Tag Archives: Sweden

Modernizing the Polish Navy

 

The Polish frigate Gen. T. Kościuszko

The Polish Navy may be small, but it actively participates in many international exercises and NATO operations.  Its core consists of two unmodernized Olivier Hazard Perry frigates (short hull), three Fast Attack Craft (FAC) upgraded with RBS Mk3 missiles and Thales C2, three minesweepers turned modernized mine-hunters, four German-designed Kobben-class diesel coastal submarines, and a Soviet-era Kilo-class.  In March 2012, the Polish Ministry of Defense announced a long-awaited Navy modernization plan. In contrast with previous practice, the plan has been made public (unsurprisngly, but perhaps unfortunately for readers of NextWar, in Polish).

The new plan foresees replacing virtually all existing ships (except the newly modernized Orkan-class FAC) within more than 25 years. In simple terms, we’re talking about the complete reconstitution of all Navy platforms.  Yet, many people remains skeptical.  One reason is a previous plan, stalled for 10 years, to build a series of Gawron corvettes. Recently Ministry of Defense decided that the ship will be finished as a patrol corvette with ASW capabilities. But this skepticism has a deeper roots and to understand it better we need to look at broader context.

Role of the Navy

Beyond the superficial popular arguments about inadequate military funding, we find more useful reasoning, surprisingly in A.T. Mahan works:

The necessity of a navy, in restricted sense of the word, springs, therefore, from existence of a peaceful shipping, and disappears with it, except in the case of a nation which has aggressive tendencies, and keeps up a navy merely as a branch of the military establishment.

I know I left my sub somewhere….” A former Kobben-class, now a museum.

 

The Polish Navy finds its purpose from the first part of the above phrase, while the General Staff is more concerned about other countries taking theirs from the latter portion.  In fact, both the MoD and BBN (National Security Bureau), following the logic “home first,” have defined the area of interest for the Navy as “Baltic Plus.”  BBN’s recently concluded survey on the security environment of Poland stated that there is no danger of open armed conflict in foreseeable future.  However, Prof. Stanislaw Koziej, who leads BBN, is concerned about the fact that Poland is a frontier country of the European Union and as such is exposed to some tensions and conflicts.  Not surprisingly the most recent investment for the Navy was a shore battery of the Kongsberg anti-ship Naval Strke Missile (NSM), while the next priority is for new submarines, mine hunters, and then ASW helicopters.

Traditions

Defeating the dasterdly Swedes

Poland is geo-strategically located between two traditional European powers – Germany and Russia.  All armed conflicts with these two powers have been resolved on land.  Likewise, the 17th century wars with Turkey ended with a great Polish victory at Vienna, far from the sea.  The only war with an important, although not decisive, naval episode was the war with Sweden.  In 1627, the Polish fleet achieved victory over the Swedish squadron at Oliwa.  The Polish Navy was restituted immediately after regaining independence in 1918.  20 years later, a young and small navy unable to save the country continued its fight at the side of the British Royal Navy.  One participant of these struggles, the destroyer Blyskawica has been depicted by CDRSalamander in his Fullbore Friday series.  The Polish Navy, rightly proud of its traditions, nevertheless historically had little influence on the outcome of wars of the past.  And this is probably the General Staff’s point of view.

Budgeting

A few years ago, the investment budget of all the Armed Forces was centralized.  All projects now compete for resources within the same structure of the MoD.  Such centralization theoretically allows for better spending of scarce money, but it leaves Services without control over their own future.  Even much bigger navies have from time to time had problems in justifying their mission, a problem amplified for a small navy in a continentally oriented country.

Industrial Base

Although there are shipbuilders in Poland with profitable operations, none of them is now involved in warship design and construction.  The dilemma therefore follows: should a navy rely on foreign construction and unknown support or on a local industry which has no expertise.  It is possible to build such expertise over time, but is Poland’s new modernization plan enough to support such a venture?

As outlined above, some skepticism has well-founded reasons.  On the other hand, my belief is that a navy should be confident in its better future, and the reason is simple.  Poland, as a young member of the European Community, wants to be active in the international arena.  Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan allowed our Armed Forces and politicians to learn a lot.  The price of these lessons is high and the next step is discovering that using a navy to express political will is typically much cheaper.

The Plan in Detail (From Maritime Business Poland):

The basic assumptions of the concept include:
· Permanent financing at a level of PLN 900 million per year
· Abandoning modernization of current old equipment in favour of obtaining modern ships
·A three-phase modernization of the Polish Navy, implemented until 2022, 2026 and 2030 respectively
· By 2030, in line with the modernization plans, the Ministry of National Defence plans to acquire, among other things:
– 3 new submarines
– 3 coastal defence ships with a displacement in excess of 1,000 tonnes
– 3 patrol ships with minesweeping abilities
– 3 modern minesweepers
– 2 rescue ships
– 2 electronic reconnaissance ships
– 7 support ships, including an operational support ship and logistic support ship
– 6 SAR helicopters and 6 anti-submarine helicopters
– unmanned aerial systems: 6 reconnaissance planes (3 ship-based, vertical take-off and landing type, and 3 land-based) and 10 mine   identification and destruction systems
–  Rearmament of the Coastal Missile Unit
–  Purchase of two short-range anti-aircraft systems for the defence of main naval bases

Przemek Krajewski alias Viribus Unitis is a blogger In Poland.  His area of interest is broad context of purpose and structure of Navy and promoting discussions on these subjects In his country

 

Distant Corner Lab

The Latvian-built Skrunda

Crossing the Baltic Sea recently from Gdynia to Karlskrona, both major naval bases, I had the opportunity to observe ships of both the Polish and Swedish navies. By coincidence, I had just finished reading Tom Kristiansen and Rolf Hobson book Navies in Northern Waters. I began to wonder how a big navy could benefit by observing these small fleets. Smaller navies commonly  look at their big partners in efforts to predict future trends and developments.

Small navies should be aware that they operate on the edges of major naval war theories like those developed by Mahan or Corbett. Such theories were based on the historical experience of leading navies at their times. Although it is possible to imagine a “decisive battle” between offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) or fast-attack craft (FACs) (see Israeli-Arab wars), most probably small powers and their navies will balance between global or regional powers, allied with one of them against another or left alone against superior power. From a cooperative naval power point of view they could nicely fulfil diplomatic or constabulary roles. But there are also other areas worth mentioning, where small navies’ views, development, and operational experience could be of interest to leading navies. Studying small navies provides:

  • The potential to turn knowledge of small navies into a theoretical framework would enhance our understanding of special cases in major naval theories:  This could be of some interest in narrow seas and littoral areas, for example. In this year’s BaltOps exercises, the U.S. Navy was represented by an Aegis cruiser USS Normandy, but in coming years a more frequent participant will probably be an LCS. Participation in such exercises would offer the opportunity to observe how LCS works together with mine hunters, FACs and corvettes from regional, coastal fleets in scenarios similar to Northern Coast, perhaps somewhere in Finnish archipelagos. Such scenarios much more closely resembles Capt. Wayne Hughes’ works and would offer expertise applicable elsewhere.

 

  • Insight into the political decisions related to small navies’ development, roles, and applications:  Not a direct benefit for the U.S. Navy, but helpful in arranging and maintaining networks of alliances, if and when needed. In literature the PLAN navy is often described as proficient in anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities. Is this a view smaller navies in the South China Sea region share? Even regional powers like India or Japan could hardly fear the PLAN’s current A2/AD capabilities. Unhindered access of the U.S. Navy to some specific waters doesn’t translate directly to feelings of strengthened security among smaller allies. The relation is more complex and understanding their, sometimes hidden motives, should give better results.

 

  • The opportunity to foster innovation: Small navies act under pressure of constraints not unknown to big navies, but the constraints can be even greater. In a small navy, a proposal to build a well-armed corvette can trigger hot discussions not only about the budget but even also about national policy. Everything is condensed. Links between strategy, tactics, budgeting, and force structure are more visible. Maybe this is the reason why small navies have to be both pragmatic and innovative at the same time. A good example of the pragmatic approach I found in Navies in Northern Waters is the fact that in the 18th-century both Swedish and Russian navies still used oared galleys. Examples of innovation are not limited to modularity or ships like Visby. Take a look at the Latvian navy, non-existant some 20 years ago. It acquired used ships from different navies and created the core of mine warfare and patrol capabilities. This was very pragmatic, and the first new construction, the economic SWATH designSkrunda, shows great attention to versatility.

 

  • Educational value: Let’s use an example. Say the task is to propose a force structure for a navy that’s been neglected in recent years. Historically, the military conflicts in this country have been decided on land. The adjacent narrow sea has an average depth of around 170 feet. The navy has no independent budget, but is instead centralized in the DoD’s. The yearly shipbuilding budget is forecasted at $200 million and the navy is given the time span 20 years to build the fleet. Although there is a shipbuilding industry, it has never built sophisticated warships. Anyone attempting to solve this kind of problem gains a much greater understanding of decisions faced by and made by senior staffs in the real world. 

Przemek Krajewski alias Viribus Unitis is a blogger In Poland. His area of interest is broad context of purpose and structure of Navy and promoting discussions on these subjects In his country