On December 1, the PGZ-MIECZNIK Consortium handed over to the Armaments Agency of the Polish Ministry of National Defence the documentation for finalizing the next stage of the program to build the three Miecznik frigates for the Polish Navy. This is the Updated Industrial Feasibility Study and Preliminary Design.
Preliminary design of the Miecznik frigate is ready
The mentioned documents will be the basis for confirming the final configuration of the Miecznik (Swordfish) frigates in the course of negotiations between PGZ-MIECZNIK and the Armament Agency. Approval of the Tactical and Technical Objectives for these vessels will be a milestone for the preparations for the start of the ships’ production in mid-2023.
The PGZ-MIECZNIK Consortium consists of: Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa S.A., PGZ Stocznia Wojenna Sp. z o.o. and Remontowa Shipbuilding S.A. Its foreign partners in this program are the companies: Babcock International – responsible for the technical design of the platform based on Arrowhead 140PL (AH140PL), Thales UK – responsible for the supply of key elements of the Integrated Combat System, and MBDA UK – as the supplier of the air defence system.
The Miecznik frigate is expected to have a total displacement of 7,000 t, dimensions of 138.7×19.7×5.5 m and a crew of 100-120 persons (maximum seating capacity is 160 men and women). Propulsion will consist of four diesel engines. It will allow a top speed of circa 28 knots and a range of more than 6,000 NM at 18 knots. Autonomy is specified at 30 days.
Unfortunately, the detailed composition of the Miecznik frigate’s combat system is classified information. However, partial knowledge of it is provided by statements from representatives of the Consortium and the Armament Agency, as well as subsequent visualizations of the frigates.
Latest visualization of Miecznik
Shortly before announcing the completion of the preliminary design, Babcock presented the latest visualization of the Miecznik frigate. It shows two external changes from earlier images: the lengthening of the helicopter landing pad at the expense of shortening the superstructure, and the deployment of anti-ship missiles.
The first change has to do with the ability to operate Leonardo AW101 heavy helicopters. Four such helicopters have been purchased by the Polish Ministry of Defence for the Naval Aviation Brigade. They will be based ashore and used for rescue and anti-submarine warfare, but can also be operated on Miecznik.
The arrangement of the anti-ship missile containers is also different. There are a total of 16 of them. Eight (2×4) are left unchanged – they fire outward perpendicular to both sides. While another eight (4×2) are deployed on the superstructure deck and angled toward the bow – similar to those on typical Fast Attack Crafts (FACs).
The Miecznik frigates will receive the Thales TACTICOS (Tactical Information And Command System) combat management system, which will integrate all sensors and effectors. It is well-known in the Polish Navy. First TACTICOS was integrated with three FACs of the project 660M (Orkan class), and then with the ORP Ślązak corvette of the MEKO A-100PL class. Now it will be the latest version with MOC Mk 4 multifunctional operator consoles.
As for missile armament, the Miecznik will receive MBDA UK CAMM (Common Anti-Air Modular Missile) short-range air defence missiles, part of the Sea Ceptor system. They will be fired from a Lockheed Martin Mk41 VLS launcher in the Strike version. It will have 32 cells (4×8) and will be installed amidships between the funnels. A quadpack for four CAMM missiles will be able to be inserted into each cell. Talks are also planned to acquire CAMM-ER (Extended Range) missiles. The same missiles have been selected for the Narew land-based air defence systems. There are no plans to purchase other air defence missiles for the Mieczniks at this stage.
As anti-ship missiles were selected Saab RBS15 Mk3 missiles, which are already in use in Poland on the Orkan FAC. The Miecznik frigate will be able to take up to 16 of them. Whether this will actually happen, we will see in the future. For now, it looks like a showdown of force with no operational justification. For now, it has not been finally decided whether Poland will buy the latest Mk4 Gungir instead of the Mk3 version. What is certain is that the Miecznik frigates will be prepared in terms of equipment and CMS to use both versions.
An important element of the Polish frigates’ combat system will be anti-submarine warfare systems. The Miecznik frigate will receive the Thales BlueHunter active-passive hull-mounted sonar (old name Kingklip Mk2) and the CAPTAS-2 low-frequency towed sonar (or possibly CAPTAS-4 Compact). For anti-submarine warfare, EuroTorp MU90 Impact torpedoes, which are already in service with the Polish Navy, are planned. They will be fired from two dual launchers.
The main gun will be a Leonardo OTO 76 mm L/62 Super Rapid. In addition to it, the Miecznik will receive two OSU-35K systems (Okrętowy System Uzbrojenia – 35mm Ships’ Armament System). The OSU-35K includes the 35 mm AM-35K cannon and the ZGS-35K integrated tracking head. The cannon fires 550 rounds per minute. The effective firing range is up to 5 km. Work on the SAP-35 programmable ammunition is underway. This new Polish system was fitted on ORP Albatros, brand new minehunter of type Kormoran II and will be tested next year.
The frigates will also take a four RHIB boats or unmanned surface vessels USVs (two each of 11 m and 7.5 m length). In addition, space is provided below the landing pad for four mission modules housed in TEU containers.
The main radar system is the Thales Sea Master SM400 Block 2. It uses four AESA fixed antennas with electronic scanning and operates in S-band (NATO E/F-band). The SM400 simultaneously provides air surveillance, helicopter control, surface surveillance and weapon control functions. Its four faces provide unrestricted (360 degrees) coverage. In addition to it, a rotating AESA 4D dual-axis multi-beam radar Thales NS50 will be located on top of the mast under the dome. The NS50 offers air and surface detection, tracking, and classification performance, providing highly accurate 4D target information required for rapid acquisition by Fire Control Systems, for fire control of short-range “fire and forget” Surface-to-Air-Missile Systems and for fire control of ship-borne artillery against surface targets.
For the time being, no further details of the Miecznik frigates’ equipment are known. This will probably change with the next stage of the program – the completion of negotiations between the Armament Agency and the PGZ-MIECZNIK Consortium. In the course of them, it may also turn out that the combat system will be limited for financial reasons. It is also likely that the “fitted for but not with” method will be applied to some systems. According to the current schedule, steel cutting for the construction of the first Miecznik is scheduled to begin in August 2023, its launch in January 2026, and handover to the Polish Navy in June 2028. The second frigate is scheduled for delivery in September 2029 and the third in August 2030.