilities. The Polish Navy was not expected to play an important role, so only three new types of surface combat platforms were to be procured: Kormoran minehunters, Czapla patrol vessels with mine countermeasure functions, and Miecznik coastal defense vessels.

A Bumpy Road

When in 2013 the analytical-conceptual phase of the Miecznik program was launched, the arms companies were informed that the army is looking for ships with displacement of about 2,000 tons, armed with one 76-mm gun, two guns up to 40-mm, torpedoes and missiles: anti-air, anti-ship and sea-to-surface cruise missiles. Thus, Miecznik vessels were to have quite limited in number, but versatile armament, and their role was indicated as supporting multinational missions outside the Baltic Sea, rather than executing operations on the Baltic.

In 2015, the MoND decided that since the building of the vessels classified as a fundamental matter of state security, the construction of three Mieczniks would be commissioned without tender to PGZ (Polish Armaments Group), which at the beginning of 2016 created a consortium to take on the task. Soon, it began negotiations with the MoND’s Armament Inspectorate, after which it submitted an initial offer. However, the contract was never signed. It was a consequence of the corrections introduced in the technical modernization plan by the new leadership of the MoND. The ministry then decided to continue the building of Kormoran II minehunters, finish the Gawron corvette (then already under the name ORP Ślązak) and put off the execution of the remaining programs to the 2020s.

As for the Miecznik vessels, for four years the most important decision-making and planning bodies of our armed forces could not agree on their role in the Navy. That is why throughout that time, the MoND and its subordinate institutions initiated several tender procedures, carried out analyses and changed the operational and tactical-technical requirements. At last, at the end of 2019, the MoND informed about the development of the modernization plan for 2021–2035, which included key decisions regarding Mieczniks.

Reversing Prioritie

It was decided that Miecznik will not be, as it was initially assumed, a corvette class vessel (with displacement of up to 2,000 tons), but an almost three times larger multirole frigate (6,000–7,000 tons). What is more, it was to have much more extensive combat capabilities. “We need a ship with a strong anti-air system, more comprehensive than those installed on corvettes,” explained the reason for the decision Vice-Admiral Jarosław Ziemiański, an inspector of the Navy at the Armed Forces General Command, adding that thanks to the frigates, other types of ships, particularly domestic support vessels, would be able to execute their tasks better. “After all, they are not equipped with advanced systems capable of defending themselves against air attack,” he pointed out. Although it was established that countering enemy aircraft and missiles would be the main task of the Mieczniks, they were to be equally capable of fighting enemy vessels – using anti-ship missiles, torpedoes and on-board artillery.

When decisions were being made on this matter, Mieczniks were not a modernization priority for the Navy – the priorities were Orka submarines and related bridging solutions, i.e. continuing the process of training our submarine crews on foreign vessels. The negotiations with Sweden on this matter were not going according to the MoND’s plan, so a decision was taken to change the modernization priorities. At the end of 2020, it was the Miecznik program that became the number one project in the Navy. When in February 2021 the Minister of Defense, Mariusz Błaszczak, announced it to the public, he declared that he wanted to commission the construction of the frigates to a consortium of Polish companies, but that the vessels were to be built in close cooperation with a Western partner, who would not only supply the design of the vessel and its key subsystems, but would also transfer to the Polish partners the necessary know-how and technology.

On May 15, 2021, a PGZ-Miecznik consortium was created by the Polish Armaments Group and PGZ Naval Shipyard, joined a month later by Remontowa Shipbuilding. Only two days after its creation, the consortium submitted to the MoND’s Armament Inspectorate six initial offers, based on designs of Western shipbuilding companies: the Italian Leonardo, the Norwegian Kongsberg, the French NavalGroup, the Spanish Navantia, the British Babcock and the German Thyssen Krupp Marine Systems (TKMS).

Competing for the Contract

On July 27, 2021, the Armament Inspectorate signed a contract with the PGZ-Miecznik consortium to deliver to the Polish Armed Forces, between 2021–2034, three “frigate-class coastal defense vessels.” The contract, worth about 8,000,000,000 zlotys, will be executed in the R&D with implementation format, which means that the consortium undertook to first build a prototype vessel, test it and certify it, and later build two more vessels whose configuration might differ from the prototype. The military then decided that out of the six submitted offers, three would be qualified for the next phase of the process – Navantii, TKMS and Babcock. In the first days of December 2021, the MoND informed that the design would be chosen from between the German A-300PL frigate and the British Arrowhead 140PL frigate. Ultimately, the latter design won. “Britain will be PGZ’s partner in building multirole frigates in the Miecznik program. Today, PGZ concluded appropriate contracts on strategic cooperation,” informed Mariusz Błaszczak on March 5, 2022. Therefore, the frigates will be built on the basis of the design created by Babcock, the integrated combat system will be delivered by Thales UK, and the anti-air missiles by MBDA UK.

The specialists of the PGZ-Miecznik consortium, together with engineers from Babcock, Thales UK and MBDA UK, as well as representatives of the Polish Armed Forces, are now working on the final version of Miecznik. “It will be a scalable project, which, on the one hand, will be adjusted to the price and tactical-technical requirements determined by the ordering party, and on the other hand, will offer a future possibility to increase the combat capabilities of the vessel in an uncomplicated way,” said Cezary Cierzan, the director for the Miecznik program at PGZ, emphasizing that the vessels will be prepared for, e.g., increasing the number of missile launchers or artillery posts on board. Cierzan added that although not all decisions concerning particular solutions have been made yet, the most important ones – on key systems and types of armament – have already been taken.

The Polish frigates are to be about 140 meters long, almost 20 m wide, and, with a maximum displacement of 7,000 t, have draught of 5.5 m. On board, there is space for four specialist 20-feet containers for storing, e.g., counter-mine equipment, delivered specially for a given mission. There is also a place for a helicopter hangar, which will be able to hold two light or one heavy helicopter. Each frigate will be powered with four Diesel engines, allowing it to reach a maximum speed of 28 kn. The fuel reserve will ensure 30 days of autonomous operation, and with an average speed of 18 kn – a range of over 6,000 NM. The eyes of Mieczniks are to be radars (a rotating NS50, a non-rotating Sea Master 400), and a system of several optoelectronic heads located around the vessel. Enemy underwater vessels will be located with sonars (hull-mounted and CAPTAS towed sonar). The armament, controlled with the Tacticos integrated combat system, will include the 76-mm Super Rapido OTO Melara gun, a maximum of two 35-mm OSU-35 guns, light MU-90 torpedoes, anti-ship RBS-15 Mk3 missiles and anti-air CAMM and CAMM-ER missiles.

How to Build Mieczniks

The representatives of the shipyards responsible for the construction of the frigates admit that the task requires not only transfer of know-how and technology from foreign partners, but also quite extensive investments. “We have to build a key facility for constructing advanced vessels, i.e. a final assembly hall, where about 40-meter-long sections of Miecznik will be put together to create a whole vessel,” said Paweł Lulewicz, the president of PGZ Naval Shipyard. Marcin Ryngwelski, the president of Remontowa Shipbuilding, said that his company, on the other hand, has to build a modern paint shop.

The representatives of the consortium announce that according to the schedule of the program, the shipyards will begin building the first Miecznik already next year. “Cutting the sheets for the first vessel will probably begin in August 2023. It is to be launched three years later, and enter service in 2028,” assures Marcin Ryngwelski. Cezary Cierzan adds that according to the plan, the two other Mieczniks will enter service in, respectively, 2029 and 2031.

What does this mean for the Polish Navy? A revolution and a dramatic increase of its combat capabilities. Miecznik vessels will also mean a qualitative and technological leap for the Polish arms industry, which has never before built such advanced and complex vessels.

Krzysztof Wilewski

autor zdjęć: PGZ S.A., User Ketil, US Navy

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