No fair winds for Polish submarine fleet
With the decommissioning of ORP Sokol the Polish submarine fleet has been reduced to merely three vessels with a dim perspective of procuring replacements in the nearest future.
ORP Sokol was decommissioned on 8 June and it is the second Kobben-class submarine withdrawn from service in the past several months, with ORP Kondor ending its service life back in December.
The Polish submarine fleet has now been left with three vessels: Kobben-class ORP Sep and ORP Bielik as well as Kilo-class ORP Orzel.
Each one is troubled with problems associated with extended maintenance periods, lack of spare parts or series of accidents, such as collisions or fire on board, which throws into question Polish Navy's capability to engage in underwater warfare now and in the foreseeable future.
Especially as the much awaited procurement of a series of next generation submarines under the Orka program is running late and it is possible that it might take some time for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to even choose the most preferable platform.
Speculations like this are fuelled by some government officials, such as the Secretary of State of the MoD, Wojciech Skurkiewicz, who in an official reply to the MPs inquiry on the matter wrote, ‘Under the Orka operational requirement the MoD is making efforts to work out optimum procedure for acquiring new submarines after 2022’.
So far three companies have shown interest in the Polish procurement program, with Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) presenting its type 212CD submarine, Naval Group showcasing the proven Scorpene design and Saab promoting the brand new A26 platform.
Despite much uncertainty surrounding the Orka program, particular bidders have not lost interest in the Polish procurement.
An official at TKMS said that it ‘believes in the industrial concept we have offered and its high relevance to the future of the Polish submarine forces.
Adding, ‘The perspective to join the 212CD family together with Norway and Germany remains a highly efficient alternative when it comes to sharing of operational know how, mitigation of procurement risk as well as overall life cycle benefits.’
Naval Group also remains in the game and a spokesperson stated that the company is ‘waiting for the instruction of the Polish authorities.’
She added that the French shipyard has ‘provided all the information and clarification required during exchanges in 2017, the project is mature for a decision.’
Finally, Saab seems to keep in pace with aforementioned competitors and continues to support the programme.
Jyrki Kujansuu, President SAAB Technologies Poland telling Shephard, ‘We are waiting for the Ministry of Defence to make further decisions in this regard.
‘In the meantime, Saab shows continued interest in further enhancing its cooperation with the Polish shipbuilding industry….we have already located one Polish supplier for the Swedish A26 submarine programme and are looking for more partners.’
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