March 30, 2017

Poland May Buy 2 Used Australian Frigates - HMAS Melbourne & Newcastle?


The Polish announcement of the possible sale to Poland of two used Australian Adelaide-class frigates (based on the US Oliver Hazard Perry-class) comes as a pleasant surprise.

The two frigates that might be sold to Poland, logically would be the two youngest Adelaides (that were built in Williamstown dockyard, Victoria, Australia (1985-1992)). They are: 
-  HMAS Melbourne (FFG 05) launched 1989, still operational in 2017, and
-  HMAS Newcastle (FFG 06) launched 1992, still operational in 2017,
Both have many types of armament including Standard SM-2 Block IIIA missiles from Mk 41 VLS launchers.

As the Adelaides are heavily based on a US design and subsequent upgrades the future, possible sale would presumably have US approval.

Poland is an especially valued US NATO ally - as Poland shares borders with:
-  the Russian naval-air-army base enclave of Kaliningrad (to Poland’s north see map below), and
-  Belarus which hosts many Russian military forces (to the east of Poland)  
Poland also feels vulnerable on its Baltic coast from Russia’s Baltic fleet, from Russian missiles, jets and the ex-Red-now-Putin Army.

Since 2000 Poland has already been operating two former Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates:
Launched in 1978 and 1979 respectively and still operational.

These two Polish frigates would be compatible with the two Australian Adelaides in many ways, but they appear to have far fewer weapon and sensor upgrades than the Adelaides.

Poland sees the frigates as integral parts of Baltic defense and its strategy of long range power projection under NATO structures.

Also the two to four frigates might provide ballistic missile defense (BMD) using Polish platforms - meaning  Poland would not be totally dependent on US provision of  BMD. Naturally an unlikely Iranian missile threat is advertised – not the more obvious threat from Putin's missile rattling.

Jaroslaw Adamowski for DefenseNews, March 29, 2017 reports

“Poland eyes frigates from Australia, submarines”

WARSAW, Poland — Poland may purchase two Adelaide-class frigates, based on the Oliver Hazard Perry-class vessel, from Australia for its Navy, said Michal Jach, the chairman of the Polish parliament’s National Defence Committee.

“The acquisition of used Adelaide frigates from Australia would represent a major upgrade for Poland, it would raise the combat capability of our Navy,” Jach said at the Safety Forum 2017 conference in Szczecin, Poland, as reported by local news agency PAP. “These units were modernized and equipped with modern weapons and systems several years ago. After a good negotiation, we will have to pay several hundred million zloty for this. A fully equipped frigate is worth about U.S. $700 million...”

See much larger/more readable image. Some of the upgrades to the Adelaide-class frigates. These include Mk 41 VLS which presumably could take SM-3 BMD missiles.
(Diagram courtesy Defense Industry Daily).

Poland has a long, sad history of being constantly under threat of invasion - then actually invaded. Russia remains the greatest ongoing threat (conventional and nuclear). Kaliningrad functions as the headquarters of the Russia's Baltic Fleet, ringed by Chernyakhovsk (air base)Donskoye (air base) and Kaliningrad Chkalovsk (naval air base) and hosts powerful Russian ground forces

Also making Poland nervous is Belarus. In Belarus Russia seems to be adding to the already powerful Russian military forces that Belarus hosts.



Anonymous said...

I am pretty sure the Oliver Perry class frigates cannot support SM-3 BMD. That will require a specific AEGIS package which is a non starter on this class. They likely can take some variants of SM-2 with the Mk 41 upgrade.

Nicky K.D Chaleunphone said...

Hi Pete,
I wonder why the Australian's didn't offer them to the Philippines.

Peter Coates said...


The Oliver Perry derivative Adelaide class indeed have Mk 13 missile launchers with a 40-missile magazine, that take Harpoon and SM-2 (MR) missiles. They also have Mk 41 VLS See .

True that Oliver Perrys in Australia and Poland may be too small and/or cannot be retrofitted for SM-3 or AEGIS.



Peter Coates said...

Hi Nicky K.D Chaleunphone

Australia refurmished its Balikpapan-class landing craft heavys and donated them to the Philippines now the Philippine Ivatan class. eg

Even the US does not DONATE relatively young, still operational frigates-destroyers that have extensively upgraded sensors and weapons to the Philippines.

Poland would be a paying customer.



Ztev Konrad said...

Not sure of the source about Belarus 'hosting' Russian forces
This source indicates a possible airbase deal didnt go ahead
Thwarting Plans For A Russian Airbase, Minsk Strengthens Its Air Force

If that story is reliable that would limit Russian to an ballistic Early warning radar base and a naval VLF communications base ( probably relics of Cold War) listed here

I cant see how those 2 are any problem for Poland. Putin doesnt have any interest in Belarus, they probably view the country like the US does Mexico.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Ztev

1. Looks like Russia deploys a brigade size formation to Belarus now and then - from the Belarus Digest

"Around 3,000 Russian personnel and 280 items of equipment will arrive in Belarus to participate in the drills."

It didn't take many Russians to again secure control of Crimea.


Ztev Konrad said...

As part of its long term lease of Crimean military facilities with Ukraine signed in 1997 the following numbers were allowed.

25,000 troops,

- 24 artillery systems with a caliber smaller than 100 mm,

- 132 armored vehicles, and

- 22 military planes

You could say the Russians were already there in Crimea, which is roughly 3x the size of Melbourne. Belarus being more like the size of Victoria and only a small number of ethnic russian population.
Would military exercises which last for some weeks be counted as hosting another countrys troops ?. Australia 'hosts' US and Singapore soldiers for longer periods than that.

After WW2 Dutch politicians wanted to annex parts of Germany up to the Rhine including Cologne and expel germans who didnt speak 'low german' which is supposed to be closest to Dutch. That was the maximum position and various lessor options were canvassed. The main western allies wer'nt so keen but eventually the Dutch got some very minor territories, to smooth out border irregularities that had arisen over the centuries.

'The London conference of April 23, 1949, only permitted some less far-reaching border modifications. At 12 o'clock of the very same day, Dutch troops occupied an area of 69 km2'
The Dutch sold it back in 1961 for $250 mil DM

Similar situation occurred with Belgium

You could say there was precedent in Europe for parts of territory that moved to one jurisdiction were then moved back again in different circumstances
the Saar region was a more immediately comparable in size and population to Crimea. It was detached from Germany to French control as the Saar Protectorate, the longer term intention of France was to absorb it as a part of metropolitan France

Like the Crimea, a referendum was held which voted for unification with Germany, not surprisingly as the inhabitants considered themselves german
I wouldnt be surprised if all over Europe since WW2 there have been other small disputes over this or that territory, some merely a road, canal or railway, while others concern whole regions. Its the nature of creating a border, so some sort of mythical situation where borders are unchangeable does seem quaint and ignores recent history.

Sometimes its the seabed itself, Australia played. footlose with UNLOS specifically to reserve for its use the sea floor between it and Timor Leste. Who are they to point the finger at other countries use of the 'migh is right doctrine'
South China Sea has the same situation playing out. Let those who who have not grabbed remote islands or atolls cast the first stone.

Peter Coates said...

The spectre of Russian bear spins, like a hamster in a wheel, over peace loving Baltic countries:

As reported MAY 21, 2017

"Russia is expected to conduct its “Zapad” (or “West”) Exercise in Kaliningrad and Belarus, with estimated Russian participation numbering between 70,000 and 100,000 troops.5 Some of these incidents are alarming in and of themselves; others, though seemingly routine, may be cause for concern when viewed in light of other regional Russian military activity. Context matters."

The Free World (copyright pending) has been warned.

Peter Coates said...

Of interest;

Sean Fahey's "Russian Latvian presence ‘confrontational’" at