The Polish navy is decommissioning its two Russian-built Tarantul-class fast attack craft in 2008, the commander of the service's fast patrol boat squadron has told an international naval conference in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
The two high-speed craft, armed with aging SS-N-2C Styx anti-ship missiles, are no longer compliant with NATO standards, Capt Krzysztof Jaworksi said at the IQPC-organized OPV Conference.
The Polish navy covers an area of responsibility that comprises 8,648 km2 of territorial waters and 32,502 km2 of economic exclusion zone waters extending out into the Baltic.
In the east the Polish-monitored waters border directly on those of the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, located between Poland and Lithuania.
The wider Baltic Sea has an area of 427,000 km2 and an average depth of 52 meters, stretching out some 600 naut.mi. north-south and some 320 naut.mi. east-west, Capt Jaworksi said.
Peacetime missions primarily involve supporting the Polish border guard and EEZ protection, while in a crisis situation, the Polish fast attack craft would be tasked with early warning as well as protection of sea lines of communication.
In a shooting war, the squadron will try to destroy enemy forces within the Polish naval defense area, participate in operations against enemy landing forces, and attempt to maintain sea control, Capt Jaworksi said.
In other words: a purely national territorial defense mission much in the same fashion as the Cold War anti-invasion scenarios.
However, a new capability is being added in the form of long-range (150-200 km) land attack missiles: Saab Bofors Dynamics RBS 15 Mk 3s that will be carried by the three modernized Orkan-class fast attack craft and the planned class of six Gawron-class corvettes.
The Tarantul-class, the ORP Metalowiec and Rolnik, were both commissioned at the very end of the Cold War (1988-1989) but are not sufficiently compliant with Western/NATO standards.
The 500-ton, gas-turbine-powered craft have a maximum speed of 43 kts. and a crew of 45. Their main armament is four Russian SS-N-2C Styx anti-ship missiles (range: 80 km) which are still capable of delivering a devastating strike against surface targets.
Capt. Jaworksi showed a video clip in which two Styx missiles struck a surface target, arriving from slightly different angles with less than one second spacing.
The Tarantul craft also carry a 76-mm. main gun, two 30-mm. close-in weapon systems and four SA-N-5 surface-to-air missiles, as well as anti-submarine armament.
The three upgraded Orkan craft (modernized by a Thales-led consortium) each carry eight Swedish-supplied RBS 15 Mk 3 (Mk 2 initially, the Mk 3 should arrive next year) surface-to-surface missiles. These, said Capt Jaworksi, have the capability to attack land targets as well as ships.
The 300-ton, diesel-powered Orkans have a top speed of 36 kts and carry a crew of 36.
The Gawron-class missile corvette program, based on the German ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems MEKO 100 design (2,035 tons of displacement), has been delayed.
A first ship is under construction and should be ready by 2010. But the remainder of the class (five more ships), will not be acquired until after 2012, Capt. Jaworksi said.
The Gawrons will also have eight RBS 15 Mk 3 missiles each as well as vertically-launched surface-to-air missile system and guns.