The Polish Air Force has received its new G550, the first post-Soviet VIP aircraft.
The first of the new Polish Air Force’s G550 VIP jets (with the second one expected to be received in mid July, and with the first operational flights to take place in the autumn) has landed at the Warsaw Chopin International Airport on Jun. 21.
The delivery of the aircraft is a tangible effect of the effort made by the Polish government to replace the aging VIP transport fleet, until now consisting of Tu-154M and Yak-40 post-soviet jets.
The introduction of the G550 paves the way for this airframe being also considered in other applications in the Polish Air Force, such as MPA (Maritime Patrol Aircraft) or ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) platforms. The Polish MoD is currently pursuing Płomykówka (ISR) and Rybitwa (MPA/ASW aircraft) programmes, and G550 may seem to be a viable candidate in both cases.
Alongside the procurement of G550s, the Polish MoD also eyes the procurement of three Boeing 737 aircraft, which would act as the medium-sized platform.
Notably, the 737 has been selected without any tendering procedure, which has created major legal controversies in Poland and in the EU.
The MoD’s justification is that time had a critical relevance since the PLN 540 million, reserved in the FY2016 budget for that purpose, were only available until the end of March this year. This was the main argument supporting the single source procurement procedure: as the Polish MoD officials claimed, if the 737 aircraft were not contracted early this year, the potential acquisition would be delayed for several years. The opposition was not happy, as the MoD spent PLN 2 billion, without any tender, in 19 days, favoring a single manufacturer.
Coming back to the post-soviet VIP aircraft, the initiative to have the aforesaid aircraft replaced is someone an effect of the Smolensk incident in which a Polish Tupolev Tu-154M has crashed, killing the Polish President and numerous government officials. Following the tragedy, the 36th Special Airlift Regiment was disbanded and transformed into the 1st Airlift Base unit. Moreover, most official flights were served by two leased Embraer E-175 operated by the LOT Polish Airlines.
According to the official statements made by the Minister of National Defence Antoni Macierewicz during the reception ceremony, G550’s purpose would be to “provide safety for the people elected by the nation.”
The received aircraft has been named after the Polish Prince, Józef Poniatowski. During his speech Macierewicz additionally referred to the aircraft as if it was a sign of an ideological transition, from post-soviet, into western, modern chapter of the Polish history.
The head of the MoD is also known for making statements that may seem to be ridiculous. This time, it was no different, as Macierewicz publicly admitted that the Tu-154M aircraft that crashed in Smolensk could have been rigged and monitored by the Russians remotely, which seems to be a far-fetched claim.
Even though the official investigation of the Smolensk crash has ended a long time ago, pointing to erroneous training and recklessness as the reasons for the tragedy, the current Polish government claims that the crash was purposely caused by Putin, and it was a sort of attack/special forces operation to kill the Polish President.
Image credit: Wojciech Mazurkiewicz