Author Archives: Jacek Siminski

Video shows U.S. A-10s conducting austere landing training at an abandoned Warsaw Pact airfield in Poland

US Warthogs Land At An Abandoned Warsaw Pact Airfield in Poland.

US A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft deployed to Europe as part of a U.S. Air Force TSP (Theater Security Package) conducted rough field training in Poland.

Territory of Poland is scattered, besides the highway strips, with old, abandoned Warsaw Pact military airfields which have not been in use since the Cold War.

Since Jul. 20, according to the Air Force Times, the Warthogs from the 354th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron temporarily based at Lask to strengthen the U.S. presence in eastern Europe amid growing tensions with Russia, have practiced landings and operations at Nowe Miasto, where the runway, unused for years, is far from pristine conditions:  not a problem for the A-10 which is practically immune to FOD (Foreign Object Damage) thanks to its engines mounted far from the surface of the runway.

The operations conducted by the American pilots included night operations.

In his interview to Air Forces Times, Lt. Col Ryan Hayde, commander of the 354th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, stated that the operations at the airfield were conducted with the help of the US Special Forces CCT’s (Combat Controllers), who acted as the air traffic control during the exercise, since the airfield has no ATC provided on regular basis.

Interestingly, the Polish Ministry of Defense kept the whole event in secrecy until the news was spread, post-factum by American sources. Even after the event, Lt. Col. Artur Goławski, spokesperson for the Polish General Command of the Armed Forced, denied the operation.

 Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

Polish Cold War era Su-22 Fitters have received a new color scheme as part of a modernization package

Polish Su-22 Fitters Receive A Modernization Package Including A Change Of The Color Scheme

Last year, the Polish Ministry of Defense decided to extend the operational life, that has lasted for 30 years, of 18 out of 32 Su-22 jets used by the Polish Air Force: 12 Su-22M4 single-seaters and 6 Su-22M3K two-seat trainers will remain in active service according to the report published by the Polska Zbrojna outlet.

All of the Polish Su-22’s are stationed in Świdwin, at the 21st Air Base.

The modernization plan assumes that the jets are going to be fitted with new avionics, including the imperial gauges in the cockpit, along with a new radio and flight recorder.

Still, the change which is most visible is the new camouflaged color scheme: the Polish fighter-bombers received a new, gray-toned paint scheme.

All of the modernization works are being carried out by the Bydgoszcz Military Aviation Works, the same facility which performs the maintenance of the Polish F-16. According to the statement made by Waldemar Topol, Director of Operations at the WZL plant, works on a single jet will take nine months on average.

The works involve disassembly and general repairs of the critical components that have a significant impact on flight safety. Structural properties of the airframes are also being closely examined.

Secondly, the cockpit flight instrumentation is going to be rescaled into the imperial system. Even though the Polish crews are used to quickly perform the units conversion, the change of the instruments is going to improve standardization (as well as pilots comfort), especially in case of the operations conducted together with the NATO allies.

The color change will give the Polish Fitters a livery similar to that of the Polish F-16s.

A flight test program is going to be executed, before the aircraft return to Świdwin.

What is more, during the Bydgoszcz Air Fair event, a modernized MiG-29 with a new paint scheme, resembling the one utilized by the Polish F-16 was also presented. Images emerged on some of the Polish aviation-related forums.

Prolonging the lifetime of the 18 airframes will make it possible to continue the training of the pilots who would be assigned to other squadrons, and the Fitters would still be supporting the Polish Special Forces or the Navy, as Polska Zbrojna reports.

When it comes to the Su-22 airframes that are not going to be refurbished, the last one is to be withdrawn in 2018. The pilots flying the Fitters claim that despite their age, the airframes are still very reliable.

Image Credit: Wojskowe Zakłady Lotnicze Nr 2 S.A.

 

U.S. A-10 Tank Busters deployed to Poland…again.

Some USAF A-10 “Warthogs” are stationed in Poland.

354th EFS (Expeditionary Fighter Squadron) has deployed again to Poland.

This time the A-10s maintain their presence at the Polish 32nd Air Base located in Łask, near Łódź, in the central part of the country. The aim of their presence, according to the statements made by the base press officer that emerged in a variety of media, is to participate in a joint exercise with the Polish Air Force, within the scope of the Air Force Theater Security Package.

The overall goal of the NATO initiative, undertaken in the light of the Ukrainian crisis, is to reassure the allies of the NATO eastern flank, and to maintain collective defense capabilities.

Earlier on, the Thunderbolts were stationed (temporarily) at the Polish Powidz Airbase. Notably, this time the Warthog detachment is larger (includes 12 examples), and the deployment itself is to be longer, as it is going to last until the end of July, according to the rumors.

It is worth noting that this time the deployment did not get that much media attention, in comparison with the previous presence of the A-10 in Poland. The spotters, who published the photos of the Warthogs online were the first signs of their presence in the region.

The A-10 that are currently stationed in Poland come from the 355th Fighter Wing which is based at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, in Arizona. They have been operating in Mid-Eastern Europe for some time now, visiting Poland, Bulgaria or Romania, participating in a variety of exercises (e.g. the Dragoon Ride operation).

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

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.