Author Archives: Jacek Siminski

US, Poland accelerate F-16’s Joint Air-to-Surface Stand-off Missiles deal amid Russia tensions

In August last year we analyzed the reasons for the possible Polish purchase of the Lockheed Martin AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Stand-off Missiles (JASSM). Now, in the light of the Ukrainian crisis, a contextual change has occurred and the deal seems to be closed-up soon.Nevertheless, there are still some unaswered questions.

The latest development about the Polish air-launched cruise missiles deal started with the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DCSA) and the US State Department giving consent for the Polish procurement of the JASSMs in their AGM-158A variant, along with a modernization bundle for the Polish Air Force’s F-16C/D Block 52+ jet fighters. The Congress received the information on the potential transaction on Sep. 17 .

The contract assumes that Poland will obtain 40 AGM-158A JASSM missiles manufactured by Lockheed Martin with 2 additional combat-ready AGM-158A that will be used for testing, along with the testing instrumentation and self-destruction system, 2 training missiles with the same instrumentation, and 2 missiles for certification purposes.

Additionally, the mission computers of the Polish F-16s will be modernized, up to the Tape M6.5 standard, in order to integrate both the AGM-158 JASSM cruise missiles and some other new weaponry, including the AIM-120D AMRAAM, AIM-9X Sidewinder Block II air-to-air missiles and the SDBs (Small Diameter Bombs).

As we can see, JASSM is just the tip of the iceberg.

M6.5 software was designed in order to meet the needs of the European users of the F-16 jets, dubbed EPAF (European Participating Air Forces). There are some rumours that the Polish Viper jet fighters will also get new Electronic Warfare suites.

Defence24.com claims that additionally GPS navigation system of the Polish Vipers will be jam-proofed, and the Link 16 communications suite improved. The deal will also include logistics bundle, along with transportation and storage cases for the missiles, spare parts, equipment and technical documentation. The media outlet also gained access to some unconfirmed information, according to which the modernization of the Polish Vipers is planned to start in 2015.

The value of the potential contract is yet to be unveiled, but rumors are that it is going to be approximately 500 million USD.

There are some doubts that still need to be addressed though.

The Polish MoD states that potential signing of the contract for the procurement of the JASSM will happen in October or November, while the deliveries are a matter of 2 years. According to the statements made by Tomasz Siemoniak, the Polish Minister of Defense, the US is willing to conduct the deal swiftly. The negotiations regarding the JASSM deal took place last April, when Chuck Hagel visited Poland.

Another issue is of a different nature.

There are two versions of the missile, one with a range of 370 km, and another, with a range of almost 1,000 km, which is called JASSM-ER.

In the last days, some rumours surfaced that Poland is going to get the ER version as well – it was all published by General Bogusław Pacek, who is one of the advisors in the Polish MoD, via his twitter account, but the news was denied shortly later. Other media outlets, such as Dziennik Zbrojny seem to suggest that Poland will get the missile with a shorter range. The justification is simple – integrating the ER version with the Polish F-16 may be expensive since in the U.S. these missiles are used solely by the B-1B bombers.

Moreover, the deal will probably not be executed too quickly, since Lockheed Martin has a capability of manufacturing no more than 20 AGM-158As per month whilst JASSM-ER missiles are produced simultaneously, and the US plans to acquire 360 pieces per year, starting from FY 2017.

The Polish order thus seems to be beneficial for Lockheed: once the U.S. forces resign from acquiring the basic version, the production may continue to equip the Polish Air Force. JASSM-ER is to enter the full-scale production from 2015. Dziennik Zbrojny claims that due to the higher production cost (caused by the lack of other foreign sales) the Poles may pay as much for the A version, as the Americans would pay for the ER variant. Polish procurement of the ER has been unfortunately postponed, and it would surely be a solution to the issue. Another way to walk around the problem would be choice of an alternative weapon, such as the Turkish Roketsan SOM.

JASSM will significantly enhance the deterrence capabilities of Poland. JASSM-ER would be even a better choice in that respect. Poland currently executes Polish Tusks modernization program, which will enhance the capabilities of the Polish Armed Forces.

The program also includes NSM missiles and Homar long range unguided missile launchers.

Taking into account the fact that the Russian threat has become more realistic, procuring the new weapon system may be a logic step towards increasing the Polish security.

Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist

Image Credit: Wikimedia

 

 

Six U.S. Army helicopters make an unplanned landing in a rapeseed field in Poland

Six U.S. Army helicopters have made an impromptu landing in Poland

On Sept. 10, six U.S. Army choppers landed in the middle of a rapeseed field near Gruta, Poland. Since the pilots did not know their location they received information leafleats on the municipality, in English.

The group consisted of Chinook and Black Hawk utility helicopters.

The unusual event gathered around 100 spectators. According to the information provided by TVN24 the chopper pilots lost their orientation due to the foggy weather conditions.

According to the official statement of the US Embassy the choppers, belonging to the U.S. Army 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, stationed in Germany, got a much appreciated warm welcome: aircrews were greeted by the locals with cakes and coffee.

The helicopters departed again to their destination about 2 hours later.

Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist

Choppers in Poland take off

Image credit: gruta.pl

 

Poland wants new Attack Helicopters to replace Mi-24 Hind gunships. Soon.

Poland has changed its priorities regarding acquisition of the helicopters. The general-purpose combat helicopter was to be the first purchase of the Polish Armed Forces, but now the weight has been shifted towards the assault choppers.

The original modernization plan for the Polish Armed Forces saw the Mi-24 Hind helicopters replaced not before 2020-22.

However, the ageing Hind gunships could make room to a new chopper as early as 2017, whereas the tender for the utility helicopter has been postponed.

There may be several reasons behind the decision to review the plans, including the Ukrainian crisis and the need to face Russian Mi-28 Havocs, several of those have been deployed to Kaliningrad Oblast, quite close to the Polish northern border.

According to Gazeta Wyborcza, one of the leading Polish dailies, the military officials claim that Mi-24 Hinds no longer have a high combat value. The trends in development of the assault helicopters are quite different from the concept that was driving the development progress of Mi-24 which could be treated as a beefed-up version of Huey with its 8-person transport capacity in the cabin placed within the fuselage. Contemporary assault gunships are more of CAS-tools, with much less transport-related capabilities.

Gazeta Wyborcza daily is quoting the Polish strategists who point out that in case of the Ukrainian crisis, the Ukrainian Army was unable to deploy units quick enough to face the Russian invasion.

Quick deployment is one of the key elements of the defensive operations, and this cannot be realized without CAS (Close Air Support) from the helicopters or assault aircraft. Since acquisition of the A-10 is quite unrealistic, assault choppers may be an appropriate solution.

The value of the attack helicopter bid is estimated to be 1 billion Euro, worth one of the biggest chopper procurement deal issued by a NATO member state.

Possible choices? AW-129 Mangusta and AH-64 Apache.

They are not to be produced in Poland, contrary to what is going to happen in case of the Polish utility helicopter tender.

The AH-64 is quite an expensive whereas the AW-129 is significantly cheaper. However, it will be the situation in eastern Europe and the diplomatic relations between U.S., Italy and Poland rather than the performance, payload and capabilities of the helicopters, to play a major role in the tender.

Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist

Image Credit: Wikimedia

 

Putin Denies Reactivation of the Cuban Radar Station

Vladimir Putin said that Russia will not reactivate the radar reconnaisance station in Cuba.

Last week Russian newspaper Kommersant reported the news (that has been circulating for at least a couple of years) that there were plans to reopen Russia’s eavesdropping station in Cuba, which has not been used since 2001.

However, reports about the reactivation of the facility were denied by Putin who spoke to ITAR-TASS news agency and said that “In agreement with our friends, this center was closed, and we have no plans to resume its work,” as Russia would “meet its defense needs without this component.”

The base was used from 1967 until 2001.  During the last decade of the 20th century, significant staff reductions took place.

Image credit: Fotopedia.com

Russian Radars back to Cuba

Putin is about to reactivate a Russian radar reconnaissance center in Cuba.

The radar station is to use the existing infrastructure located just 100 miles off the coast of Florida used by the Russians until Jan. 27, 2002 to intercept the data from the U.S. satellites and U.S. Navy communication systems.

Raul Castro, who in 1993 was Cuban Minister of Defense, said that about 75% of the intelligence gathered by the Russians in overall, was collected by means of Cuban radars.

Nevertheless, at the beginning of the century, the infrastructure, which employed circa 1,000 people, was too expensive to maintain: 580 million USD (20 billion Rubles), including 200 million USD paid just for the presence of the Russians.

The situation and aims of the Russians have changed significantly since then, and according to the Polish defense outlet Dziennik Zbrojny, Putin is planning the reactivation of the Cuban radar installation, most probably to put some more pressure on the U.S. in the region, more than 50 years after the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Havana is going to take advantage of the renewed relationship: according to some media outlets, the Cuban outstanding debt towards Russia has been reduced by 90%, which equals 32 billion USD; the remaining 10% are to be paid by 6-month installments.

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist.com