July 28, 2015:
Good news and bad news for the Polish Navy. On July 2nd the first and most likely only ship of the Slazak class offshore patrol vessels (OPV) was launched at the Gdynia Navy Shipyard. The bad news is that this comes 14 years after construction began. The Slazak is the first locally built Polish Navy ship to be launched since 1994 and is scheduled to enter service in the second half of 2016
The Slazak is based on a licensed German MEKO A-100 corvette design. The original plan was for the Slazak to be first of seven Gawron class corvettes. But there were problems and in 2012 the Gawron project was cancelled due to a combination of cost overruns, shipyard mismanagement and budget and leadership problems in the Polish Navy. All this contributed to production slowdowns, while constant reductions in the number of ordered ships inflated the unit price.
However, once the decision to cancel the Gawron class was taken there was the problem of what to do with the nearly completed first ship of the class. Scrapping was considered but rejected because of the bad publicity. Instead it was decided that it would be better for the Navy to get something out of the unfortunate project. This resulted in the decision to finish the “corvette” as an offshore patrol vessel. Unlike navy warships, these coast guard vessels are cheaper because they have fewer weapons and are less lavishly equipped with electronics and other combat gear. Even with those adjustments turning the turning the unarmed and unequipped, but otherwise nearly finished corvette into the ORP Slazak was not cheap. Including the development costs and the re-design the final price for this ship will reach $330 million. Pretty expensive for a large OPV, about twice what a comparable OPV goes for in the West.
The Slazak is a 95 meter (308 feet) long, 1,800 ton warship with a crew of 97, capable of reaching speeds of up to 54 kilometers an hour and a cruising speed of 32 kilometers. It is armed with a 76mm gun, two 30mm remote weapon stations, four GROM short range surface-to-air missile launchers, and four 12.7mm machineguns.
The original, corvette design included anti-submarine warfare systems consisting of sonar equipment, and two triple anti submarine torpedo launchers plus one RIM-116 RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile) anti-missile\anti-aircraft missile launcher, and four or six RBS-15 anti-ship missile launchers. Some of the cancelled weapon systems could be installed in later upgrades of the Slazak.
The Slazak has an aft helicopter deck, with space for a single helicopter but no hangar. The ship is a stealthy design, so it is harder to pick up on radar. The electronics include a 360 degree radar and an integrated combat system optimized for the needs of coastal patrol and anti-smuggling and anti-pirate operations. This OPV can stay at sea for 30 days at a time. The ship also features bow azimuth thrusters, which improve maneuverability, and active stabilizers, which improve comfort for the crew. --Adam Szczepanik