The recent announcement by the Minister of National Defence, Mariusz Blaszczak, of a return to the "Orka" (Orca) programme involving the acquisition of new submarines for the naval branch of the armed forces is a reminder of how the Submarine Squadron of the 3rd Flotilla of Ships is currently in a dire situation. Due to the fact that its only 37-year-old ship regularly remains under repair and there are regular doubts as to whether it is capable of operational activity at all. As it is of Soviet design, its repair is extremely problematic and its operational capability has been repeatedly questioned since the 2017 fire. It was due to undergo nearly 10 repairs between 2020 and 2021 alone. There was also a loud echo of the 'appeal' of sailors due to serve on the ship, published in the press in May 2021. In it, they expressed concern about the condition of the vessel and the safety of serving on it, including its ability to surface independently.
The thorough overhaul of the 'Orzeł', which is being carried out at PGZ Naval Shipyard, is intended not only to restore its efficiency, but also to maintain continuity of training. In addition to the squadron's lack of operational capability, the issue of preserving the cadres who have to go to sea and take part in dives and landings is also raised. As a result, Polish sailors are sent for training to allied countries, so that there, together with the crews of the ships there, they take part in ship operations. In a situation where statutory tasks cannot be performed, it may turn out that if even one submarine is ever acquired, even in a bridged version, it will become a problem to complete the crew. In the worst-case scenario, this risks reconstituting the cadres even from scratch, which would only prolong the entry of new ships into service.
So far, there is no information on when the ORP Orzeł overhaul will be completed. The commencement of sea trials does not mean it will end soon, but it does give hope to the submariners that they should be able to return to sea on their own ship later this year.