Poland's military currently operates 14 C-295 MPA/ASW aircraft, and is looking into acquiring more. (Airbus)
WARSAW — Poland is moving forward with its 10 billion zloty (US $3.1 billion) Navy modernization program, under which the service will acquire a range of new vessels, armament and aircraft by 2030. Yet experts say budget cuts announced this month could put in jeopardy or at least delay some of the acquisition programs.
After the Polish government announced severe budget cuts in mid-July, local media have reported that the country’s defense spending is likely to be decreased by at least 3.3 billion zloty
Originally, the Polish government had planned to spend about 31.45 billion zloty on defense in 2013. It is yet unclear which areas of defense spending will be among the most affected by the cuts.
“The government decided to decrease defense expenditure this year to mitigate the skyrocketing public deficit,” said professor Marek Jablonowski, a political scientist from the University of Warsaw. “However, the planned cuts do not necessarily have to impact the technical modernization of the Navy.
“Many decision-makers see [purchases of new military equipment] as a means of stimulating the economy,” Jablonowski said. “And Poland’s shipyards [and] maritime sector are very much in need of such stimulus to stay afloat.”
Meanwhile, recent statements from the Ministry of National Defence confirm what local analysts say.
“The [military] modernization process ... will be continued, but with emphasis on identifying the most effective solutions,” the ministry said in a statement July 17, adding that it will aim to involve local defense manufacturers in the modernization programs to “decrease costs, and also contribute to the expected bolstering of the Polish economy.”
Retired Gen. Waldemar Skrzypczak, the deputy defense minister responsible for the armed forces’ modernization efforts, told local media that the Navy development program is on the shortlist of the key armament priorities that will most likely be spared from severe cuts in funding.
Indeed, several acquisition programs have already been launched in the modernization effort, and the Polish military is adding new procurements to its wish list.
Vessel Specifications Released
With 17 of its 41 combat vessels scheduled to be withdrawn from service by 2022, the Polish naval forces need the planned acquisitions to preserve the fleet’s operational capacity. That plan has accelerated over the past few weeks.
In late June, 15 foreign and domestic defense manufacturers applied to participate in a technical dialogue with the ministry on the planned procurement of three coastal defense vessels and three patrol vessels with mine-destroying capability.
The companies included Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, France’s DCNS, Norway’s Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace, Spain’s Indra and Netherlands-based companies Thales Nederland and Damen Shipyards.
“The technical dialogue is scheduled to take place in July-August 2013,” the ministry’s Armament Inspectorate said.
The coastal defense vessels are to be delivered from 2014 to 2026, and the three mine-destroyer patrol vessels from 2015 to 2026.
According to the request for information document — which the ministry released in July and which outlines the initial technical specifications for the craft — the patrol vessels of at least 1,600 tons will be fitted with one medium-caliber cannon of 57-76mm, two smaller cannons of 25-40mm and two 12.7mm guns. It will also have two water cannons, anti-aircraft missiles and a long-range acoustic device.
The coastal defense vessels, meanwhile, would be deployed in the Baltic and Northern Sea. The craft of at least 1,900 tons is to be fitted with a medium-caliber cannon, one or two small-caliber cannons, anti-ship and water-to-surface missile systems, and anti-aircraft missiles.
Other procurements in the pipeline include three submarines, which are to be acquired by 2030. The ministry said a tender commission is to begin work on the procurement this year.
By 2030, Poland is aiming to spend about 900 million zloty per year on acquisitions for its naval forces, according to the ministry’s “Plan for Development of the Navy” strategic document.
New Aircraft for Navy
Meanwhile, the Polish Navy is analyzing the possibility of purchasing three maritime patrol aircraft (MPA), first reported by local news site Defence24.pl. The military planes, which would also have anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability, are to be acquired by 2030.
The ministry said it is “carrying out an initial evaluation” of the acquisition of the EADS CASA C-295 MPA/ASW aircraft for the Polish Navy.
The Polish military operates 14 CASA C-295M aircraft. The planes are produced by Airbus Military.
In addition to vessels and aircraft, the Polish Navy is also acquiring unmanned vehicles. The Armament Inspectorate said on July 22 that it placed an order for two autonomous underwater vehicles manufactured by Iceland’s Gavia. The contract is worth 10.65 million zloty, and the vehicles will be imported by local company ENAMOR.