WARSAW — Poland’s push to protect energy resource deliveries and counter possible threats in the Baltic Sea has spurred the planned purchase of a second ground-launched anti-ship Naval Strike Missile (NSM) system to boost littoral capabilities.
Poland signed its first contract in 2008 for an NSM system along with command and control, radars and launchers from Norway’s Kongsberg Defence Systems for about 1.46 billion kroner ($263 million). The deal was expanded in late 2010 with the purchase of additional missiles and related equipment. Deliveries for this first order are scheduled to be completed by 2015.
“We are currently evaluating the possible acquisition of another system, which would enable us to secure our entire coastline,” Polish Chief of Staff Gen. Mieczyslaw Cieniuch told local news agency PAP.
Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak tasked Cieniuch with evaluating the plan, but the political decision has already been made.
The planned acquisition ties in with other procurements designed by the Polish Navy for the 2012-2030 period. By 2030, the Navy aims to acquire three submarines, two of which are to be purchased by 2022; it will also buy two ships by 2022 and a third by 2026.
But according to the ministry’s plan for the Navy’s development from March 2012, the NSM systems will play a vital role in maintaining Poland’s littoral combat capabilities during an interim period of naval downsizing. The plan warns about an expected reduction in combat capacity due to the planned withdrawal from service of many vessels in the years 2016 to 2022.
The NSM systems are designed to help preserve the Navy’s combat capacity during that period, according to the strategic document.
The division operating the first NSM system is in Siemirowice in the country’s northwest. The possible location of a second division was not disclosed by the ministry.
Under the plan, the second NSM system is expected to complement the combat capabilities of these craft.
“The Navy ... will be fitted with modern weapons that will allow it to control the Baltic Sea from the coast,” Deputy Defense Minister Marcin Idzik told local daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza.
“Our priority [strategic] direction is Baltic Plus. This means that emphasis will be put on strengthening our defense capabilities in the Baltic Sea,” Idzik said. Less attention is to be paid to military sea operations in other regions, “which are very costly,” the deputy defense minister said.
“If anything could happen [in the Baltic Sea], it could be an asymmetrical attack, for instance on the Nord Stream gas pipeline,” Idzik said.
Meanwhile, the ruling center-right coalition’s plan to focus on naval reforms to strengthen its littoral defense capabilities and activities in the Baltic Sea has been slammed by the opposition. Leszek Miller, head of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), said these policies could make it more difficult for Poland to fulfill its obligations as a NATO member and participate in missions organized by the alliance. The littoral focus would not leave the Polish Navy with enough vessels for missions abroad, he said.
Local analysts agree the planned NSM purchase would allow Poland to safeguard its 500-kilometer coastline, and highlight that the Polish ministry has been showing increased interest in expanding littoral capabilities due to national security and economic reasons.
“Poland’s economic interests necessitate that we maintain a strong presence in the Baltic Sea. This is mainly related to gas imports from the Middle East and the expanding Baltic fleets of some of the neighboring countries,” said Marek Jablonowski, a University of Warsaw political science professor.
“Boosting the littoral combat capabilities in the Baltic Sea is an important part of Poland’s naval military strategy,” said Janusz Grochowski, an independent defense analyst and former editor in chief of local weekly Polska Zbrojna. “In the past, the Navy was one of the services that experienced the most severe underfunding for purchases of new equipment.”
However, this trend is starting to reverse as decision-makers take increased notice of the necessity to maintain strength in the Baltic Sea, Grochowski said.
In 2013, the Polish Navy’s budget is 683 million zloty ($220 million), an increase of some 6 percent from the previous year. Among Poland’s armed forces, only the Air Force’s budget will receive a higher boost, with spending expected to increase by 8 percent.
In addition to the Navy’s budget, by 2030, the ministry plans to earmark a further 900 million zloty per year on acquisitions of weapons and craft for the naval forces.