Surface Forces: British Frigates Built In Poland

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March 24, 2022: Poland has purchased three British Type 31 anti-submarine frigates. These are exported as Arrowhead 140 frigates and five of the ten Type 31s on order (so far) are for export customers. Britain will supply the ship design and most of the components which will be assembled in a Polish shipyard.

Britain was one of the pioneers in anti-submarine warfare and for over a century has been building warships that specialized in ASW (anti-submarine warfare). The Type 31 is one of two replacements for the Type 23s that entered service in the 1990s. The larger Type 26 frigates will enter service a little before the Type 31. British ASW ships tend to have the latest sensors and weapons and frequent new classes of upgrades keep it that way.

The Arrowhead 140s will replace two used American Perry class frigates. Poland also has two Polish designed (at the end of the Cold War) and built (in 1986 and 2019) corvettes. During the Cold War Poland was a major ship builder but, because the government was controlled by Russia, the navy consisted mainly of second-hand Russia destroyers and corvettes. The Russian Navy dominated the Baltic Sea with the Polish and East German navies concentrating on coast defense.

Poland became independent of Russia in 1989 and joined NATO ten years later. New NATO members had to bring their military equipment up to NATO standards and that meant Poland had to replace its older Cold War gear. Poland built an updated version of its late Cold War Type 620 corvette as the Type 621 in 2019. Meanwhile Poland was approached by several original NATO members with tempting offers to buy their frigates and corvettes. Major NATO members had developed a system whereby they designed and offered to export customers ships that were designed to be easily modified to suit customer requirements. This proved very successful and Poland selected the British proposal to buy three Arrowhead 140 frigates. These will replace the two Perry-class American frigates that were updated before transfer to Poland in 2000-2002. Both had both recently retired after more than three decades of service with the U.S. Navy. The American replacement for the Perry’s was the failed LCS design and that ship is being replaced by an Italian design modified for what has become its largest export customer. These American frigates will be built in the United States from mainly American components.

The Polish Arrowhead 140s are 139 meters (455 feet) long 5,700-ton ships. Max speed is 52 kilometers an hour, max range of 17,000 kilometers and max endurance of three to four weeks (depending on average speed and people carried). Crew size varies between 80 and 100 but the ship has accommodations for up to 160 people as well as space under the helicopter flight deck for six standard shipping containers that can carry anything, including disaster relief supplies. The helicopter hangar can also be used for sheltering whatever needs it in an emergency. The additional accommodations can also handle troops or civilians rescued or evacuated.

The ship can handle medium (up to fifteen t0n) helicopters as well as UAVs. Armament consists of a 57mm gun with a range of 8.5 kilometers and a 3-4 rounds per second rate of fire. The 57mm gun is meant to destroy multiple targets near the ship. There are also two 40mm autocannon and four multi-barrel 7.62mm machine-guns as well as four standard 7.62mm machine-guns that can be mounted anywhere on the ship. There are 24 VLS cells for Sea Ceptor anti-aircraft missiles (25-kilometer range) and additional VLS cells for a new anti-ship missile which is still being developed and may not be available until the early 2030s. Meanwhile anti-ship armament consists of 110 kg (240 pound) helicopter-launched Sea Venom missiles with a max range of 20 kilometers. The helicopter can also carry four lightweight anti-submarine torpedoes as well as depth charges. The helicopter can also use smaller laser guided Martlet missiles that weigh 15 kg (29 pounds) each and have a range of eight kilometers. There are three storage/launch bays for RIBs (Rigid Inflatable boats) or unmanned surface or submarine vehicles.

The first of five Royal Navy Type 31 frigates enters service in a year or so. The first Polish Arrowhead won’t be in service until the late 2020s. Poland may make some changes to weapons and electronics before that date.

 


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