The programme Orka launched in 2014, one of the most important modernisation programmes in the Polish Armed Forces, provides for purchase of new submarines for the Polish Navy.
On 29 November 2023 Hanwha Ocean from the South Korea expressed its aspirations for a strategic collaboration and presented a comprehensive package of proposals concerning its KSS III submarine from the Korean Attack Submarine Project (KSS), originally intended to deter and combat threats from the North Korea and to support allies around the world.
Vice President Sung Kyun Jeong, Head of Hanwha Ocean’s Naval Ship International Business, said: “We are ready to offer the KSS-III Submarine, one of the world’s best submarines, for Poland’s Orka Project. We also want to share our long-term vision for the partnership with Poland on this occasion.”
KSS III are the biggest and most advanced submarines ever manufactured in the South Korea: 3,600 tonne displacement, 90 m length, 9.6 m width, 7.62 m draught, max immersed speed 20 knots, surface speed 12 knots and range 10,000 miles. They are capable of accommodating a crew of 50 and stand out by achieving the world’s longest submerged operations period of over 3 weeks. At the heart of their technological excellence is innovative propulsion system with Lithium-ion battery and Air Independent Propulsion (AIP), which together set a new standard for submarines.
Complex weaponry is another advantage. They have 6 launchers of 533 mm calibre for torpedoes and cruise missiles. They also have 6 launchers for Submarine-Launched Cruise Missiles (SLCMs) and for nuclear or conventional Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs) with range of over 1000 km, capable of combating anti-rocket systems. The submarine project carried out by South Korea includes altogether 9 units, the first three launched from 2018 to 2022 and the final one expected by 2029.
Hanwa Ocean offers to Poland not only ready vessels but also technology transfer and industrial cooperation. It is ready to build the submarines in Polish shipyards with Polish contractors and suppliers. It offers training and technical support to the Polish Navy on-board crew, like submariner courses, equipment operational training, simulator-led tactical training and at-sea training. It also offers strategic partnership in development and modernisation of submarines, joint R&D and export projects, as well as establishment in Poland of a centre for submarine maintenance, repair and overhaul. By this holistic approach Hanwha Ocean aims to position itself as a long-term partner with geopolitical ties between South Korea and Poland.
Hanwa Ocean established in 1973 is part of Hanwa Group, one of the biggest Korean corporations acting in such industries as power supply, chemistry, construction, finance and defence. Hanwa Group with its over 70-year experience in defence is an international leader in production and export of rocket, artillery, aviation and marine systems. Hanwha Ocean’s large submarine offer could significantly extend the present Korean military relationship with Poland, which includes K9 155mm howitzers, K239 Chunmoo multiple launch rocket systems, K2 Black Panter main battle tanks and KA-50 light attack fighters, many of which have already been delivered to Poland.
The Polish Navy currently operates only one submarine, Soviet Project 877E ‘Kilo’ class, ORP Orzeł launched in 1985. It was part of a submarine flotilla of 5 units. Decommissioning of the other ones, four Norwegian Kobben-class submarines, began in 2017 and was completed in 2021. In Orka programme Poland wants to buy three or four new submarines for over zł 10b ($ 2b). In May 2023 the Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak announced that procedures would be initiated this year, contracts would be finalised in 2025 and the submarines could be expected from 2029 to 2033. The programme generally requires technology transfer and industrial cooperation with Polish shipyards and contractors.
Besides Hanwha Ocean, in total 11 companies submitted proposals in the Orka: Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. Ltd, Saab Technologies Poland Sp. z o.o., Navantia, Naval Group, ThyssenKrupp AG, Hanwha Ocean Co. Ltd., Fincantieri S.p.A., Aycomm Sp. z o.o., Volue Industrial IoT, Babcock International Group plc., JFD. This list includes renowned submarine manufacturers, like Hyundai, Saab, Navantia, Naval Group, thyssenkrupp Marine Systems and Fincantieri.