Weapons: Naval Strike Missiles for Poland


September 18, 2023: Poland has ordered two billion dollars’ worth of Norwegian NSMs (Naval Strike Missiles). Deliveries will begin in 2026 and be completed by 2032. The number of missiles was not disclosed, possibly because a discount for such a large order may still be under discussion. At trade shows for weapons, the NSM price is often quoted at $2.5 million each. A two billion dollar sale translates into 800 missiles. But this purchase also includes additional equipment so the NSMs can be used from land bases. These costs reduced the number of NSM to 600 or less.

Poland is seeking to establish numerous NSM batteries along its 538 kilometer Baltic coast that extends from the German border to the Russian Kaliningrad enclave. Kaliningrad used to be part of the ancient German province of East Prussia, which disappeared after World War II. Most of Prussia became Polish, but Russia retained the city of Konigsberg and its environs. This is 15,100 square kilometers, about the size of Northern Ireland. Russia renamed the city Kaliningrad and made it a major naval base. The coastline there is similar to what is found in Poland and the Baltic States. Germany and Poland both belong to NATO and both see Russian naval forces in the Baltic Sea as a threat. With Sweden and Finland joining NATO there are now ten NATO members bordering the Baltic Sea, and that means NATO nations can control what happens in the Baltic. This is important because the Russian Baltic Sea border is only about 500 kilometers and is concentrated at the eastern end plus around Kaliningrad. Most of the Baltic coast is controlled by NATO nations, including the Danish entrance to the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

The Russian Baltic Sea fleet is small and many of its ships are disabled by lack of maintenance. The two naval bases are at Leningrad and Kaliningrad. Currently the Baltic Sea fleet consists of one destroyer, three Kilo class subs, two frigates and three corvettes. There are some landing ships and over a dozen minesweepers and other port-protection ships. Many of the most capable warships have been sent to the Black Sea or the Northern Fleets. Because of a manpower shortage in the navy, the ships sent to other fleets filled out their crews at the expense of ships staying in the Baltic.

NATO nations not only control most of the Baltic coastline, but have far more warships and naval airpower. NATO controls the one exit from the Baltic and Kaliningrad is vulnerable to isolation because the roads and sea lanes to Russia are easily blocked by NATO. The new Polish NSM batteries contain missiles with a range of 250 kilometers and speed that enables them to reach their extreme range within three minutes. NSM flies very low and is equipped with countermeasures to deal with electronic or other defenses. The NSM weighs 400 kg (880 pounds) with a 120 kg (260 pound) high-explosive warhead. The guidance system is designed t0 hit ships at sea or land targets. NSM is designed to be the next generation beyond Harpoon and similar missiles.

The NSM purchase is one of many multi-billion dollar weapons purchases Poland has made since the Russians invaded Ukraine. Poland has ordered a thousand K2 tanks from South Korea. South Korea also got orders for self-propelled artillery and truck mounted multiple guided rocket launchers.

The 55-ton K2 is similar to the American M1 but without annoying American export controls. K2 has a 120mm gun that can also fire guided missiles as well as extensive electronic systems and an autoloader. That means the crew size is three. South Korean troops began receiving the K2 in 2014 and currently have 250 of them. Ten were sent to Poland in late 2021 for evaluation. The Poles were impressed and, after Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2022, Poland increased its order from 180 to a thousand, with 180 to be built in South Korea and the rest in Poland. By the end of the decade Poland will have the largest tank force of any European NATO member and superior in quality, if not quantity, to anything Russia has.

Poland has also ordered 96 of the latest version of the American AH-64E helicopter gunship. Each one will cost 125 million dollars, although that also includes support equipment, some training and an initial supply of spare parts. This purchase was motivated by what Russia was doing in Ukraine and openly threatened to do to Poland and the Baltic States once Ukraine was conquered and once again part of Russia.




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