Laying the keel for the future ORP Wicher at PGZ Naval Shipyard -
Laying the keel for the future ORP Wicher at PGZ Naval Shipyard
Date of publication: 31.01.2024

This was an event awaited by many, marking the next stage of the largest armaments project in Poland. On January 31, at the PGZ Naval Shipyard in Gdynia, with the participation of representatives of the authorities, the command staff of the armed forces and the shipbuilding industry, the keel laying ceremony for the prototype multi-role frigate of the "Miecznik" program took place. The future Wicher, Burza and Huragan will serve in the Combat Ship Division of the 3rd Ship Flotilla and will be stationed at the Gdynia Naval Port.

The ceremony was attended by, among others: Head of the National Security Bureau, Secretary of State Jacek Siewiera, Secretary of State at the Ministry of National Defense Deputy Minister Paweł Bejda, Secretary of State at the Ministry of State Assets Deputy Minister Marcin Kulasek, representative of the Parliamentary Committee on National Defense MP Rafał Siemaszko, British Ambassador to Poland Anna Klunz, President of the Management Board of the Polish Sebastian Chwałek, President of the Management Board of PGZ Naval Shipyard, Paweł Lulewicz, head of the Armament Agency, Brig. Gen. Dr. Artur Kuptel, commander of the Naval Operations Center - Maritime Component Command, Vice Adm. Krzysztof Jaworski, commander of the 3rd Ship Flotilla. Andrzej Ogrodnik, commander of the 8th Cadet Flotilla. Piotr Sikora, rector-commandant of the Naval Academy, cadet. prof. Ph.D. Tomasz Szubrycht, as well as shipyard workers and representatives of companies and institutions from Poland and abroad involved in this project.

The setting for this solemn day was provided by the Coastal Defense Historical Reconstruction Group. Its members in pre-war sailor uniforms referred to the crew of the destroyer ORP Wicher, in service in 1928-1939, which was sunk by the Germans during the September Campaign. Its remains still lie at the bottom of the Bay of Gdańsk near the breakwater of the Port of Hel. The second ORP Wicher (Smiełyj type) served in the Polish Navy in the years 1958-1974, taking part in exercises in the Baltic Sea and representing the country in foreign ports, including Great Britain. Finally decommissioned at the end of 1974, it was stripped of its armament and equipment, and then sunk near the port of Hel as part of a breakwater, where it can still be seen today.

The event began with a written confirmation of the keel laying act, signed by the president of the management board of PGZ Naval Shipyard Paweł Lulewicz, head of the Maritime Technology Headquarters, Cdr Piotr Skóra, and a representative of the certifier from Lloyd Register Group, Henk van Staalduinen.

The head of the National Security Bureau expressed his thanks to the former Minister of National Defense, Mariusz Błaszczak, and his successor, Władysław Kosniak-Kamysz, emphasizing that such projects are multi-annual, developed over the terms of several governments. He also drew attention to other important maritime projects, such as the expansion of port quays, especially in Gdynia, the creation of modern infrastructure, and the increase in logistic capabilities for quick loading and the provision of benefits in kind when the time comes to operationally use these vessels. He pointed out the possibilities of operational use of the current Base Point in Hel, and also reminded about the development of the "Orka" program.

- It is good that despite such turbulent times, this program is living, tangible proof that the Republic of Poland treats such projects with the highest priority. Frigates are ships that are designed to be characterized by seaworthiness, multi-tasking, and the ability to perform a variety of combat tasks. Now is the time to work hard on it. The task of all bodies is to support those who will bear the burden of responsibility for the implementation of this project - said Jacek Siewiera.

In a letter read by the Deputy Minister of National Defense Paweł Bejda, the head of the ministry, Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz said that "Miecznik" is a very important project for both the army and the shipbuilding industry. He emphasized the multi-tasking nature of the ships in combating targets under water, on water and in the air. This program is also intended to allow the domestic shipbuilding and arms industry to enter completely new markets. “I believe that it will also become a development impulse for the entire Polish shipbuilding sector. The laying of the keel for the first „Miecznik” frigate is a ceremonial moment. It confirms the determination of the implementers of this ambitious program. The Polish Navy needs these frigates," the minister wrote.

- This is a very important investment from the point of view of the defense of the Republic of Poland, as well as common technological thought developed with the participation of Great Britain. It is a clear signal that our partnership is going in a very good direction. In this geopolitical situation, this is particularly important in the context of what is currently happening outside the borders of the Republic of Poland. I mean the war in Ukraine and the real threat from Russia - added Deputy Minister Paweł Bejda.

- This keel weighing 127 tons is the first visible result of the work of the entire team of the "Miecznik" program, as well as the shipyard workers of PGZ Stocznia Wojenna. This was achieved thanks to the trust of the client, the Ministry of National Defense, thanks to which modern work tools, infrastructure and machines were created, including those based on the automation of production processes. The employees of this shipyard were of key importance, as they, acting as part of a team, do good work every day for the "Miecznik" program. Another element of success are domestic and foreign partners, including Babcock International, Thales, MBDA and many other entities with whom we have established not only relationships related to the implementation of the Miecznik program, but also long-term relationships in the implementation of naval defense projects. We are ready to take on new challenges - said Paweł Lulewicz.

After the occasional speeches, the report on readiness to lay the keel was formally handed over to the president of the management board of the shipyard, Paweł Lulewicz, and production director at PGZ Stocznia Wojenna, Karol Zagubiniak. Then, the shipyard workers placed a commemorative plate in an element of the future hull and welded it, referring to a tradition dating back to ancient times, when coins were placed in this element of a ship to bring good luck to the vessel and its crew.

Laying the keel is the next stage of work on the future ORP Wicher, which has been ongoing since August 16, 2023. The next stage of construction will be the launching of the hull of the future frigate, which is expected to take place in 2026. It is to be handed over to the ordering party three years later.

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