Poland hopes to modernize its fleet, but could get second-hand US ships

WAESAW, (BM) – The Polish online publication Defence24 makes an interesting comment regarding the forthcoming withdrawal of several American ships from service in the US Navy, learned BulgarianMilitary.com.

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According to the analytical article, there is an option for some of these ships to end up in Poland and that would be a problem. Here is how the author analyzes the situation with the future of American ships and the Polish naval reform:

The Americans plan to withdraw the first four ships for LCS offshore operations. Poland will most likely be one of the countries to which these, mostly several-year-old vessels, will be offered. It would be the final end of dreams of modernizing the Polish Navy and the Polish shipbuilding industry.

According to the announcement by the chief of naval operations of the US Navy on June 20, 2020, the first four ships for coastal operations LCS (Littoral Combat Ship) are to be withdrawn from the US Navy by March 31, 2021.

This decision may seem surprising because the Americans are thus getting rid of ships that have only been in service for six to a maximum of twelve years.

Two Freedom single-hull LCS (USS “Freedom” commissioned on October 8, 2008 and USS “Fort Worth” commissioned on September 22, 2012) and two three-hull Independence LCS (USS “Independence”) are to be withdrawn. ”Commissioned on October 16, 2010 and USS Coronado commissioned on April 5, 2014.

What at first glance may be incomprehensible, from the American point of view, it is a very thoughtful and reasonably prudent action. The US Navy had to find savings in order to continue its modernization programs and continuously build new vessels.

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At the same time, it does it in such a way as to gain as much as possible and, at the same time, not to put its own arms industry in a difficult situation.

It is significant that by deciding to withdraw four relatively new LCSs, the order for another four units of this class was not canceled. And it would be so easy that their construction has not practically started yet. There are two Freedom units (“Beloit” – LCS 29 and “Cleveland” – LCS 31) and two Independence units (“Kingsville” – LCS 36 and “Pierre” – LCS 38).

In addition, all the withdrawn LCS ships will have to undergo renovation and modernization works before their possible sale to other countries. This will also bring profit to the American shipyards, which would also be overseeing the logistics support process in the future – of course, earning it accordingly.

The Americans’ decision was also influenced by the fact that the first four LCS ships (both types) were treated as prototype ships in the US Navy. According to the US admiralty, these units “have almost reached the end of their useful life as test ships and are no longer worth the deeper financial investments.”

“These four test ships played a key role in crew training, the logistical support process, and all the other things we had to learn from them. However, they are not as configured as other LCSs in the fleet and require significant improvements. And that’s it: from combat systems to construction. They would be expensive to upgrade” Rear Admiral Randy Crites – Naval Deputy Secretary for Budget said.

It should be noted, however, that such investments would be necessary in the US Navy (trying to be as homogeneous as possible in the same type of vessels), but would not be necessary in other nations’ naval forces.

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So there is a good chance that the Americans will be able to find buyers for their withdrawn, relatively new ships, the more so as the marketing work in this regard has been going on for several years. They were related primarily to minimizing the criticism of the very concept of building ships to the coastal activities of the LCS.

For example, when deciding to start a new frigate building program, the US Navy tried to avoid explaining why it was not based on the experience of working on LCSs.

Unofficial signals indicate that US military representations in other countries have also started their activities. Their task will undoubtedly be to encourage the purchase of the withdrawn LCS, emphasizing their advantages and at the same time concealing the disadvantages. This work probably also began in Poland, whose naval forces (as far as combat ships are concerned) are in a deplorable condition.

In addition, the Polish Ministry of National Defense has already made four-billion purchases in the United States of non-tender packages of weapons and equipment (planes for VIP, Patriot, HIMARS and F-35).

Therefore, Poland is an ideal customer for Americans who would hand over ships fully ready for action to the Navy, commissioning only Polish shipyards with minor work (e.g. related to painting and maintenance).

An additional “advantage” of the American offer would probably be its cost. It is estimated that the cost of one new LCS is approximately $ 360 million. It would be enough for the Americans to drop the price by half, so that the cost of acquiring two several-year-old ships for coastal operations would be lower than the price for which the Polish Ministry of Defense wanted to buy thirty-year-old Australian Adelaide frigates two years earlier.

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Of course, and in both cases, the Polish Navy would receive ships without missiles and helicopters. However, LCSs are so much future-proof ships that they are specially designed for expanding the armament package and relatively easy installation of e.g. anti-aircraft missiles, anti-ship missiles or even a hardware package (task module) that allows to operate in anti-mine operations.

The disadvantage of this solution is that such systems must first be purchased from the Americans and integrated also with the Americans. Exactly the same actions, however, would also have to be done in the case of the purchase of Adelaide-type frigates prepared earlier in Poland.

As you can see, it is not treated as an obstacle by the Ministry of National Defense. A common feature of these two rearming processes is, of course, that the role of the Polish industry would be limited to unpacking pallets with mostly American equipment.

The Polish Ministry of National Defense will therefore face the temptation to get rid of the problem of the Navy in a cheap way and additionally in accordance with the current policy of unconditional purchase of American weapons.

There will even be an appearance of choice, as Americans offer both “classic” single-hull LCSs made of steel and futuristic-shaped aluminum trimarans – the result of widespread adoption of stealth technology.

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The Americans may even include in their offer a license to build this type of vessels in Polish shipyards – the more that they do not intend to continue this project themselves. At this point, any rational analysis of the pros and cons may no longer matter.

Worse, the Americans are planning to withdraw four of their Ticonderoga-class cruisers soon. In this way, the Ministry of National Defense would implement both the “Czapla” and “Miecznik” programs.


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