November 28, 2022 is a special day for the entire Polish Navy. On this day, sailors celebrate the 104th anniversary of the creation of the Polish Navy, but most importantly, today was the first flag raising ceremony on the second modern minehunter ORP Albatros. This fact made the whole “sailor brother” eagerly awaiting this day.
The solemn ceremony of the first raising of the flag took place at the Naval Port in Gdynia and was the most important element of the celebrations of the 104th anniversary of the establishment of the Polish Navy. Pursuant to the order of the Commander-in-Chief of the Branches of the Armed Forces regarding the first raising of the flag of the Navy, the flag was solemnly raised on the minehunter with board number 602 for the first time. Thus, this unit was officially incorporated into the Navy. From today, ORP Albatros is serving in the 8th Coastal Defense Flotilla in the composition of the 13th Minesweeper Squadron in Gdynia.
The ceremony was honored by the presence of numerous guests, representatives of the Ministry of National Defense headed by Deputy Minister Michał Wiśniewski, the highest military authorities in the persons of General Jarosław Mik and Vice Admiral Jarosław Ziemiański, parliamentarians, local government officials, regional authorities, as well as representatives of the shipbuilding industry. During the ceremony, Jacek Siewiera, Secretary of State – Head of the National Security Bureau, handed over the flag to the first commander of the ship, Lieutenant Commander Michał Narłowski.
ORP Albatros is the second in a series of three modern minehunters that will be delivered to Gdynia’s 13th Minesweeper Squadron. The first of the ORP Kormoran series entered service on November 28, 2017. The contract for the construction of two more Project 258 vessels, Albatros and Mewa, was signed at the end of December 2017 at the Ministry of National Defence. The symbolic start of the construction of the ship with board number 602, took place on September 18, 2018, the keel was laid on December 5 of the same year and launching ceremony took place on October 10, 2019. The ship was built by a consortium led by Stocznia Remontowa Shipbuilding SA. The consortium also included: OBR Centrum Techniki Morskiej SA in Gdynia and PGZ Stocznia Wojenna.
ORP Albatros is 58.5 meters long, over 10 meters wide and has a displacement of 830 tons. The hull is made of non-magnetic steel, which reduces the detectability of the ship’s physical fields. Its armament consists of the ship’s OSU-35K weapon system, which includes, among others, 35-mm AM-35K cannon and integrated ZGS-35K observation and tracking head. In addition, the ship has three large-caliber 12.7 mm WKM-Bm machine guns and two stands for Grom portable rocket launchers.
The unit was equipped with the SCOT-M combat management system, sonars and four types of underwater vehicles: Saab Double Eagle Sarov, Gavia, Kongsberg Hugin, and Głuptaki in two versions – inspection (used to identify underwater objects) and combat (intended to destroy objects dangerous). The ship’s propulsion consists of two Voith-Schneider cycloidal propellers driven by two 970 kW MTU diesel engines. Thanks to the use of this type of propulsion and the Schottel bow thruster, the ship has excellent manoeuvrability.
ORP Albatros is slightly different from the prototype ORP Kormoran. In the case of mine countermeasure systems, it also received the KATFISH towed sonar by Kraken, the autonomous, unmanned underwater vehicle Gavia and the Double Eagle SAROV underwater vehicle controlled by cable or fiber optic cable (which replaced the previously used underwater vehicle Morświn manufactured by the Gdańsk University of Technology). Other specialist equipment was retained, such as the SHL-101/TM keel sonar, Kongsberg’s Hugin autonomous underwater vehicle, and the “Głuptak” self-propelled explosives. Other major changes include replacing the INDRA optoelectronic head with the FLIR 280, changing the integrated navigation bridge to ECPINS by OSI, as well as the installation of a more powerful 200 kW thruster, which directly improved the maneuverability of the unit. and systems on subsequent serial units.
In June, during the celebration of the Navy Day, in the Naval Port of Świnoujście, the Minister of National Defense Mariusz Błaszczak signed a contract for the construction of 3 more minehunters. Together with the prototype ship of the entire series ORP Kormoran (601) and the serial units ORP Albatros (602) and ORP Mewa (603), they will be part of the anti-mine defense system of the Polish Navy. The next ships (604-6) will be delivered in 2026-2027. A total of 6 Kormoran II-class Project 258 ships will be part of the 8th Coastal Defense Flotilla.