On Wednesday, January 31, 2024, at the PGZ Naval Shipyard in Gdynia, a ceremony took place to lay the keel for the first multi-purpose frigate being constructed as part of the program codenamed “Miecznik.” The vessel, designated with the construction number 106/1, will be named ORP Wicher (“Gale”) in the future.
The role of the keel was fulfilled by the first fully assembled bottom section D4, weighing 127 tons. It consisted of 6 prefabricated elements labeled with numbers 411-416 (numbering from the stern, 411 – port side, 412 – starboard side, and so on). This marked the next stage of construction following the physical commencement of work, which took place on August 16, when the first steel cutting for the new unit occurred. Of course, the term “keel laying” is now merely a traditional naming convention signifying the beginning of ship construction in accordance with international regulations. The start of construction is considered to be the keel laying or a similar stage in the building process. In this case, it is the latter situation. According to the provisions of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), it is considered the start of assembly involving at least 50 tons or 1% (whichever is less) of the assumed mass of all construction materials. These provisions have been widely accepted by classification societies, including Lloyd’s Register, which oversees the construction of the project 106 frigates.
The future ORP Wicher, according to the current schedule, is set to be launched in the third quarter of 2026. The completed vessel is expected to be ready for qualification tests by 2028, which should not extend beyond the end of the first quarter of 2030.
Simultaneously, two more units are planned to be constructed at the shipyard. The commencement of work on 106/2 (named Burza, meaning Thunderstorm) is expected to take place in the second quarter of 2025 when steel cutting will begin. Keel laying is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2025, launching in the third quarter of 2027, and the delivery of the completed vessel in the second quarter of 2030.
For the third vessel – 106/3 (Huragan, Polish for Hurricane), the plan is to commence steel cutting in the third quarter of 2026, lay the keel in the fourth quarter of 2026, launch in the third quarter of 2028, and deliver it in the second quarter of 2031.
The contract for the construction of three frigates under the program codenamed “Miecznik” was signed on July 27, 2021, between the former Armament Inspectorate and the PGZ-Miecznik consortium, which at that time consisted of the Polish Armament Group (PGZ) as the leader, PGZ Naval Shipyard, and Remontowa Shipbuilding as two members. This composition changed on June 14, 2023, when Remontowa Shipbuilding withdrew from participation but remained in the program as a subcontractor of the consortium.
However, the previous contract did not specify which vessels would be built. Within its framework, the consortium was supposed to conduct comparative analyses of the offered projects, later presenting the customer with ready material, based on which the selection was to be made.
In March 2022, the offer for the Arrowhead 140 frigate presented by the British company Babcock was selected. Subsequently, further work was carried out to finalize the armament and equipment of the planned units.
ll formalities were only completed on June 30, 2023, when Annex No. 3 to the contract was signed, containing details regarding the design of the ordered vessels, their armament, and equipment. However, at this stage, only a complete prototype unit was ordered, while the two serial vessels were lacking weapon systems, radio-electronic warfare systems, technical observation systems, and a significant portion of the hydroacoustic system.
These deficiencies were addressed in December 2023 when a fourth amendment to the contract was signed. Under this amendment, for the second and third frigates, the following equipment will be purchased: 76mm OTO Melara Super Rapid Strales guns, Mk-41 missile launchers, MBDA Sea Ceptor missile systems, SM400 and NS50 radar systems, as well as electronic warfare means and friend-or-foe identification systems.
For the first time, the contract value was disclosed, including the amendments, which amounted to 14.8 billion PLN ($3.8 billion). It should be noted that not all types of weapons and equipment were included in this particular amendment. Some underwater weapon systems are missing, which will require the signing of another amendment and will further increase the final price.