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On 21 May 2024 an industry day was held in Poland’s Gdansk Science and Technology Park at which South Korean shipyard Hanwha Ocean and subcontractors presented their ideas for the submarine construction programme for the Polish Navy.

A continuation of talks held in November 2023, this latest event saw Hanwha Ocean underpin its KSS-III offer with its partners Hanwha Systems, Hyosung Heavy Industries, KTE, NK, Kolon Dacc Composite, Babcock International Group and Gabler. The 3,600-tonne KSS-III submarine is in service with the Republic of Korea Navy.

The Polish submarine procurement programme, known locally as the Orka project, has a history stretching back more than 10 years. Originally, the Polish Ministry of National Defence planned to purchase three to four new submarines. The Polish Navy currently has one Russian ‘Kilo’-class (Project 877E) boat, ORP Orzeł, from a former flotilla of five submarines. The decommissioning of Poland’s four Norwegian Kobben-class submarines began in 2017 and was completed in 2021. The renewal programme was actually supposed to be completed by the end of 2023, but now 2024-25 is being targeted for the conclusion of the contract for three new submarines. However, not all question marks have been cleared up in terms of dates and numbers. Warsaw’s other armament projects, such as air defence and modernisation of the Polish Land Forces’ vehicle fleet, are no less cost-intensive.

South Korea stands for keeping to the schedule

Beyond advertising its KSS-III design with the promise of providing a high-performance submarine, Hanwha Ocean wants to facilitate technology transfer and involve Polish industry as well as research institutes. In addition to the usual offerings such as training and education, the South Koreans are enticing customers with the establishment of a local support centre for maintenance, repair and overhaul work. They are also committed to a tight schedule.

“If Hanwha Ocean’s submarine is selected by the Polish Ministry of National Defence, we will be able to deliver the submarine to the Polish Navy within six years after the order is placed,” Hanwha Ocean’s vice president, Vice Admiral (ret) Steve SK Jeong, said during the industry day.

Polish coverage of the event emphasised Hanwha’s ability to deliver products on time and even ahead of schedule. This has already been demonstrated in procurement projects for the Polish Land Forces, namely for the K9 self-propelled howitzer and Chunmoo (Homar-K) multiple rocket launcher. The delivery of K2 main battle tanks ordered from Seoul has also gone smoothly so far.

Hanwha Ocean is pitching its KSS-III submarine design to Poland, along with a technology transfer deal with the involvement of Polish industry and the establishment of a local support centre for maintenance, repair and overhaul work. (Photo: Hanwha Ocean)