The Polish Navy has started sea trials with the new offshore patrol vessel Ślązak. If things go as planned, the ship will be ready for service in March 2019. That reports navaltoday.com.
Ślązak is 95 meters long and displaces 1800 tons. It is based on the MEKO A100 design, which means that it is related to the German Braunschweig-class. The physical similarities between these two classes of ship are easy to spot.
I have expressed my enthusiasm for this particular size of ship before. In the 1800-2000 tons range, ships are seaworthy enough for expeditionary operations but still affordable. Many navies in Europe will build such ships in the coming years. Either because they cannot afford frigates, or because they cannot afford to use their frigates in low-intensity maritime security operations.
The construction of Ślązak has been a troubled process. It began in 2001, and the ship was intended to be the first in a series of seven Gawron-class corvettes. These would constitute the backbone of Poland’s future surface fleet. Unfortunately, the project suffered from insufficient funding, and Ślązak was only launched in 2009. By then the international financial crisis had made the financial restrictions even worse. The Gawron project was halted, and construction of the second ship never began. In 2012, the Polish government decided to scrap all plans to finish Ślązak. After intensive lobbying by the Polish Navy and the ship construction industry, this decision was reversed in 2013. It was decided to finish Ślązak as an offshore patrol vessel (OPV), which is a lot cheaper than fitting out a corvette.
17 years from initial construction to sea trials is a horrendous time period, which secures Ślązak a position on the list of scandalous ship projects. It is, however, a meaningful ship for Poland to possess, so one can hope for a more successful time to come. The Polish surface fleet has been neglected for a while, so it is good to see them get a new platform with some flexibility.
Ślązak will be equipped with a 76 mm OTO Melara gun, two 30 mm Marlin-WS guns, and four man-portable air-defense missile launchers of the Polish Grom type. On the sensor side, it will have a SMART-S Mk2 air and surface surveillance radar, STING-EO Mk2 fire control radar, and the MIRADOR electro-optical sensor. It will have the TACTICOS combat management system from Thales and LINK 11/16 for exchange of data. So while it does not have the missiles and torpedoes that were intended in the original Gawron project, it still qualifies as a reasonably capable ship which can integrate into a naval force and deliver surveillance data.