Poland to modernize its Cold War iconic Su-22 Fitter fighter bombers

Polish Air Force Su-22 Fitters will be modernized.

According to the Polish Minister of National Defense Tomasz Siemioniak, who talk to media during his visit to Świdwin airbase, the iconic Cold War fighter bombers will be upgraded.

The Polish Air Force currently operates an aging fleet of 26 Su-22M4’s and 6 Su-22UM3K. The decision on the extent of the upgrade is to be made mid-March, this year. Earlier the Fitters were planned to be withdrawn by 2015 and replaced by UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles).

Basically two options are considered.

The first assumes that all the planes are to be modernized and fly for another 3 years. The second option is to modernize just one squadron (16 planes), but to extend the Fitter’s life up to 10 additional years.

The modernization is not to be expensive, and is to be carried out by the Military Aviation Works no. 2 in Bydgoszcz, the same plant that takes care of the Polish F-16 Block 52+ fighters.

There is no clear information available as to the scope of modernization. The first rumors of a possible Fitter upgrade were heard in the beginning of the 1990s. Budget constraints were the main reason the works were stopped. Still, the plane is quite obsolete, and because of the lack of radar and precision guiding systems is dubbed a blind boxer by its pilots.

When it comes to the reasons why the Su-22 fighter-bombers are to be modernized it is all caused by postponing the decision about buying a new multirole jet, and personnel skills, that cannot be thrown away when the Fitters are withdrawn from service.

The 21st Tactical Air Base is also to be modernized, in order to accomodate modern multirole fighters by 2022.

Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist

Image Credit: dlapilota.pl

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About Jacek Siminski
Standing contributor for TheAviationist. Aviation photojournalist. Co-Founder of DefensePhoto.com. Expert in linguistics, Cold War discourse, Cold War history and policy and media communications.


    • I wonder if it’s a sort of interim move before the F-35 becomes available – which has it’s own issues. Modernizing the Su-22 to keep them around for a little while longer isn’t the worst move. They’ve got a lot of experience with them and there’s some good options for modernizing them. Depending on which route they go, they could explore the proposed Su-17M-5 upgrades. I’m not sure if they have turbofans in theirs – I think the Su-17M-4 is still the turbojet but that might be another option. I’m curious to see where they go.

      • There is no sense in mordernizing a fighter bomber with no radar. What kind of use it could have anyway in a modern scenario?

        They should buy some trainers jets or lease some older F16s (As Italy did before Eurofighter) to keep the pilots ready for a more modern and useful jet.

        • That’s why I wonder if they’ll go for the Su-17M-5 upgrades. It replaces the laser rangefinder with a radar. It’s actually a Russo-Franco upgrade package. I don’t know if it’s still offered but it certainly alleviates the lack of a radar. I believe it also includes a more fuel-efficient turbofan engine.

        • As far as I am concerned, money is the main issue. Poland is prepping to get F-35’s as the 5th generation fighter. And 8 M-346’s is definitely not enough to replace the Su-22’s

      • If Poland was to acquire the F-35, it would not happen for at least 10-15 years. Budget and Polish infrastructure would need to be done, sadly the money is not there…

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