Monthly Archives: November 2016

The F-4 Phantom II, in the QF-4 Aerial Target variant, performs final display before retiring from USAF

After more than 50 years of service, the F-4 Phantom II is about to be retired by the U.S. Air Force.

The final F-4 Phantom appearance at an airshow while in USAF service occurred during Nellis Air Force Base’s Aviation Nation air show, on Nov. 12 and 13.

QF-4E 74-1638, piloted by Lt. Col. Ron “Elvis” King and Jim Harkins, pilots from Holloman AFB, New Mexico, flew at the show on both days, making several passes in afterburner to the delight of more than 295,000 spectators from around the world.

The photographs in this post were taken by our reader Ken Lilly at Nellis AFB during Aviation Nation 2016.

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“[The QF-4 retiring] is bittersweet,” said King, 82nd Aerial Target Squadron Detachment 1 commander in a U.S. Air Force release. “It’s been a phenomenal workhorse for our country for years. When the military revitalized the aircraft after retiring them in 1997, it gave them a second lease on life.”

The aircraft have flown as unmanned aerial targets for several DoD and foreign military sales customers testing next generation weapons.

“Just as service members come and go in their military careers, unfortunately so do aircraft,” said Harkins. “It’s getting harder and harder to do the job that it’s supposed to do [based on new technology].

“It’s too old to go as high and as fast or as many [gravitational forces] as the customers need it to so they can proper test equipment,” he added.

Air Combat Command declared initial operational capability for its replacement, the QF-16 full-scale aerial target, that has been flying with the 82nd ATRS, based at Tyndall AFB, Florida, since September 2014, on Sept. 23: therefore the QF-4 flown by the 82nd ATRS Det. 1 at Holloman AFB is being retired on Dec. 21.

Whilst unmanned operations ended in September, the last unmanned mission in a threat representative configuration was flown on Aug. 17, 2016, “against” an F-35 Lightning II.

During that sortie, the Vietnam-era remotely piloted aircraft was shot at by the F-35 Lightning II with two AIM-120 AMRAAMs (advanced medium range air-to-air missiles). However, the aircraft was not destroyed in the test (read more about the final sortie “against” two AIM-120Cs fired by a Joint Strike Fighter here.)

A QF-4 Aerial Target lands on the flight line at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., during the Aviation Nation air show on Nov. 11, 2016. The QF-4 was piloted by Lt. Col. Ron King, 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron Detachment 1 commander, at Holloman AFB, New Mexico. (U.S. Air Force photo by A1C Kevin Tanenbaum/Released)

A QF-4 Aerial Target lands on the flight line at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., during the Aviation Nation air show on Nov. 11, 2016. The QF-4 was piloted by Lt. Col. Ron King, 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron Detachment 1 commander, at Holloman AFB, New Mexico. (U.S. Air Force photo by A1C Kevin Tanenbaum/Released)

Interestingly, on  Oct. 25 two USAF McDonnell Douglas QF-4E Phantom II’s made an appearance through the famous “Star Wars Canyon” (Jedi Transition) in Death Valley, CA, during in transit from NAS Point Mugu, CA to Hill AFB, UT.

The aircraft, piloted by Lt. Col. Ron “Elvis” King and by Lt. Col. (Ret) Jim “WAM” Harkins, made a couple of aggressive passes through the canyon before continuing their journey to Hill.

The F-4 is one of the most successful multi-role fighter aircraft ever produced. Over 5,000 Phantoms of various models were built and served in combat with a variety of Air Forces around the world. In the U.S., the F-4 served with the US Navy beginning in 1961, followed by the USMC and the USAF.

The aircraft remained in service with the USAF through 1996 when it was retired.

Many Phantoms were converted to service as manned and unmanned targets for weapons training with various USAF and DoD programs, including the White Sands Missile Range.

But the final chapter in a long and successful career in the U.S. Air Force is approaching. At least, other air arms around the world still operate the mighty Phantom, including the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force, that has also used the F-4E in the Air War in Syria; the Turkish Air Force, whose F-4s have had a role in the coup attempt last July; South Korea’s ROKAF (Republic of Korea Air Force), that has also employed the Phantoms to stage Elephant Walks “against” the North; and the Hellenic Air Force.

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Image credit: Ken Lilly unless otherwise specified.

 

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F-35B completes DT-III with Heavy Sea State & Weapons Focus

The two platforms (United States Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II and U.S. Navy USS America) represent a quantum leap in Marine aviation capability, particularly when considered in combination with the MV-22B Osprey, AH-1Z, UH-1Y and incoming CH-53K.

The fourth ship to carry the name, the USS America (LHA-6) serves as the flagship for a new class of amphibious assault ships that is built specifically to support “aerial assault.”  The LHA class utilizes the area on assault ships typically occupied by the “well deck” to provide additional hangar space, increased are for shipborne aviation maintenance, and additional aviation fuel and weapons stores.

It was fitting that the F-35B would complete its Development Testing (DT-III) on an advanced US Navy (USN) platform named “America.”

The two platforms [United States Marine Corps (USMC) F-35B Lightning II and USN USS America] represent a quantum leap in Marine aviation capability, particularly when considered in combination with the MV-22B Osprey, AH-1Z, UH-1Y and incoming CH-53K.

20161103-N-SS390-0xx PACIFIC OCEAN (NOV. 3, 2016) BF-1 GBU-12 External Weapons Uploading/BF-5 GBU-32 JDAM uploading Station 8 internal weapons bay.  F-35B Lightning II short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft conducts test operations on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6). The highly diverse cadre of Pax River Integrated Test Force (ITF) technicians, maintainers, engineers, logisticians, support staff and test pilots are embarked for the third and final developmental test phase (DT-III) of F-35B carrier suitability and integration. (Photo by Darin Russell/Released)

20161103-N-SS390-0xx PACIFIC OCEAN (NOV. 3, 2016) BF-1 GBU-12 External Weapons Uploading/BF-5 GBU-32 JDAM uploading Station 8 internal weapons bay. F-35B Lightning II short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft conducts test operations on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6). The highly diverse cadre of Pax River Integrated Test Force (ITF) technicians, maintainers, engineers, logisticians, support staff and test pilots are embarked for the third and final developmental test phase (DT-III) of F-35B carrier suitability and integration. (Photo by Darin Russell/Released)

Pilots, engineers, maintainers and personnel from VX-23 (Air Test and Evaluation Squadron) of NAS Patuxent River, MD flew across the country with their two heavily instrumented F-35Bs for the shipboard DT-III late October through Nov. 17, 2016.  They were joined by aircraft and personnel from VMX-1 (Marine Operational Test and Evaluation squadron) to support the maintenance phase of DT-III.  VMX-1 also participated in operational activity in preparation for the F-35Bs first shipborne deployment in about a year.

DT-III evaluated and validated the Short Take-off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) performance of the F-35B in high sea states, with full weapons loads (external & internal), with asymmetric loading (including taking off with a full load of externals, jettisoning one side and landing), live weapons and night operations.  Onboard maintenance activities involved the entire replacement of an engine, driveshaft and lift fan on one of the VMX-1 aircraft.  After replacement, the VMX-1 aircraft was flown off the deck.

20161103-N-SS390-0xx PACIFIC OCEAN (NOV. 3, 2016) An F-35B Lightning II short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft conducts test operations on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6). The highly diverse cadre of Pax River Integrated Test Force (ITF) technicians, maintainers, engineers, logisticians, support staff and test pilots are embarked for the third and final developmental test phase (DT-III) of F-35B carrier suitability and integration. (Photo by Darin Russell/Released)

20161103-N-SS390-0xx PACIFIC OCEAN (NOV. 3, 2016) An F-35B Lightning II short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft conducts test operations on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6). The highly diverse cadre of Pax River Integrated Test Force (ITF) technicians, maintainers, engineers, logisticians, support staff and test pilots are embarked for the third and final developmental test phase (DT-III) of F-35B carrier suitability and integration. (Photo by Darin Russell/Released)

USMC VMX-1 Commanding Officer, Col. George “Sack” Rowell, noted that “the F-35B will equal or exceed the shipborne operational capabilities of the AV-8B Harrier in high sea states.  Flight operations took place in winds of up to 47 knots from various angles, a deck roll of 5° and deck pitch of 3°.  Maintenance work was accomplished (albeit with challenges) while the ship was rolling 9°!”

20161107-N-SS390-0xx PACIFIC OCEAN (NOV. 7, 2016) An F-35B Lightning II short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft conducts test operations on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6). BF-1, Flt 614, Mr. Peter Wilsonl & BF-5, Flt 263, Major Rob Guyette test high sea states.  The highly diverse cadre of Pax River Integrated Test Force (ITF) technicians, maintainers, engineers, logisticians, support staff and test pilots are embarked for the third and final developmental test phase (DT-III) of F-35B carrier suitability and integration. (Photo by Darin Russell/Released)

20161107-N-SS390-0xx PACIFIC OCEAN (NOV. 7, 2016) An F-35B Lightning II short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft conducts test operations on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6). BF-1, Flt 614, Mr. Peter Wilsonl & BF-5, Flt 263, Major Rob Guyette test high sea states. The highly diverse cadre of Pax River Integrated Test Force (ITF) technicians, maintainers, engineers, logisticians, support staff and test pilots are embarked for the third and final developmental test phase (DT-III) of F-35B carrier suitability and integration. (Photo by Darin Russell/Released)

DT-III was a great success achieving primary DT-III flight test points as well as numerous additional milestones for the F-35B;

  • Shipborne integration of Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) V.2
  • Engine, driveshaft and lift fan removal and replacement aboard a L-Class ship
  • Live ordnance operations with the F-35B aboard a ship (from ship to MCAS Yuma Range)
  • F-35B integration with USN AEGIS validated
  • Operational Test aircraft flew Block 3F software at-sea
  • 1st Royal Navy pilot F-35B carrier qualified
  • Joint Precision Approach and Landing System (JPALS) utilized for shipborne landing
  • Use of night vision goggles (NVG) for landing
  • Link-16 Integration with a variety of aircraft

The success of the tests validates the Marine Corps experience with the aircraft to date.  USMC Lt. General Jon Davis, Deputy Commandant for Aviation Marine Corps captured that experience, “I’d deploy tomorrow. Tomorrow. The commanding officer (CO) of VFMA-211 is chomping at the bit, he would deploy them.  So would the CO of VFMA 121.  They are ready. These airplanes are highly capable and ready to go.

161104-N-VR008-0030 PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 4, 2016) A Sailor directs F-35B Lightning II aircraft on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) during flight operations. The F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant is the world’s first supersonic STOVL stealth aircraft. America, with Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 (VMX-1), Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMFA-211) and Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 (VX-23) embarked, are underway conducting operational testing and the third phase of developmental testing for the F-35B Lightning II aircraft, respectively. The tests will evaluate the full spectrum of joint strike fighter measures of suitability and effectiveness in an at-sea environment. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Kyle Goldberg/Released)

161104-N-VR008-0030 PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 4, 2016) A Sailor directs F-35B Lightning II aircraft on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) during flight operations. The F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant is the world’s first supersonic STOVL stealth aircraft. America, with Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 (VMX-1), Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMFA-211) and Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 (VX-23) embarked, are underway conducting operational testing and the third phase of developmental testing for the F-35B Lightning II aircraft, respectively. The tests will evaluate the full spectrum of joint strike fighter measures of suitability and effectiveness in an at-sea environment. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Kyle Goldberg/Released)

The potent USMC/USN amphibious assault platform of F-35Bs, MV-22Bs, AH-1Z, UH-1Y and in years to come CH-53K will soon be sailing the seas.  It is natural to recognize the platforms support of a broad spectrum of military operations and missions.  However, it is important not to overlook the role the assault carriers (LHD) platforms have historically played and will continue to play; keeping sea lanes free and open for movement of global commerce, and supporting delivery around the globe of humanitarian aid following natural disasters.

The ongoing success of the USMC introduction of the F-35B fleet speaks to a certain reality. In short order, the USS America (and companion ships) will be a message sending presence to some and a welcome friend to others!

161113-N-VR008-0097 PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 13, 2016) Sailors assigned to amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) prepare to launch an F-35B Lightning II aircraft from the flight deck during flight operations. The F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant is the world’s first supersonic STOVL stealth aircraft. America, with Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 (VMX-1), Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMFA-211) and Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 (VX-23) embarked, are underway conducting operational testing and the third phase of developmental testing for the F-35B Lightning II aircraft, respectively. The tests will evaluate the full spectrum of joint strike fighter measures of suitability and effectiveness in an at-sea environment. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Kyle Goldberg/Released)

161113-N-VR008-0097 PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 13, 2016) Sailors assigned to amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) prepare to launch an F-35B Lightning II aircraft from the flight deck during flight operations. The F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant is the world’s first supersonic STOVL stealth aircraft. America, with Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 (VMX-1), Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMFA-211) and Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 (VX-23) embarked, are underway conducting operational testing and the third phase of developmental testing for the F-35B Lightning II aircraft, respectively. The tests will evaluate the full spectrum of joint strike fighter measures of suitability and effectiveness in an at-sea environment. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Kyle Goldberg/Released)

The Aviationist thanks Sylvia Pierson, and Brandi Schiff, JSF/JPO PA;  Capt. Sarah Burns & 1st Lt. Maida Zheng, USMC PAOs;  Captain Joseph R. Olson, Commanding Officer of the USS America and entire crew;  Lt. General Jon M. Davis, USMC Deputy Commandant for Aviation; and USMC VMX-1 Commanding Officer, Col. George “Sack” Rowell.

DT-III was followed by a Proof of Concept at sea. Read the full story here.

 

Canadian CF-18 crashes near Cold Lake killing pilot. It’s the eighth Legacy Hornet lost in 6 months

Legacy Hornets are crashing at an alarming rate!

A Royal Canadian Air Force single-seat CF-188 Hornet from 4 Wing Cold Lake crashed inside the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range in Saskatchewan, on Nov. 28. The pilot died in the incident.

The rate of crashes involving legacy Hornets is quite alarming. At least 8 major incidents have involved legacy Hornets (that is to say, the older variant of the F/A-18) in the last 6 months!

Two U.S. Marine Corps F-18 Hornets from MCAS Miramar collided mid-air during a training mission on Nov. 9 near San Diego. One pilot landed safely at the NAS North Island whereas the other one ejected over the sea and was rescued.

Few days earlier, on Oct. 25, an F/A-18 Hornet from Miramar crashed near Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms killing the pilot.

On Aug. 29, a Swiss Air Force F/A-18 Hornet crashed shortly after taking off from Meiringen airbase. The 27-year-old pilot was found dead two days later.

On Aug. 2, a U.S. Navy F/A-18C Hornet flown crashed near Fallon, Nevada. The pilot safely ejected.

On Jul. 27 another Marine Hornet pilot died in a crash near 29 Palms.

Same fate for a Blue Angels pilot flying a Hornet that crashed on Jun. 2, shortly after takeoff during a practice flight in Tennessee.

Capt. Stephen R. Miggins, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232 F/A-18 pilot and assistant operations officer, refuels from a KC-130J during flight training in support of Pitch Black 2012 Aug. 15.

Capt. Stephen R. Miggins, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232 F/A-18 pilot and assistant operations officer, refuels from a KC-130J during flight training in support of Pitch Black 2012 Aug. 15.

In the wake of the Hornet crashes from June through October, the U.S. Marine Corps temporarily grounded its non-deployed Hornets. Unfortunately, few days after the ban was lifted, two more F/A-18Cs were lost on Nov. 9.

Hornet crashes over the last year have depleted the number of available airplanes for training and operations. According to USNI News the service had 85 Hornets available for training, compared to a requirement for 171.

In order to face the critical shortage of operational fighters caused by both crashes and high operational tempos, the U.S: Marine Corps has launched a plan that will see Boeing upgrade 30 retired legacy Hornets (currently stored at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona) to a standard dubbed F/A-18C+.

With this upgrade, that will also embed new avionics, the service will be able to keep up with its operational tasks until the F-35 is able to take over.

Once upgraded to the C+ standard, these “gap fillers” should be more than enough to conduct combat operations in low-lethality scenarios like those that see the USMC at work these days.

Furthermore, once these “refreshed” Hornets are delivered to the squadrons, older airframes can be retired, improving flight safety.

Canada has just announced the plan to use F/A-18E/F Super Hornet multi-role fighters as “gap fillers” until Ottawa decides on a replacement for its fleet of legacy Hornet aircraft.

Top image credit: RCAF

 

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Watch an Etihad Airbus 380 fly in formation with the Al Fursan aerobatic display team over Abu Dhabi

The UAE Air Force aerobatic display team formed up with an Etihad Airways A380 for the 2016 Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

On Nov. 27, an Etihad Airways A380 performed the traditional pre-Grand Prix race flypast in formation with the seven Aermacchi MB-339 jets of the Al Fursan (The Knights) display team.

The following footage, filmed from both inside the UAE AF display team jets and the civilian “superjumbo” show the amazing pass conducted by the unusual formation at dusk.

The Al Fursan team was formed in 2010 and made its first appearance with a simple fly-by with 4 MB-339s at the graduation ceremony at the Khalifa Bin Zayed Air College on Jan. 20, 2010. In July the same year, eight pilots moved to Italy to start training under the supervision of the Frecce Tricolori of the Italian Air Force, world’s largest display team based at Rivolto, and flying the same kind of aircraft. The training course ended in 2011.

The team made its first public aerobatic demonstration on Nov. 13, 2011, during the opening day of the Dubai Air Show.

Nowadays the Al Fursan team is equipped with 10 aircraft, four of those come from the 61° Stormo (Wing) of the Italian Air Force, the Flight School based at Lecce Galatina.

The Emirates MB-339As are painted in black, gold, white, red and green, and are equipped with smoke generators that produce red, green white and black smoke, the same colors of the UAE National flag.

By the way, the video provides also a glimpse of the backseat where you can see a dummy mascotte strapped to the ejection seat….

 

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Polish Air Force Further Postpones Procurement of 5th Generation Fighters to replace MiG-29 and Su-22 jets

Polish Air Force Modernization Initiatives do not foresee 5th Generation Fighters until at least 2022.

The plan to acquire the 5th-generation jets that would prospectively replace the Su-22 Fitter and MiG-29 Fulcrum airframes, currently operated by the Polish Air Force alongside the F-16s, has been postponed by the leadership of the Polish Ministry of Defense.

Lacking the net-centric capabilities, data-links and modern precision guided weaponry Fulcrums and Fitters are becoming more and more unsuited to the conditions of the contemporary battlefield environment.

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As Tomasz Dmitruk of the Dziennik Zbrojny outlet speculates, the program in question could become a part of the subsequent planning period, between the years 2017-2026. The said modernization plan is expected to be developed next year.

In one of his interviews given to Dziennik Zbrojny, General Adam Duda, head of the Armament Inspectorate of the Polish MoD, claimed that “Harpia” program, which is to cover the acquisition of new fighters, would be scheduled to begin from 2023.

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According to the statement issued by the Polish MoD, responding to a parliamentary question issued by MP Paweł Olszewski, the operational requirements review carried out by the Polish Armed Forces resulted in an assumption that the Su-22’s operations are expected to be maintained, thus, acquisition of the new jets is going to probably begin next year – here we mean the sole initiation of the procurement program as the acquisition itself would be far down the road.

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The adopted modernization assumptions, when it comes to the military aircraft, are focused on several priorities, including combat and support helicopters. We do know though, that this tender faces a significant delay, for the reasons related to offset agreement negotiations and, reportedly, difficulties occurring within that process, as the current government reports.

The tender has been canceled and restarted. Polish MoD is also willing to acquire 32 attack helicopters, with logistics and training package.

Second of the priority tasks that is to be implemented by the Ministry is focused on UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and reconnaissance.

Operational MALE UAV systems, mini- and micro-class systems and satellite platforms are going to be acquired.

The Ministry is to procure four operational-level ZEFIR systems, 12 tactical medium range GRYF UAVs (in this case, the systems are to be manufactured by the domestic entities), 12 tactical short range Orlik systems, and 15 mini-class WIZJER aircraft.

However, all of the programs listed above were canceled on Jul. 15, 2016 and they are expected to be restarted with the new government urging the UAV systems in question to be manufactured solely by the companies controlled by the treasury and based domestically.

UAVs are also a subject to financial limitations and Polish Deputy Minister of Defence, Bartosz Kownacki, noted that extra funds would be required to finalize the procurement process.

Same conditions apply to the micro UAVs. One of the significant developments, when it comes to the UAV systems and considering the “treasury” condition mentioned above, may be seen in the fact that one of the major Polish manufacturers of such aircraft, the WB Group, has been excluded from the tendering procedures listed here, due to the fact that it remains a private entity, even though the said company offers systems that have a track-proven record and are highly advanced.

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Thirdly, the Air Force is in the process of acquiring a new training platform for the pilots, in order to replace the aging TS-11 Iskra trainers. This is being done through acquisition of an integrated training package founded around the M-346 Master AJT aircraft.

The Ministry of Defense acquired 8 such airframes already, with optional procurement of another 4 examples possible, within the framework of the very same contract. Two jets have been received this year, with the remaining ones expected to be delivered in 2017.

Furthermore, the Ministry also took a course to acquire VIP aircraft for the government officials, with two types of platforms to be procured. Small VIP jets will be delivered next year, while medium aircraft are expected to be supplied throughout the years 2017, 2020 and 2021, one jet each year.

Exact deadlines will be known after the negotiation is finalized with the potential contractors.

Moreover, the MoD is also focused on securing the Armed Forces transport capabilities, especially within the tactical dimension, as well as within the scope of the NATO, EU and UN commitments (humanitarian aid operations, evacuations and deployment of special forces).

However, this has been done already, as 5 CASA C-295M airlifters have been acquired throughout the years 2010-2015, with 16 being operated by the air force, with 8 M-28 [Polish An-28 derivative] Bryza aircraft complementing the fleet.

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The new aircraft to be procured will probably be imported, since no relevant potential is available and offered by the Polish industry. However, the Ministry claims that any new acquisition would have to entail a relevant offset agreement.

Considering the official information mentioned above we may assume that no plans exist, among the objectives defined by the Polish MoD, to procure any new fighter aircraft, at least at the moment. With the relevant program to be started next year, we need to wait for further developments. Back in 2014  rumors suggested that the Air Force would receive new fighter aircraft by 2020, hence the current situation shows that long-term forecast, when it comes to armament procurement, may often not turn out to be realistic.

The assets which could be allocated to procure the new fighters are going to be used, instead, in order to acquire relevant systems within the Wisła and Narew air defense programs, which are both expected to be costly, considering their complexity, and urgent, in the light of the current status of the Polish IADS (Integrated Air Defense System).

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Among the analysts in Poland, two views of potential Air Force expansion exist.

The first one assumes that a MLU (mid-life upgrade) program will be launched to upgrade the F-16 jets (with AESA radars and integration of new armament including JASSM-ER missiles and possibly new Air-to-Air weaponry) along with the potential procurement of the F-16V to replace the aging Fulcrums and Fitters. Furthermore, Poland is also looking forward to expand its SEAD capabilities and the information available within the defense media-sphere suggests that procurement of the AARGM missiles for the F-16 could also be expected in the near future.

The second hypothesis assumes that new airframes, possibly Gripen-NG or the F-35, would be bought to replace the Polish Post-Soviet fighter force.

Whichever takes place, we need to patiently wait for relevant decisions to be taken.

The “procurement landscape” is quite varied, as back in 2015, when the Eurofighter Typhoon was also being promoted during the Radom Air Show, as a fighter for the Polish Air Force. What is clear though, the priorities assumed by the new right-wing government have been redefined, hence it is very unlikely that we would see any new combat aircraft in the Polish Air Force, within the upcoming decade.

This, on the other hand, would mean that whoever is elected next, would have a perfect pretext not to procure new fighters, for financial reasons.

Poland is going to be left with an air force counting of 48 F-16 jets, at least for now, as the combat usability of the Post-Soviet equipment, on the net-centric and dynamic battlefield, is highly dubious.

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Image Credit: Jacek Siminski/Wojciech Mazurkiewicz