“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Russian Deputy Minister of Defence Yuri Borisov, has recently announced that the PAK-FA programme may be halted or adjusted, due to the dire conditions of Russia’s economy, affected by the Ukrainian crisis and the subsequent (proxy war and) EU sanctions.
Initially, the Russian Air Force was expected to procure more than 150 PAK-FA next generation stealth fighter jets, with the first examples to be delivered to the active squadrons in 2016. In December 2014, the RuAF plans was to receive the first 55 fighters by 2020.
However, as announced by Russia’s MoD last month, the production will be slowed down and the initial order cut to 12 jets: the nation’s economy has deteriorated and the aircraft troubled development and increasing costs have persuaded the Russian Air Force to retain their large fleets of fourth-generation Sukhoi Su-27SM and Su-35S to obviate to the reduced amount of frontline next generation fighter jets.
According to the Polish media outlet Altair, the production is to be started next year, and the Russian Air Force would stop the production after the first 12 examples are acquired for a period of operational tests. This would serve two purposes: first of all, it would enable the Russian MoD to plan the procurement of Su-30SM and Su-35 jet fighters to eventually save some money. Secondly, that period would be used to test the PAK-FA’s operational capabilities, and possibly to get rid of any of the problems that could emerge during the initial field operations.
Sukhoi planned to sell some 400 fighters to the Russian and the Indian Air Force; figures that seems to be well above the current sales forecast: India has considerably reduced the requirement from 200 to no more than 130-145 jets, and has recently expressed concerns over the raising costs, delays and technical issues that have plagued the 10.5 billion USD FGFA (Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft), that is based on the PAK-FA aircraft.
The infamous Warthogs, coming from Spangdahlem airbase, are currently stationed at the 71 airbase of the Romanian Air Force – Campia Turzii.
Notably, this is not the first deployment of the A-10 to Transylvania. The A-10 were involved in “Dacian Thunder 2009” exercise in the past.
According to numerous Romanian media outlets, including the ziuaveche.ro and ziarul21.ro websites, the tank-busters are going to be involved in a long “Dacian Thunder 2015” operation, planned for the period between Mar. 27 and Jul. 7. 2015, which will involve 350 soldiers and 12 A-10s.
Provided this is confirmed, the deployment in Romania would be larger than the recent deployment in Poland which saw 4 Warthogs operate from Powidz AB, supporting the Dragoon Ride exercise.
When it comes to involvement of the Romanian Air Force, four MiG-21 LanceR fighters and six IAR-330 Puma helicopters will be taking part in the operation, providing SAR (Search and Rescue) and Medevac support.
Aim of the Dacian Thunder exercise is to enhance interoperability and provide training for the Romanian and U.S. pilots, through joint air operations. Not far from Ukraine, Crimea and Moldova.
Special thanks for help with translation of Romanian language to Łukasz Domanski.