The dark corvette Gawron. The end of a maritime ambition for Poland?

port of Gdynia where the Gawron was to be built (credit: Wikipedia)

(BRUXELLES2) This is not the end of the Polish Navy, no doubt. But it is the end of certain ambitions surely. The Polish government announced on Friday its intention to end the Gawron corvette project. A sensible project to modernize an aging fleet and restore some color to the Polish Navy.

A burial program

This ship was built since 2001 at the Gdynia shipyards. But the shipyards themselves are bankrupt. The construction of the ship had been postponed several times. There are three already (see article already published on this blog) there was already talk of suspending it. At the beginning of February (2012), this program was not on the list of investments envisaged this year by the Ministry of Defence. Thomas Siemoniak even criticized, according to the daily Rzeczpospolita, the pace and cost of building what he called the " most expensive boat in the world ". The coup de grace came on Friday (February 24), during Prime Minister Donald Tusk's press conference, which confirmed the program's interruption. As for the remaining hull, the ministry is responsible for finding a buyer on the international market.

The end of a maritime ambition

The Polish ambition in the 1990s was to achieve by 2006 to build six modern ships, undetectable by radar, fast (the engines had to develop speeds of 30 knots). This program has been reduced little by little to a trickle to… a single ship which has not yet been completely built. Only one hull has been produced today. A project that has already cost about 400 million z?otys (NB: about 95 million euros). But to finish it and arm it, it would take another billion zlotys (230 million euros), at least, it is estimated in Warsaw…

At the Polish Ministry of Defence, people wonder whether this type of ship is really necessary for national security. While to protect the supply routes along the Baltic in oil or gas, patrol boats, cheaper, may suffice. Poland could give up a “long-distance” navy to fall back on its coastal defence. Rather than surface ships, it also prefers to invest more in submarines.

Controversy

A decision that causes a stir in Poland, against a backdrop of political quarrel. Former Prime Minister Leszek Miller (SLD – Social Democrat) let his anger explode. It is a decision absurd and dangerous he said at a press conference on Monday as reported by the Pap agency. He disputes the analysis made by the current government and concludes: if the Polish navy is not necessary then " let's abolish the Ministry of Defense altogether, we will save money". The President of the Republic, Bronislaw Komorowski, should decide quickly according to him, a president who knows the file well; it was under his aegis when he was Minister of Defense (in the Miller government) that the corvette project was approved.

Army modernization

This plan is part of a modernization and reorientation of the Polish army, following the abandonment of conscription. The Ministry of Defense wants to review the command structure of the army, to make it "lighter" by reducing the number of staff and general officers. He also wants to reduce the number of army chaplains. The soldier's pay should be increased by July (+ 300 z?oty on average, or about 70 euros) and merit pay introduced. The fate of veterans (Iraq, Afghanistan) should also be improved with the vote on a law expected in March on “veterans”. Finally, certain equipment will be favored such as multi-purpose helicopters and the purchase of another transport aircraft.

Read also: Polish army asked to tighten its belt in the face of the crisis

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).