Author Archives: Jacek Siminski

Highlights of the Poznan Aerofestival, the second largest Polish air show this year

We have attended the Poznan Aerofestival event, which is the second largest air show organized in Poland this year.

Poznan Aerofestival took place within the premises of the Poznan Ławica airport which is an active, civilian airport with numerous operations performed on a daily basis, on Jun. 12 – 14.

Expectations were great, since the Aerofestival has been advertised as one of the largest international air shows taking place in Poland.

The program included numerous attractions, including displays by aerobatic teams, such as Baltic Bees Jet Team, Turkish Stars or The Flying Bulls. Solo aerobatic displays were provided by well-known pilots, including Jurgis Kairys, Artur Kielak or Łukasz Czepiela.Finally, the icing on the cake was provided by some WW2 warbirds, such as the Supermarine Spitfire, Yak-3 F-4U Corsair or Mustang.

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Some of the highlights included the displays performed by the Turkish Stars, flying the Canadair NF-5 Freedom Fighters and the Baltic Bees, flying the Aero L-39 Albatros. The show also featured an incredible display of the Red Bull Helicopters – Bo-105 and TAH-1 Cobra, carrying out stunts which are not often seen performed by rotorcraft.

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Another interesting display was the one of the Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron, that showcased the De Havilland Vampire FB.52 and T.55 vintage fighters.

The Italian Pioneer Team, a civil aerobatic team. flying four Pioneer 330 aircraft painted in white, blue and red colors, was also a highlight of the display: obviously the Italians were not as spectacular as the Turkish stars, however, their display discipline has shown the Poznan audience all the magic related to formation flying.

Notably – the Pioneer team’s display features flares which is quite unusual for a civilian display team.

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One of the most spectacular displays was performed by Artur Kielak, flying the XA-41 aerobatic aircraft.

Polish Air Force’s participation in the event was quite modest. This concerns mainly the F-16 display, that was limited to a high-level pass in a four-ship formation. However, the demo team is still rumored to debut in Radom, Poland’s largest airshow planned in September.

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Besides the high-pass performed by the core of the Polish fighter force, the Polish Air Force showcased Casa C-295M transport aircraft and PZL SW-4 Puszczyk training helicopters within the static display.

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What’s interesting, the show also featured aircraft of the RAF within the static display. The British sent Tornado and Hawk jets, along with the pilots who came virtually straight from Afghanistan and Iraq deployments to Poznan. Talking to the experienced pilots was a great opportunity for the audience to learn about combat flying, even in a short conversation.

However, mainly as a consequence of the presence of an active civilian airport, the event was not flawless.

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On Saturday, the displays were not conducted according to the schedule – officially because of the flights redirected to Ławica from Berlin, due to thunderstorms. This is probably not a relevant cause, since only 3 additional operations did happen – and more than 50% of the flying display programme was cut. For example, Boeing Stearman’s or Cessna O2’s displays were canceled due to the traffic, even though the aircraft had already taken off.

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It is a pity that the planned displays of the historical aircraft did not happen – including the Yak-3 and the Supermarine Spitfire, both of which departed on Sunday, conducting only a low-pass over the runway, instead of performing the whole display.

Additionally lack or erroneous information provided by the show speaker contributed to the feeling of dissatisfaction on the side of the audience.

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On the other hand, we may say that the organizer learns quickly – organization on Sunday was way better than on Saturday.

When it comes to organization, the Aeropact company surely passed the exam within the scope of clarity of information – numerous volunteers working during the event did everything to guide the audience around. The area of the Ławica airport was well-marked and the layout was quite well-organized. The spotter’s zone, located right in front of the runway, provided an opportunity to capture some interesting photographs. Thanks to our cooperation with the Fotopoork portal we have a chance to present shots from a variety of perspectives – taken in a variety of locations within the Ławica airport.

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Overall, we may say that the show was pleasant to attend. We must remember that it is the airshow debut of the Aeropact company. We do deeply hope that the next year’s Aerofestival is going to be better and that the organizers are going to do their homework, fixing the organizational issues, especially those related to the heavy airliner traffic. The fact that organization of the show got better after the Saturday chaos is a good sign. That means that the organizers have certainly drawn conclusions on a daily basis, and hopefully this would have an impact on the next year’s edition.

We must stress the fact that having more than one international aviation event in a year, within the territory of Poland is a novelty and it is also a very good move, since Radom is not reachable for everyone – attending the Radom show, for many people in Poland, constitutes a serious trip, with many hours spent solely on reaching the location. Thus, when it comes to the airshows, situation in Poland is certainly getting better, and the Polish air show offer is getting more interesting not only for those who live in Poland, but also for the visitors coming from abroad.

Image credit: Foto Poork, Jacek Siminski

 

U.S. A-10s to perform low level training in Latvia

Low flying Thunderbolts over Latvia.

According to the information released by the Latvian Ministry of Defense, NATO air assets, namely the A-10 Thunderbolts deployed as a part of the Theater Security Package, are going to use the country’s airspace to conduct low-level flying.

The release issued by the Latvian authorities asks the public not to be worried about the low-flying Hogs. The missions are going to take place only on specific, agreed dates and times, starting from Jun. 8, 2015.

The low-level flying is to be carried out outside the firing ranges – this is the reason why the event is so unusual. It was said that the training’s purpose is to maintain and refine the pilots’ skills and combat readiness.

All the information pertaining the operations are going to be available on the Internet. It was already said that the sorties would take place in seven districts, namely: Rūjiena, Smiltene, Aluksne – Gulbene, Balvi – Vilani, Madona – Plavinas, Jēkabpils and Preiļi – Līvāni.

According to the Ministry, the Warthog training operations within the Latvian airspace are a part of the Operation Atlantic Resolve, undertaken by NATO in the light of the Ukrainian crisis. The low-level training operations are going to be organized in a way that will not pose a threat to the public.

 

We are closer to a European shared Aerial Refueling Capability

“Pooling and Sharing” may soon apply to the Aerial Refueling capability.

As we reported it at the end of last year, Poland, the Netherlands and Norway are willing to acquire shared aerial refueling capabilities. According to the information obtained by Polish media outlet defence24.pl, Poland’s share in the program is 22 percent, proportional to the flight hours allocated to the Polish Air Force.

In his interview for defence24, Jacek Sońta, spokesperson for the Polish Ministry of Defense stated that the request for proposal is about to be sent to the contractor – the Airbus company, which will provide the Airbus A330 MRTT (Multi Role Tanker Transport) aircraft – by the OCCAR agency (Organisation Conjointe de Coopération en Matière D’armement – Organization for joint cooperation within the field of armament), part of EDA (European Defense Agency), on behalf of the program member states.

Analysts highlighted that the tanker fleet spending is not contained within the Polish MoD’s “Technical Modernization Plan,” however, the Polish F-16 fighter jets are already using the refueling services provided to them by RNlAF (Royal Netherlands Air Force) and it is quite likely that the budget allocated to the AAR (air-to-air refueling) missions will be shifted to the program led by the EDA.

According to the report published by Aviation Week, ultimately up to four A330 MRTTs are going to be used for carrying out the refueling tasks. The basic plan assumes that the tankers are to reach the operational capabilities by 2019, and the program itself is to begin in mid-2020. The relevant agreement is scheduled to be signed next year, according to the information provided by the Polish MoD.

What is more, Aviation Week sheds some light on the operational details pertaining the joint aerial refueling initiative: the fleet of tankers is going to be based at the Eindhoven Air Base, even though the program assumes that forward operating locations will be established within the territories of the program participants. Airbus is going to provide the A330 tankers with both the flying boom, as well as the hose-and-drogue refueling systems.

One of the air bases in Poland that is probably going to host the tankers is Powidz AB, home for the Polish Air Force’s fleet of the Hercules transport aircraft, and equipped with a sufficiently long runway. So far it has accommodated large aircraft such as the E-4B, the AWACS, and more recently – the USAF A-10 deployment, which was a part of the Theater Security Package deployed to Europe, in the light of the Ukrainian Crisis.

Aviation Week also duly notes that the initiative is going to constitute a replacement for the Dutch KC-10 tankers, while in case of Norway it is going to seriously bolster the F-35 program. In case of Norway and Poland, utilizing the tanker would be a novelty. The whole program stems from the fact that, so far, the European air forces were relying on the US air refueling assets during training as well as real operations (like in Libya or the Balkans). Thus, a new, independent tanker program would provide the Europeans with a higher degree of independence.

The formal procedures related to the multinational use of the aerial-refueling capabilities are yet to be created.

Notably, the Airbus’s aircraft could also be used for multi-role transport operations and support several different duties, including the deployments of land forces abroad.

Image credit: © Commonwealth of Australia 2015

 

Polish Air Force to form a new F-16 Viper Demo team. And here’s the jets livery

The New Tiger Paint Scheme For Polish Air Force F-16s Is Going To Be the Livery Of  Poland’s Viper Demonstration Team!

Polish Air Force’s Tiger Squadron – 6th Fighter Squadron based in Krzesiny, near Poznan – is going to be involved in the NATO Tiger Meet exercise in Turkey, scheduled to take place at Konya airbase, between May 4. and 15.

According to the Polish media outlet Lotnicza Polska, 2 out of 6 jets taking part in the exercise received special color schemes.

Besides the NATO Tiger Meet Exercise, the Krzesinian pilots would also be involved in the Greek Squadron Exchange event (between June and July) and in the Israeli Blue Flag Exercise, planned in November.

Notably, the Polish Vipers have been painted, not covered with a film-overlay. It seems that the Bydgoszcz-based Wojskowe Zaklady Lotnicze No. 2 (Military Aviation Works) facility has already acquired a proper technology needed to cover the body of the jets with lacquered paint scheme. Now, due to the new cover there is no risk that the special paint scheme would disappear. Quoting Piotr Rutkowski, a representative of the facility, Lotnicza Polska claims that plans to create the new paint scheme for the F-16s date back to 2014. However, at that time, the paints needed to create the scheme could not be exported from the US due to legal restrictions.

More than the paint scheme what is really interesting of the story published by Lotnicza Polska outlet is the final paragraph, according to which, the Polish F-16 Demo Team will finally be created. The demo-pilot is apparently involved in the training activities.

According to unofficial information obtained two months ago by The Aviationist, from a source closely tied with the Krzesiny AB, the Polish Viper demo is going to be similar in shape to the Viper Team West of the USAF.

Our source suggested that the show is going to involve two examples of the F-16. It has been also said that flares may not be a part of the display, since the countermeasures used by the Polish Vipers have a too long burning-time. Noteworthy, the new display team will retain the Tiger livery that will make its debut in Turkey.

The above development is particularly interesting also for PR reasons. So far, the only appearance the Polish F-16 has made during air shows was in a form of a flypast – this created some doubts among the public opinion – a lot of people claimed that Polish Vipers are not combat-capable and that they are lagging behind the MiG-29, that regularly performs dynamic displays at airshows around Europe.

Even though the Fulcrum is an older jet – its capabilities are much less advanced than those of the F-16 Block 52+ jets – the Polish Vipers have often suffered from some bad PR , especially among the public who has no in-depth expertise in aviation. The general audience reasoned that there must be something wrong with the new Polish fighters, since they were not flying dynamic displays at airshow.

The debut of the new Viper team is probably going to take place during the Radom Air Show. We are planning to attend the show and provide you with a report.

Image Credit: WZL no. 2

 

Polish Air Force F-16s join one of the most important NATO exercises in central Europe

Polish Air Force F-16s take part in Frisian Flag 2015 exercise

According to a report published by the Polska-Zbrojna media outlet, six Polish F-16 Block 52+ fighters from Łask airbase are currently involved in “Frisian Flag 2015” exercise, taking place at Leeuwarden AB, in the Netherlands.

The Dutch-based exercise is considered one of the most important NATO training events this year. It will involve U.S. Florida Air National Guard F-15 Eagles (currently deployed in Leeuwarden), Dutch F-16 Fighting Falcons, Finnish F/A-18 Hornets, German and Italian Eurofighters, along with NATO E-3A AWACS component and flying tankers from France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.

When it comes to the Polish involvement, the PolAF has sent six F-16 jets to the exercise: five single-seater jets and one F-16D  two-seater aircraft.

Not only is the Frisian Flag exercise aimed at conducting training combat sorties, but it also aims to train COMAO (composite air operations), whose purpose is to practice sorties in large formations and to bolster the interoperability of the NATO air forces.

Notably, the exercise will also contribute to enhance skills in aerial refueling operations and in cooperation with JTACs (Joint Terminal Attack Controllers) in air-to-surface missions; all missions will be conducted in a dense EW (Electronic Warfare) environment.

After attending Frisian Flag 2015, the Polish F-16 fighters are also going to attend the NATO “Air Meet” and the NATO Tiger Meet in Turkey, the annual meeting of the NATO Squadrons that have Tiger  emblems.

Image credit: Tim Felce/Wiki