The Polish navy has reignited its ambitions to bolster its fleet with state-of-the-art submarines through the relaunch of the Orka program. Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak fulfilled his May promise by officially announcing the program’s revival on July 17. In a series of tweets, Błaszczak revealed that the Polish arms agency has initiated “preliminary consultations” with potential manufacturers interested in securing the submarine contract. The submarines are expected to be crucial to the country’s military modernization efforts.
“The execution of the Orka program has begun. The Armaments Agency has launched preliminary inquiries on the market for a new type of submarine for the Polish Navy. This is one of the most important modernization programs for the Polish forces. Our goal is to purchase submarines with the necessary technology transfer,” stated Błaszczak.
To meet the requirements of the Orka program, the submarines must possess specific capabilities. They should be capable of diving beyond 200 meters, equipped with both cruise and anti-ship missiles, and possess the ability to engage air targets such as helicopters and maritime patrol aircraft. Furthermore, they should have the capacity to accommodate marine commandos through a combination of a Dry Dock Shelter and underwater thrusters. The inclusion of remote-controlled and/or autonomous underwater vehicles is also essential.
In addition, the selected submarines must have a propulsion system that allows extended periods of submersion and autonomy for over 30 days. While the fact sheet released by the Polish armaments agency does not mention the nuclear option, it emphasizes the preference for an anaerobic propulsion system known as Air Independent Propulsion (AIP).
Although acoustic discretion, crucial for underwater operations, is not explicitly highlighted in the agency’s statement, it is assumed to be a given requirement.
The response from potential manufacturers remains to be seen, with political considerations expected to influence the outcome. If the nuclear propulsion option is excluded, the United States and the United Kingdom are likely to be eliminated from the race. France (with the Shortfin Barracuda or Scorpène), Spain (S-80), Sweden (A-26), and Germany (U212CD) are anticipated to compete for the submarine contract. However, the possibility exists that South Korea, due to their significant cooperation with Poland in terms of weaponry, may present a strong case with the KSSIII (Dosan Ahn Changho class), even though they require foreign assistance for submarine production. Additionally, with the Taigei, Japan may present compelling arguments to secure the contract.
Currently, the Polish navy possesses only one submarine, the ORP Orzel, which primarily serves as a training vessel for divers. The relaunch of the Orka program represents a significant step toward enhancing Poland’s naval capabilities and aligning them with modern defense standards.
With the relaunch of the Orka program, Poland’s Defense Minister has set in motion the procurement process for new submarines to fortify the Polish navy. As manufacturers prepare to respond to the preliminary consultations, the selection of submarines that meet stringent criteria such as diving capabilities, armament systems, and commando support will be crucial. The emphasis on anaerobic propulsion systems and extended autonomy highlights Poland’s commitment to innovative technologies.
The outcome of this competition remains uncertain, as political factors are expected to shape the final decision. Nonetheless, the Orka program marks a significant step forward in Poland’s military modernization, aiming to bolster its naval forces and contribute to regional security.