According to the latest plans of the Ministry of Defence, signing the agreement regarding supply of three submarines for the Navy is to take place in two years, and the most important factor which will have an impact on selection of the given offer is the fact whether the new submarine will or will not be equipped with the cruise missiles.
As we have expected it, the deadline related to procurement of the submarines is being gradually delayed. According to the statements made by the Deputy Minister of Defence in his interview for the Polish Press Agency, the “Orka” programme proceedings will be started as late as in August 2015, and the contract itself is to be signed in late 2016/early 2017.
Deadline has been delayed due to the fact that the priorities that are to be followed when the submarines are selected have been changed. It has been stated, that capability of using cruise missiles will be a factor of paramount importance when it comes to selection of the given submarine for the Polish Navy.
Such decision created a need of revising the tender documents within the scope of the requirements related to the missiles, and additional changes in the on-board systems of the new submarines. Polish Ministry of Defence will also have to, in a very short period of time, define the needs regarding the targeting and communication devices. The latter ones will be used to communicate with the submerged submarines and transfer the orders regarding the potential attack. Ultimate decision-making procedures also need to be developed, as in case of the means of deterrence, the decisions may be made even by the Polish President.
Another technical dialogue will be probably needed. The one that has been completed last year is not valid any more (and we have also stressed that such situation may occur in our earlier articles). The deadline will probably be delayed even more, particularly because the Polish Ministry of Defence has created two, very demanding, conditions, as follows:
So far, France has been the only country which has declared publicly that it would guarantee Poland with full autonomy within the scope of the objectives and the way of using the cruise missiles, but solely in case when Poland selects the Scorpène submarines offered by DCNS shipyard company.
It is also yet unknown, whether similar negotiations have been conducted in case of other manufacturers of cruise missiles, but we must remember that this type of dialogue requires a lot of time and involvement of the Polish government (for example, procurement of the Tomahawk missiles from the United States, according to the “Polish” conditions, would require a consent of the US congress).
Ambitious and pretty tough – within the scope of time – plans are also related to the schedule, according to which the three submarines are to be handed-off. According to the plan of the Polish Ministry of Defence, the vessels are to be handed over within the period between 2020 – 25. In the meantime, the most optimistic estimates claim, that the first submarine may be received by the end-customer no sooner than 4.5-5 years after the contract is signed.
The above means that the first sub may be delivered as late as in the 2nd half of 2021. We must take that into account, since this does not necessarily mean that this is the date of introduction into service. Tests of the new armament systems, particularly regarding the cruise missiles, will last for at least another 12 months.
The period considered above will be even longer, if the process is still to involve the Polish industry to a large extent. At least 6 months will be needed to prepare the production process. The problem is, that the time is running out. According to the Polish Ministry of Defence, the Kobben submarines will be withdrawn from use by the end of 2016, while ORP Orzeł submarine is to stay active until 2022. Considering these factors, there are no chances that the Kobben crews will stay active until the replacement is procured. And to make everything even worse, the Orzeł crew may face the very same situation.