MEKO A-300: German Offer for Miecznik?

12 sierpnia 2021, 10:20
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F-124 Sachsen frigate is conceptually close to what has been offered to the Polish Navy – the MEKO A-300 PL vessels. Image Credit: M.Dura

TKMS has disclosed, for the first time, that it has offered the MEKO A-300PL frigates to the Polish Navy, instead of the MEKO A-200 PL, within the framework of the “Miecznik” programme. However, no details were published, regarding the offered vessel.

The ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems company announced that it would take part in the next stage of the Polish “Miecznik” programme, via its website. At this stage, the businesses that have been qualified would prepare conceptual designs and feasibility studies, for the multi-purpose frigates for the Polish Navy.

Read more: Poland Proceeds with the Miecznik Programme - Agreement Conclusion and the Following Steps.

The brief note is relevant, as the name MEKO A-300 PL emerged for the first time here, in the context of the Miecznik programme. Before that, either the MEKO A-200 PL corvettes or MEKO A-200 PL frigates had been offered to Poland. Now it is quite clear that Poland may receive the latest variant of the MEKO family warships: the A-300 PL.

As a leading supplier of frigate warship technology to 19 navies worldwide to date, including 6 NATO navies, TKMS is proud to be able to offer Poland the MEKO® A-300 PL, our most up-to-date variant of the famous MEKO® technology frigate family.

CEO of TKMS, Dr. Rolf Wirtz.

 The Germans also confirmed their readiness to build the vessels in Poland and to establish a solid technological partnership with the Polish industry within the scope of building, integration, and LCC management for the new frigates. They have recalled that cooperation with other industries, to pursue their own projects, is standard practice for ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems. The company claims that 50% of the vessels it has ever built were built at the shipyards of the customers.

The tkMS company found itself in a good situation, as it has gathered a lot of experience in collaboration with the Polish industry when building the patrol corvette: the ORP Ślązak. The company knows the rules governing the Polish economy and businesses that can immediately become a part of the “Miecznik” programme.

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MEKO A-200 frigate model. Image Credit: M. Dura

What cannot be overlooked is the fact that the Polish Navy was offered a well-proven frigate based on the “MEKO” warships - with a good reputation (Mehrzweck-Kombination” - Universal Combination). It is a German modular-warship concept, both when it comes to the hull and the equipment. Thanks to the above, tkMS may rapidly modify the existing designs to tailor them to the given customer’s requirements, installing any equipment onboard.

Four Israeli Sa’ar 6 corvettes can be viewed as the latest example of capabilities as such, built in the German shipyards at a record-breaking time for the Israeli Navy, without the primary armament systems. Thanks to the hull design, the systems may be easily integrated on those vessels in Israel.

Even though we know a lot about MEKO A-200 and MEKO A-100, the A-300 PL variant is the least known one. The unconfirmed information suggests that the vessel is to have a displacement of around 5,500 tonnes, and its hull is to be 125-130 meters long. The vessel’s displacement would be 2,000 tonnes higher when compared to the A-200. The size provides the user with a high degree of freedom in selecting the weapons and quantities of the armament. The preliminary estimates show that MEKO A-300 PL vessels would be able to carry up to 64 medium-range vertically-launched rockets.

Navy Recognition also suspects that the German frigates would feature a dual-radar sensor array, with SMART L (Signal Multibeam Acquisition Radar for Tracking) L-band radar, and APAR Block 2 (Advanced Phased Array Radar) multi-purpose X-band radar. SMART L uses a large, rotating antenna, APAR Block 2, meanwhile, uses four fixed AESA arrays on the superstructure, providing the vessel with 360 degrees coverage.

Furthermore, not only can these antennas monitor and track the targets, but they may also guide semi-active radar homing missiles - such as SM-2 or ESSM. SMART L also offers some unique capabilities - it comes with an AESA antenna. This creates a possibility to electronically control the movement, shape of the beam, and signal parameters. Thanks to the above, SMART L can detect air threats at a distance of up to 2,000 kilometers - this includes stealth aircraft and ballistic missiles. A Polish frigate sporting a radar as such could become a part of the missile defence system.

The German proposal also gives Poland great freedom in the selection of guns. Large hull can accommodate both 57, and 76 mm guns, as well as larger 127 mm guns. The Polish Navy will also be given a chance to select the quantity of anti-ship missiles. The spacious hull can accommodate either eight surface-to-surface missiles (like in the case of most of the western frigates), or even 16 effectors as such, in line with the requirements that had been previously disclosed by the Polish Navy.

The tkMS company has not announced when the prototype vessel would be handed off to the user. The prior proposals suggested that 5 years would be enough for the MEKO A-200 PL vessels to be commissioned in the Navy, assuming that industrial cooperation would be established when building all three warships in Poland.

Currently, however, the above term may be extended, due to 2 reasons. First, Poland assumed that a frigate is to be built as an R&D project. Extra time would be needed to test the vessels and implement the potentially required adjustments. Secondly, tkMS has not launched any MEKO A-300 hull as of yet. This should not pose a serious issue. The Germans have already gathered relevant experience in building warships of this size when building four F125 Bade-Wurtemberg class frigates (displacement of 7,200 tonnes, 149.52 meters long), as well as three F124 Sachsen frigates (displacement of 5,690 tonnes, 143 meters long).

The F124s may be used as a springboard for the project: they also use a dual radar arrangement, with SMART-L and APAR sensors. However, the radars on the aforesaid ships belong to the legacy generation, different from the sensors offered to the Polish Navy.

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