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Od 25 maja 2018 r. obowiązuje w Polsce Rozporządzenie Parlamentu Europejskiego i Rady (UE) 2016/679 z dnia 27 kwietnia 2016 r. w sprawie ochrony osób fizycznych w związku z przetwarzaniem danych osobowych i w sprawie swobodnego przepływu takich danych oraz uchylenia dyrektywy 95/46/WE (ogólne rozporządzenie o ochronie danych, zwane także RODO).

W związku z powyższym przygotowaliśmy dla Państwa informacje dotyczące przetwarzania przez Wojskowy Instytut Wydawniczy Państwa danych osobowych. Prosimy o zapoznanie się z nimi: Polityka przetwarzania danych.

Prosimy o zaakceptowanie warunków przetwarzania danych osobowych przez Wojskowych Instytut Wydawniczy – Akceptuję

Missile Check

Poland is expanding its coastal missile defense, joining other countries, such as Estonia, Latvia and Finland, which have also decided to do that. Why has such solution become so popular?


May 2023. The ORP Toruń transport-mine ship of the 8th Coastal Defense Flotilla from Gdynia arrives at the port in Świnoujście. There, the vehicles of the Maritime Missile Unit (MMU) are located. The heart of MMU module are mobile launchers with naval strike missiles (NSMs). The vehicles are boarded on the ship, and the ORP Toruń navigates to Gotland. Meanwhile in Sweden a serious crisis is growing as the saboteurs related to Russia are everywhere, and the open aggression is close. NATO forces have been stationed in crucial regions of the country. The task of a Polish component is about the creation of the anti-access zone (‘no-go bubble’). The goal is that no enemy ship comes close to the Gotland’s coastline. Keeping control over the island is not only the key to Sweden’s security. This is also the way to control maritime routes to Poland and other Baltic states. For that reason, during Aurora 2023 Exercise, the MMU module was one of the most crucial ones. There will be more similar activities in the nearest future. Poland announced at the end of 2023 its plan to expand the coastal missile forces. It is not the only country to think of it.

Countries Unite Forces

The idea of maritime missile units is now in revival. As early as in 2016, Sweden, aware of a growing threat from Russia, decided to restore to service the RBS-15 anti-ship missile systems. The reactivated unit with RBS-15s was deployed in Gotland, where the Swenex 2016 Exercise was held.

REKLAMA

In the fall of 2021, Estonia decided to purchase a similar system. The authorities in Tallin informed that the country will procure the Blue Spear missiles, produced by Proteus Advanced System. The range of these anti-ship missiles is 490 km. New launchers will achieve their operational capability in the years 2024-2025. Meanwhile, the Estonians have concluded a contract in combining forces with a neighboring Finland, which owns MTO 85M missiles, capable of engaging targets at a distance of over 100 km. “We have to integrate our coastal defense systems. We will operate jointly and exchange collected data,” emphasized in 2022 the Estonian Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur, and noticed that the width of the Gulf of Finland between these two countries is shorter than the range of their missiles. The gulf in the narrowest section is 45 km wide, and in the widest one – 120. This means that the Finnish and Estonians are easily able to block Russian ships from the bases in the Leningrad Oblast.

At the end of December 2023, Latvia signed a contract on the purchase of mobile missile system with Naval Strike Missile (NSM) launchers. It is not only the states in the region of the Baltic Sea which are arming with this kind of equipment. One of them is Romania, which had for years used the Soviet Rubiezh system, and ultimately at the end of December 2022 bought the combat modules based on the aforementioned NSMs.

“Many countries have planned similar purchases much earlier, however their interest in modern anti-access systems has increased after the outbreak of war in Ukraine,” LtCdr Daniel Krefft, a commander of one of the MMU divisions, said. “The sinking of Russian ‘Moskwa’ cruiser can speak to imagination. The Ukrainians sent him to the bottom with the help of Neptun missiles launched from the coast. The mobile launchers helped them to keep the Black Sea Fleet away from their coast,” added the officer.

Poland, in the meantime, if it comes to coastal missile systems, follows the same track.

More Launchers

The history of MMU dates back to 2011. At the time in Siemirowice the coastal missile defense (Nadbrzeżny Dywizjon Rakietowy, NDR) was formed, as part of the 3rd Ship Flotilla. The core of it are the mobile NSM launchers. Each of them can be armed with four missiles of about 200-km range, as well as command-post vehicles, radiolocation station or mobile communication nodes. Several years later, the second identically fitted NDR was formed. In 2015, on their basis the Maritime Missile Unit was formed. At present, Poland intends to form two more such units.

The Polish MoND in September 2023 signed a contract to purchase more equipment worth 8 billion zlotys (gross amount). The contract will be realized by Kongsberg Defense & Aerospace in cooperation with PIT-Radwar and Wojskowe Zakłady Elektroniczne (Military Electronic Works, WZE). “New MMUs, just like the first units, will use the NSMs, but in their modified version of Block 1A. The missiles have larger range [300 km]. If need arises, they can be used for engaging land targets,” explains LtCol Grzegorz Polak, press officer for the Armament Agency. The deliveries of combat modules should start in 2026. It is assumed that the order should be finalized six years from there.

“New missile units significantly increase the potential of the Polish Navy. Even more, since they will be capable of reaching a full operational readiness faster than the Miecznik missile frigates, the building of which has just been launched,” emphasizes Cdr Grzegorz Mucha at the Polish Navy Inspectorate of the Armed Forces General Command. According to the plan, three ships ordered by Poland will enter service consecutively in 2029, 2030 and in 2031. Usually, the first months of service is the time for completing crew training and testing ship systems. In case of missile defense units, the introduction of new equipment takes less time.

“The greatest asset of MMU is undoubtedly high maneuverability, fire control and the possibility of secret operability,” enumerates Cdr Artur Kołaczyński, Chief of Staff of the Maritime Operation Center – Maritime Component Command, which for several years commanded the unit in Siemirowice. The platforms with missile launchers, and the fire control and guidance systems can quickly leave their base, deploy wherever on a territory, fire a salvo, and move on. “A combat module is hard to detect. Obviously, the enemy can try to jam data transmission, but it won’t necessarily paralyze the entire system. Missile attack can be planned and conducted even at the level of one missile launcher,” explains LtCdr Krefft.

The coastal missile defense (NDR) allows for holding the enemy naval forces at bay. The NDR can also cover own ships. “The coastlines of Norway or Sweden are quite irregular, full of bays and islands, which can be natural hideouts for ships. Poland only has the Hel Peninsula. For that reason, during defense operation, in some crucial situation, the MMU support delivered to all vessels operating on our waters may be quite important,” emphasized Cdr Kołaczyński. Still, the coastal missile defense developed by Poland is significant not only in the context of defending own territory. It is also a crucial element of NATO security system.

Besides, Not Instead

The launchers deployed around Gdańsk reach the maritime routes within Kaliningrad Oblast out to the open sea. The location of the base of the Baltic Fleet is right within the area of Kaliningrad. In case of any open conflict, blocking the Russian ships will be of great significance to the entire North Atlantic Alliance. What’s more, “the purchase of another elements of the MMU will allow to locate more systems on the Polish coast, and increase the control over maritime routes in the southern part of the Baltic Sea. The ships with supplies for the eastern flank countries on their way from the North Sea pass this area,” reminds LtCdr Krefft.

Still, the MMU does not have to operate solely in Poland. In 2019, a deployed MMU component for the first time in history trained outside Poland. “Onboard a transport-mine ship, we were transferred to Estonia where we participated in Spring Storm maneuvers. We simulated hitting targets at sea and along the coastline,” recalls Cdr Kołaczyński. Later on, MMU soldiers visited Estonia a few more times. They carried out tasks in Lithuania, in Sweden, and even in Romania. They were deployed there on ships or An-124 Ruslan within NATO SALIS program (Strategic Airlift Interim Solution).

A scenario each time was very similar – to get to the conflict zone as soon as possible, do the job, and get back to the base. For some allies, the exercise was undoubtedly an opportunity to learn more about the systems, which they intended to introduce in their armies. “The interest in the coastal anti-ship missile defense stems mainly from the opportunities created by the fact of owning this type of armament. The cost is also crucial. The purchase and exploitation of two combat vehicles could be cheaper than a small missile ship. They can usually be also acquired in a shorter time,” admits Cdr Kołaczyński. He however soon adds that regardless of all the benefits, the coastal units will never replace ships, which are simply more versatile. The frigates, for instance, can attack not only surface targets, but also fight submarines and enemy aircraft. “Besides, the ships carry out many tasks not related to direct fight, e.g. patrolling key routes and approaches to the ports, escorting convoys, monitoring naval critical infrastructure,” enumerates commander. All of this cannot be done from the coast. For that reason, although in the upcoming future the interest in coastal missile defense will probably remain constant, the profile of the navies will significantly change. The ships have always played a crucial role in gaining superiority on seas and oceans, and with their help, wars could not only be won, but also prevented. This will probably never change.

Łukasz Zalesiński

autor zdjęć: Piotr Leoniak, Maavoimat, 8 FOW

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