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Orka nowego typu Okret podwodny

Mariusz Blaszczak, head of the Polish MoD, announced 24 July 2021 neither Orka submarines nor gap-filler submarine acquisition program are to be the first procurement that the Polish Navy would be making in the foreseeable future. Miecznik-class coastal defence vessel will be the priority. Blaszczak also announced that procurement of the “gap-filler” submarines would depend on the Swedish offering. He signaled that adjustment of price and the procurement timeline is required here. “Negotiation concerning the Ratownik programme is in progress now, with a consortium formed by: Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa [PGZ Group], PGZ Stocznia Wojenna [PGZ War Shipyard], and OBR CTM S.A." - Krzysztof Platek, spokesman for the Armament Inspectorate told Defense24.com.

The Orka program is one of Poland's key armaments programs. Its assumptions include the purchase of three modern submarines, capable of operating also outside the Baltic Sea and carrying guided missiles. The original plan under the "Orka" program from 2012 assumed the purchase or construction of three modern submarines, the first of which was to be commissioned in 2017. By mid-2020 the Ministry of National Defense was conducting proceedings to acquire a "submarine - bridging capacity" for the Polish Armed Forces. The description of the subject of the contract was transferred to the foreign partner, who was to adapt the ship to the requirements of the Polish side. The ship's entry into service in the Polish Navy would be preceded by training of the Polish crew to operate on-board devices and systems.

Currently, the Polish submarine fleet is ORP "Orzel" - a successful, but already age-old Kilo-class unit - and four (currently, because five have been taken over as part storage) small Kobben-class submarines, handed over by Norway. The military significance of the Kobbens built in the 1960s is now symbolic. The condition of submarines in the Navy can be called catastrophic. Currently, the Navy had three units of this type: ORP Orzel (project 877 of the Paltus / Kilo type entered into service in 1986), ORP Sep (commissioned in 1966) and ORP Bielik (commissioned in 1967). Everything seems to indicate that currently none of the Navy's submarines is technically fully operational, and their use is possible only thanks to the sacrifice and desperation of their crews. In addition, Poland has lost the logistical ability to maintain these units, as it is becoming increasingly difficult to find companies in Poland capable of repairing more complex failures.

The Orka program is the most expensive and the most complicated modernization project in the Navy. The price of a ship armed with torpedoes is around 500-600 million euros each. The requirement to have cruise missiles on board raises the price of the weapon and complicates its purchase. Such purchases require political negotiations with the governments of the countries where long-range missiles are produced.

The latest 15-year technical modernization plan for the Armed Forces, announced by the Minister of Defense, Mariusz Blaszczak, on the eve of the elections, lists several projects that would strengthen the Navy. Among them there are, among others The Miecznik program, i.e. the construction of coastal defense units. The acquisition of 6 light missile ships from Polish shipyards was mentioned - the Murena Program. The minister also mentioned the Orka Program.

The most important and at the same time the most ambitious and costly program is the acquisition of new-type ORKA submarines. These ships are to be the basic combat and reconnaissance element of the Navy, and at the same time, thanks to the maneuvering missiles, they will be a key element of the state and allied military deterrence arsenal.

Taking into account the strategic nature of this type of weapon systems, as well as the significant budget allocated for its purchase, the Ministry of National Defense assumed that in addition to strictly military criteria related to the ship's performance and its equipment and armament, very important evaluation criteria will be:

  • the level of technology transfer related to the ship and cruise missiles;
  • ensuring the sovereignty and autonomy of the use of cruise missiles;
  • ensuring the expected level of offset and the level and nature of industrial cooperation between the supplier and Polish entities of the defense industry;
  • strategic intergovernmental cooperation (between Poland and the government of the ship manufacturer's country), industrial and military, including operational and training cooperation between navies.

Modern submarines are among the most complex and technologically advanced weapons systems that can only be operated by properly prepared crews. Therefore, at the stage of developing the requirements for a new type of submarine, the need to first obtain (before putting the units into operation) a training and logistics package, under which full training of all staffing positions and ship systems will be carried out based on the documentation of equipment manufacturers and shipyards, using the manufacturer's training base, national or allied. At the same time, the provided training devices (simulators) will provide training for the crew at the level of operating the main mechanisms and tactical use of the ship. The details and schedule of the projects will be specified in the contract with the selected contractor. The above solution will therefore allow the maintenance of submarine crews during the time from withdrawal to the acquisition of new ships.

As a result of the analyzes carried out at the Ministry of National Defense, at the present stage of the program, the offers of 3 potential contractors are considered:

  1. NAVAL Group Scorpene-class ship with MBDA NCM maneuvering missiles (France),
  2. type 212CD by Thyssen Krupp Marine Systems (Germany),
  3. A26 type ship by Saab Kockums (Sweden).

During late 2017, a number of meetings have been held at government, military and industrial level, collecting and verifying the operational and financial data obtainable from bidders at this stage of the procedure. The information collected concerns both the ships and their key weapons, i.e. cruise missiles.

By December 2017, the ministry was finalizing work on the evaluation of the submitted offers, in accordance with the adopted criteria for operational requirements, strategic cooperation and industrial cooperation. The ministry is also waiting for the last package of information from selected potential contractors, who ensured that it would be delivered by the end of 2017 or at the very beginning of 2018. Due to the confidential nature of the talks, the details of the collected information and the criteria for its assessment cannot be made public.

It should be emphasized that, taking into account the complexity of the weapon system, which is the submarine, the requirement for its equipment with cruise missiles, and the need to update and verify a number of data collected in the previous stages of the procedure, the Ministry of National Defense assumed that the decision regarding the selection of a strategic partner in the ORKA program will be made in January 2018. Deliveries of the first ship are planned for 2024-2026. At the same time, it was assumed that appropriate intergovernmental agreements will be signed before the contract for the purchase of ships, creating conditions for the development of strategic military and industrial cooperation on the basis of the ORKA program between Poland and the supplier's country.

In response to one of the parliamentary interpellations in April 2020, Deputy Defense Minister Wojciech Skurkiewicz informed that: "The program for acquiring new type" ORKA "submarines remains at the analytical and conceptual stage. Additionally, the task related to the acquisition of submarines in the form of a bridging solution is being carried out, ie the purchase of one submarine from a foreign partner (with the option of expanding by another unit) ”. The Ministry of National Defense, when asked about the same case at the beginning of May 2020 by the Defence24 editors, detailed that: “ Talks are underway with the Swedish side on the purchase of used A17 units. Detailed provisions regarding the value of the contract, the quantity and delivery dates of the submarines as well as the scope and manner of their modernization, crew training and logistic support will be agreed during the negotiations”.

In this case, it was about the application of a bridging solution, i.e. the acquisition of two used submarines. All this to ensure the continuity of training underwater. According to many commentators, this is a clear signal that the ambitious plan to purchase new units was being permanently moved to an undefined future, certainly beyond 2035. Acquiring a bridging submarine from Sweden for the Polish Navy will require the transfer to the Swedish government of all tasks related to the renovation, modernization and maintenance of the A17 / Södermanland submarine, as well as the training of the Polish crew.

There is a clear difference in what is meant by a "bridging solution to the Orka program" in Sweden and in Poland. In Sweden, it is assumed that Poland intends to acquire both A17-type submarines owned by the Swedish Navy ( HMS "Södermanland" and HMS "Östergötland"), because the Polish side had previously asked for such a possibility. On the other hand, in Poland it is said that the Ministry of National Defense is only interested in buying one of these A17 ships, with the option of later extending the order to a second unit of this type.

The Brazilian Ministry of Defense decided in 2019 to decommission and put up for sale two Type 209-1400 submarines. Interestingly, Poland is mentioned among the potential interested in these ships. The Brazilians are offering Timbira and Tapajo for sale. The first one was commissioned in 1996 and the second one in 1999. According to Poder Naval, the potential transaction price could be $ 200-300 million. Currently, according to this source, two countries are the main stakeholders. Peru and Poland.

Three solutions - in terms of technology and combat capabilities - were offered in the program of building conventional submarines of the new type "Orka" for the Polish Navy. The ships offered by the Swedes feature different solutions than the 212A / 214 (ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems) or Scorpène (Naval Group) units. The type A26 is equipped with four 533 mm torpedo tubes - both the Type 212A and the Scorpène have 6 tubes. The A26 ships are characterized by a slightly lower autonomy than French and German structures, this parameter is defined as 45 days (for comparison, in the case of Scorpène type ships, the autonomy is up to 70 days, in the case of German type 212A / 214 ships it is approximately 50-70 days). The use of a vertical take-off launcher would make the Polish A26 ship one of the most heavily armed anti-ship guns in its class in the world (a supply of 15 torpedoes or anti-ship missiles or mines and an additional 4 in the launchers, as well as 18 Tomahawk maneuvering missiles.

The option to purchase submarines from TKMS has been analyzed for many years - in June 2008, representatives of the Navy had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the process of building type 214 ships, and also to compare this unit with competing offers from France and Sweden. Ultimately, the German offer also included a type 212A of a different design from the aforementioned type.

There is no doubt that ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems is the most experienced participant in the Orka program in the construction of conventional submarines. The type 212A ships were designed primarily for operations in shallow (littoral) waters, which was determined by the requirements of the German Navy - this translated into the specificity of the structure of these ships, including the use of non-magnetic steel with increased strength. So far, 10 type 212A ships have been built, 6 of which are in service with the German Navy, and ultimately 4 in the Italian Navy (all ships are completed - the last, fourth, unit should enter service by the end of 2017). It is also worth noting that Norway, facing the dilemma of choosing a new type of submarines, decided to opt for the German offer - in the announced at the beginning of this year. In the announcement, the Norwegian Ministry of Defense announced that it is Germany that will become a strategic partner in the submarine construction program. Norway intends to acquire these vessels together with the German government - the current plans envisage the purchase of a total of 6 type 212A ships, four of which are to be built for Norway and two for Germany. The contract with TKMS is to be signed in 2019, which will also mean that the German submarine fleet will increase to a total of 8 units, all of which will belong to type 212A. Norway, like Poland, counts on technology transfer to increase the competences of the domestic industry.

The type 212A ship is a structure developed mainly for operations in the specific hydrological area of ??the Baltic Sea. The applied stealth technology minimizes the size of the ship's sonar reflection coefficient, and its dimensions and modern on-board systems allow for covert operation in shallow coastal waters. Ships of this type are used by the navies of Germany (6) and Italy (4). Depending on the series, the length of the ship is 56-58 m, and its width in the fore part is 7 m, which decreases towards the stern part to 5.7 m. The displacement of the 212A is, depending on the series, 1450-1500 tons.

The German manufacturer declares that all new types of submarines can be built in Polish shipyards. TKMS also points out that the cost of building ships will depend on the technology that the Polish government would like to obtain for the domestic industry. This means, of course, that shipbuilding in Germany would simply be cheaper. Regardless of the cost of building one ship in Germany or in Poland, it should be noted that with such an expensive weapon system as submarines, the purchase of selected technologies should be seen as one of the priorities of the Ministry of National Defense. Considering the scale of TKMS cooperation with foreign partners, it is possible to increase the competences of the Polish defense industry based on the purchase of key technologies and the experience gained in the construction of ships by Polish shipyards in cooperation with TKMS.

The main problem related to the TKMS offer, as well as the Swedish one, is the need to acquire cruise missiles from the American side, and then integrate the missiles with the selected type of ship. This problem does not apply to the French offer, in which maneuvering missiles are an integral part of the offer for the construction of new submarines for the Navy. Another issue is the expected price of the MdCN missiles - due to the small scale of production, these missiles will probably be much more expensive than the American Tomahawk missiles. According to the most frequently quoted estimates, the cost of the Tomahawk rocket for the US Armed Forces is approximately USD 1.5 million (if Poland purchases the rockets, the price will probably be higher). For comparison, according to data published by the Senate of the French Republic, the cost of the MdCN missile development program, assuming the purchase of 200 missiles, was estimated at EUR 1.2 billion (2011 prices), with the unit cost of the rocket (excluding R&D costs) estimated at EUR 2.48 million. TKMS declared that if Poland acquires Tomahawk missiles, the German manufacturer will take responsibility for integrating American missiles with 212A / 214 ships.

For many years, Sweden has been consistently developing the capabilities of the national defense and shipbuilding industry, including by building both new ships and modernizing older structures. The A26 submarine offered in the Orka program is based on the experience gained during the development of the Västergötland (A17) and Gotland (A19) submarines, as well as the modernization packages for these units. In the mid-1990s, the Swedes commissioned three Gotland-class ships equipped with an Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) module using a Stirling engine. In 2003-2004, Kockums carried out an advanced conversion of two Västergötland ships, in which a new hull section was added along with the AIP module.

The A26 type ship developed by SAAB is the youngest structure from all the solutions offered under the "Orka" program. However, it should be remembered that the construction of these ships has only just begun, which means that the first units may be burdened with certain technical problems, characteristic of any new construction. Nevertheless, the A26 type ships have already been ordered by the Swedish Navy, and most of the A26 electronic systems will be equipped with the modernized Gotland ships, which minimizes the risk for the Polish Navy.

In the case of the offer for the Polish Navy, a much larger version of the ship may be considered, due to the addition of a nearly 10-meter section in which three UGM-109 Tomahawk maneuvering missile modules could be installed. Extending the ship to nearly 72 m would increase the displacement of the vessel to approximately 2,400-2,500 tons.

According to the Swedish side, a full transfer of the A26 shipbuilding technology is possible, the scope of the transferred technologies and licenses is to depend on the Polish side and economic factors (due to the high costs of building production lines). The Swedes also note the short distance between Karlskrona, where the Kockums shipyard is located, and the Polish coast (approx. 250 km). The choice of the Swedish offer would enable Poland to establish partner business relations between Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa and SAAB, which seems much less likely in the case of the German and French offers.

The Naval Group (formerly DCNS, Direction des Constructions Navales Services), which offers the construction of Scorpène submarines for the Navy, is currently perceived as the main rival of the German shipbuilding industry in the development of modern air defense structures with conventional propulsion. The French Navy has only nuclear units in its stock. The French, however, did not give up working on conventional ships - on the contrary - the French shipbuilding industry is intensively seeking new export contracts and has been very successful in this area. In addition to the Scorpène-class ships in question, which were ordered by Brazil (4 ships); Chile (2); Malaysia (2); and India (6), in 2016 the DCNS (this name was in force until June 2017) turned out to be the winner of the tender for the Australian Navy for the construction of 12 conventional OPs.

Scorpène-class ships were designed in a monohull system, in a technology that minimizes the size of the radar reflectance ( Stealth). The strong hull of the ship is made of 80 HLES steel, which enables operation at a depth of less than 350 m. Composite materials are used in the upper part of the hull, in the kiosk's cover, and the tail of the ship is made of them, which are constructed in a cross (or alternatively in a "X").

The first of the Naval Group's air-independent propulsion systems is the MESMA system ( Module d'Energie Sous-Marine Autonome), in which steam is produced by burning liquid oxygen and diesel fuel. The second solution offered by Naval Group is the so-called second generation AIP drive based on fuel cells. Contrary to the system developed by TKMS, the French installation does not require hydrogen storage on board the ship. Hydrogen is produced in a special installation that produces gas from water and diesel fuel. The last of the systems offered by the Naval Group are lithium-ion (LiIon) batteries, whose task is not to replace the main batteries of the ship, but to provide energy on the same principle as AIP systems.

An integral part of the Naval Group offer are MdCN maneuvering missiles with a range of over 1000 km, which allow submarines to attack land targets. Contrary to the German and Swedish proposals, the Naval Group offers the Navy submarines integrated with cruise missiles. It should be emphasized that the Naval Group unambiguously refused to integrate Scorpène with UGM-109 Tomahawk missiles.

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Page last modified: 13-09-2021 13:48:55 ZULU