Brand new Polish patrol corvette is already looking for a new cannon

WARSAW, (BM) – The Command of the Naval Port in Gdynia has announced a tender for the overhaul of the OTO Melara cannon on the ORP “Ślązak” patrol corvette, learned citing Polish media Defence24.

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The case caused little noise in the Polish media, because it is a ship that has been in service for less than a year and “something breaks down on it”. Meanwhile, a cannon inspection does not have to be a repair.

The construction of the “Gawron” corvette, and later the ORP “Ślązak” patrol vessel, began in 2001, but formally it is a new ship – commissioned on November 28, 2019. The information about damage to some systems could really cause anxiety, if not for the fact that the Command of the Naval Port in Gdynia has announced a tender primarily for the overhaul of the OTO Melara gun (76 mm caliber), and not for its repair.

Of course, during such an inspection, the problems reported by the crew are verified and some damage may be detected. But that is what it is organized for, to remove these damages, or what is more desirable, to prevent such damages in the future. For example, all owners of new cars who want to maintain the guarantee or warranty have to go to a licensed service center for inspection, reinsure the car and pay extra for it within the prescribed period or after a certain number of kilometers. As a rule, the more expensive the car, the greater the costs, and a similar principle also applies to ships.

The solution in this case is to purchase the full ILS [Integrated Logistic Support] logistic support package together with the vessel and transfer this obligation to the manufacturer of the equipment. However, the tender announced by the Gdynia Naval Port Command clearly shows that such a package has not been purchased and now it is necessary to look for a contractor for works that should only be performed by a licensed contractor.

Several important conclusions for the future emerge from the proceedings initiated by KPW Gdynia. First of all, when planning expenses for the modernization of the Polish Armed Forces, it should be remembered that the cost of purchasing even the most modern weapons is only a small part of the expenses that will have to be taken into account in order for this equipment to be used. Looking at the cost of the current OTO Melara cannon review, you will have a picture of the level of costs you need to be prepared for in the years to come.

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Secondly, you must be aware that service inspections – especially in relation to the most modern military equipment – are necessary for such equipment to be used at all. Therefore, the cost of operation must be an indispensable item in the expenditure plan of the Ministry of National Defense.

The difficulty in all this is the condition that periodic inspections should only be carried out by licensed entities, authorized by the manufacturer of the equipment or armament. This means the need to pay for the service or its organization in the military, which in the case of single systems [such as the aforementioned OTO Melara] may be unprofitable.

And here the problem really arises, because the announcement published by KPW Gdynia shows that:

  • on the ship ORP “Ślązak” such periodical inspections carried out by the service in relation to the OTO Melara cannon were not carried out. KPW Gdynia has announced a tender to carry out a semi-annual and annual review at the same time, which means that the semi-annual review was probably not completed on time;
  • the logistic package was not purchased when the gun was purchased, which lowered the price, but on the other hand now forces KPW Gdynia to organize tenders;
  • by purchasing the gun, it was not ensured that any Polish industrial and military entity had a license for its logistic support. That is why KPW Gdynia will have to look for it, and most importantly – such action will be repeated periodically.

In this way, the cost of building the ship was reduced, but the cost of its operation was increased, while making it more difficult. The announcement published by KPW Gdynia also shows that the OTO Melara cannon is no longer guaranteed. KPW Gdynia in the list of works ordered the verification of the right rocking arm, which is probably damaged.

According to the description, the cause of the damage may be “improper synchronization of the right roking arms with the loader drum”, something that should be covered by the warranty from the manufacturer or the company assembling the weapon system. Inspection of these arms is recommended in accordance with the technical documentation before each shooting and obligatorily only “after 3 years of operation and after 3500 cycles”.

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