How is "Miecznik" made? We saw the construction of the future ORP Wicher 5 minutes before the keel was laid -
How is "Miecznik" made? We saw the construction of the future ORP Wicher 5 minutes before the keel was laid
Date of publication: 18.01.2024
Intensive work is underway at the PGZ War Shipyard on the construction of a prototype, multi-role frigate of the "Miecznik" program. The keel laying ceremony for the future ORP Wicher will take place on January 31. We had the opportunity to learn about the current state of construction of both the ship and the related infrastructure at the shipyard in Gdynia.

The next, symbolic stage of construction is an important moment for this largest investment in the history of the Polish shipping industry, lasting from 2021. The PGZ-Miecznik consortium is responsible for the project. The keel laying of the first of the three multi-role frigates of the "Miecznik" program, which will be named Wicher, is planned for January 31 this year. On August 16 last year, sheet metal cutting took place, starting work on the first unit with construction number 106/1. According to the dates, the launch is to take place in June 2026 and the handover to the ordering party in 2029. The PGZ-Miecznik consortium includes Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa S.A. and PGZ Stocznia Wojenna sp. z o. o. Strategic partners in the project are: Babcock, Thales UK and MBDA UK.

Currently, in the halls belonging to the PGZ War Shipyard, work is underway on the construction of further hull elements, including those forming the keel, which is part of the ship's bottom sections. In addition, shipyard workers are also building technological supports that will be used during the construction of ships. The two sets of supports will weigh nearly 2,000 tons. Although these are not part of the future unit, they are important - the entire hull structure will be based on them before launching. Moreover, they will be used during work on subsequent serial units of the program.

The "Miecznik" project manager, Krzysztof Gerowski, pointed out that each fired piece of sheet metal delivered to the shipyard from Sweden is certified by Lloyd's Register, the company supervising the "Miecznik" program. To cut specific elements of a given shape, a CNC 3D cutter with a plasma pipe cutting attachment, which was included in the shipyard's equipment in January 2023, is used. The cutting machine is connected directly to the shipyard's 3D Foran software. The device is also equipped with an autogenous cutting head that allows cutting sheet metal up to 120 mm thick. The device's operation results in identifiable steel elements that ultimately form the spatial structure of the hull. They all exist within a digitally created 3D model, on the basis of which the documentation of the working project is created. In the future, this model will be used to build a digital twin and will contain all the details that make up the ship. Every element currently in the shipyard hall, even the smallest piece of sheet metal, can be found in this way and its location in the entire structure indicated on a digital model.

It should be emphasized that the keel, the laying of which we will witness at the ceremony at the end of January (and on which a commemorative medal will be welded during the ceremony), is not the only element of the future ship currently under construction. Work is already underway on further sections of the double bottom and the deck above. Importantly, the keel itself weighs 127 tons, constituting approximately 4.5% of the hull weight (without equipment). Let us remind you that the finished ORP Wicher will be 138.7 meters long and have a maximum displacement of 7,000 tons.

Recently, machines for welding stiffeners and hull elements were delivered to the Gdynia shipyard. Importantly, in one of the halls, one of the largest welding robots was assembled and installed, which will allow work on larger hull elements, even several meters high. Work on the elements forming the future bottom section of the "Miecznik" hull is carried out simultaneously in several production halls, where new welding robots are located, ensuring production continuity and significantly speeding up the work. Progress here means that traditional welding, previously performed by shipyard workers, is performed by a dedicated machine. It scans the structure to be welded, saves the image in the computer, and then the robot welds in accordance with the scanned spatial structure.

The Polish part of the team building "Mieczniki" constantly cooperates with Babcock International, which provided the design of the Arrowhead 140 platform on which the future frigates are based. At its shipyard in Rosyth, Babcock is implementing a program for the Royal Navy to build five frigates based on the same platform, hence visually they will be very similar to the units intended for the Polish Navy. The differences concern mainly armament and other equipment, but structurally they are similar units, which is why both the Polish and British plants cooperate closely on both projects, also implementing training projects, including internships for young shipyard workers.

While getting acquainted with the work on the keel under construction, it is impossible to ignore the newly constructed shipyard facilities, where the construction of frigates will be moved in the future. Particularly striking is the hull hall, which is scheduled to be put into operation in July this year. Currently, further elements are being assembled, including the roof. The entire structure is 46 meters high and 38 meters wide, and the two overhead cranes will be able to lift 100 tons each. Additionally, a 15-ton overhead crane will be installed there. In addition to the hull hall, there is also a production hall under construction, where all shipyard equipment departments will operate.

The delivery of the future ORP Wicher to the ordering party is scheduled for 2029. The next units, called Burza and Hurricane, are to be delivered in 2030-2031. They will be part of the Combat Ship Division of the 3rd Ship Flotilla and will be stationed at the Gdynia Naval Port on a daily basis. Seeing the current state of advancement of the construction of the first ship and the intense work of the shipyard workers shortly before the keel laying ceremony, we can certainly expect that they will be carried out as planned. The "Miecznik" program is intended to strengthen the Polish Navy, providing it with an injection of innovation and experience, influencing the further development of the formation. Thanks to this, PGZ Stocznia Wojenna will build new ships in the future both for the Polish Navy and potentially also for foreign customers.

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