WARSAW, Poland — To preserve the capacities of the Polish Navy, the military’s most underinvested service, the Ministry of Defense is pursuing a number of procurements. Local analysts say, however, without accelerated efforts to purchase new vessels and gear, the Navy could soon lose its capability to effectively operate in the Baltic Sea.

Łukasz Kister, an independent security analyst with the Jagiellonian Institute, a Warsaw-based think tank, told Defense News that the submarine acquisition, under which Poland is to purchase three vessels, is of key importance for the preservation of the Navy’s operational capacities.

“The Navy’s submarines were commissioned about 50 years ago, and as such, they are no longer capable of performing their basic duties,” Kister said. 

On Aug. 10, the ministry said it decided to overhaul two of the three Kobben-class subs the Navy operates, maintaining the combat capacities of the ORP Sokol and ORP Sep, which were scheduled to be decommissioned in 2018 and 2020, respectively.

The ministry said in a statement it “is making intense efforts to acquire [new] vessels. It is estimated that a decision regarding this issue will be taken this year.”

Cruise missiles to arm subs

According to Kister, it is vital that the planned procurement is closely related to another priority program under which the ministry aims to acquire cruise missiles. Since 2015, Warsaw has been in talks with Washington and Paris over a potential deal that would arm three new submarines with 24 naval cruise missiles. The available options include the U.S. Tomahawk missile and France’s Missile de Croisière Naval.

“These two purchases should be carried out simultaneously to avoid any unnecessary delays in the process of arming the submarines,” Kister said.

In addition to Warsaw’s program to acquire new subs for the Navy, the ministry’s Concept of Defence of the Republic of Poland, a document released May 23, identifies a number of procurements seen as necessary to safeguard the country’s Baltic Sea coastline, which spans about 440 kilometers. Among others, the Polish Navy is to acquire additional “coastal missile units, manned and unmanned reconnaissance platforms, [and] modern mine warfare,” according to the document. 

Industry cooperation

Warsaw has been in talks with other governments on a potential joint submarine procurement. The possible partners include Norway and the Netherlands.

The ministry estimates the submarine procurement, which is to be carried out under the Orka program, could be worth about 10 billion zloty, or $2.8 billion. Three manufacturers have applied to take part in the procurement procedure: France’s DCNS, which offers its Scorpene-class sub; German ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems with the HDW-class sub; and Sweden’s Saab, which offers the A26-class sub. Ministry officials have emphasized that they expect the selected company to closely cooperate with Poland’s defense industry on the program, and recent developments suggest that the country’s defense giant PGZ will be the designated partner for the potential foreign supplier. 

In May, the Polish group signed a preliminary deal to take over Gdynia-based Naval Shipyard SMW, a specialist in vessel upgrades and overhaul contracts, from the Polish Treasury. The troubled company has been in insolvency proceedings since 2011, and its purchase by PGZ is designed to ensure financial stability for the facility that could become the servicing center for the new subs. 

“A two-step approach is required here. First, the Polish shipbuilding industry should acquire the technology to modernize and perform repair works on the submarines. Secondly, the industry players should secure the capacity to build such submarines,” Kister said.