Poland's ORKA submarine program unveiled and opened up to competition beyond Europe

After several years of discussions and setbacks, the ORKA program to restore the Polish Navy's submarine capability was relaunched at the end of May 2023. On Monday July 17, the ubiquitous Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak announced the start of consultations on this subject and presented the outline of the specifications to be met by the selected manufacturers.

Thus, the new ships of the Polish Navy must have an autonomy at sea of ​​30 days, a diving capacity below 200 meters, and performance in terms of speed compatible with ocean use. They will have to be equipped, in addition to the traditional torpedoes and naval mines, with anti-ship missiles with a change of environment, as well as cruise missiles for striking towards the land, which can also be launched from immersion.

For their self-defense, submarines will have to be able to implement surface-to-air ammunition capable of eliminating an airplane, a drone or a helicopter moving at low altitude, as well as hard-kill and soft-kill anti-torpedo systems. Finally, the buildings will have to be able to implement special forces, in particular through coupled underwater vehicles, and control drones to extend their detection capabilities and performance, which will be acquired jointly with the submersibles.

The ability to deploy medium-changing anti-ship and cruise missiles is one of Warsaw's key requirements for the ORKA program
The ability to implement medium-changing anti-ship and cruise missiles is one of Warsaw's key requirements for the ORKA program

If the mode of propulsion is not defined by the specifications, all the Polish experts agree to rule out the possibility that Warsaw could turn to nuclear attack submarines for the ORKA program, a capability deemed both far too expensive and complex, and above all unsuitable for use in the Baltic Sea, in which it is true the American, British, French and even Russian SSNs avoid venturing as it would limit their own assets.

Although the announcements made by Mr Błaszczak are above all intended to give food for thought to the specialized press, by flattering the expected operational imagination, the dimensioning requirements are very limited, which should allow many manufacturers to engage in competition, well beyond the 3 European naval groups Kockums, Naval Group and TKMS, which have been working on the subject since 2016.

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