Towards an evolution of the specifications for Polish submarines?

Long undecided, the Polish submarine program of the ORKA program has been relaunched by the country's authorities, with new specifications at the key.

The last few days have been full of announcements about the future of the Polish defense effort. In addition to information about land and air programs, Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak also spoke on the occasion of the Defense24 Day event organized by the eponymous Defense news site, about the Orka program of Polish submarine.

Long in the making, this program, which aims to give the Polish Navy an advanced submarine attack capability, seemed to direct towards relatively low tonnage ships to evolve in the Baltic Sea.

This is the reason why, until now, the European offers studied by Warsaw were based on the A26 Blekinge from the Swedish Kockums, the Type 214 from the German TKMS and the Scorpene of the French Naval Group, ships evolving between 1600 and 1900 tons, responding perfectly to such an operational use. Nevertheless, the expectations expressed by the Polish Minister of Defense during this event, differ significantly from these specifications initially expressed, while the ORKA program should be officially launched during this year 2023.

The French Scorpene are candidates to become the future Polish submarines
Submarines under 2000 tonnes such as the Scorpene or the Type 214 no longer seem to meet the expectations of the Polish authorities

Indeed, for Mariusz Błaszczak, the Polish submarines will have to be equipped with a great autonomy, the capacity to implement cruise missiles launched in immersion, but also to evolve at high speed while remaining discreet like remain submerged for a long time while operating at low speed.

In addition, the ship will have to be able to carry out missions far from its base in an autonomous manner, while Warsaw intends to benefit from significant technology transfers to increase the skills of its own naval industry.

In fact, these needs are very different from those initially expressed, since the Polish Navy openly intends to equip itself with an oceanic rather than a littoral submarine capability, also having great firepower both towards land and against naval and underwater targets.

And the ships initially proposed by Kockums, TKMS and Naval group, do not correspond to these new specifications. Two of them, TKMS with Type 212CD et Naval Group with the Merlin (Shortfin Barracuda), have a larger alternative model that can meet the needs expressed.

As for Kockums, he will probably have to reproduce the partnership implemented with Lockheed-Martin to try to impose himself in the Netherlands, with a larger ship than the Blekinge.

KDX III Dosan South korea submarine Submarine fleet | Air Independent Propulsion AIP | Germany
South Korea's Dosan Anh Changho-class submarines are now likely favorites in Polish competition

These specifications will probably attract other players likely to position themselves more effectively against European ships than previously. This is notably the case of the South Korean Dosan Anh Changho class submarines, derived from the Type 214, but much more imposing with a submerged displacement of 3700 tons and above all a vertical missile launch system making it possible to put in implements 6 to 10 cruise or ballistic missiles.

Knowing the closeness developed between the Polish and South Korean defense industries, the Dosan Anh Changho is now the big favorite, with specifications that seem cut out for it.

Japan, with the Taïgei class could also invite itself in this competition, the ship of 84 meters and more than 3500 tons in diving, extends to date the only submarine equipped with lithium ion batteries to be operational. Finally, the Spanish S-80 Plus of the Isaac Peral class of 3400 tons in diving could take advantage of the overhaul of the specifications to try to invite itself again in the Orka program, with this time a ship corresponding more to the expectations expressed .

Shortfin Barracuda pumpjet Submarine fleet | Air Independent Propulsion AIP | Germany
The capabilities of Naval Group's Marlin make it the ship that best meets Polish expectations, but will that be enough?

Still, the most efficient model to meet Polish expectations, particularly in terms of speed and range, is most likely Naval Group's Marlin, the only ship to be equipped with a Pump-jet inherited from the submarine program. Suffren attack nuclear weapons, from which it incorporates some of the key characteristics in terms of discretion and performance.

In addition, a partnership between Warsaw and Paris in this highly critical area would be a most welcome symbol of the resumption of Franco-Polish cooperation in defense matters, after several years of more than tense relations. However, competition will be very tough for Naval Group, especially given the omnipresence of South Korean industry in the country.

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