The assets are to expand the BG’s reconnaissance capabilities, with their rich inventory installed onboard.
The Polish Border Guard has just acquired two LET Aircraft Industries L-410 UVP E-20 twin-turboprop airframes, the service announced.
Thanks to the major power output of the engines, the L-410 has a significant payload capacity; the package includes radars, long range observation systems, SATCOM datalink, automatic vessel ID system, rescue equipment allowing for carrying out maritime patrol tasks, along with hardware dedicated for supporting maritime SAR operations.
The aircraft procurement in question entails a pricetag of PLN 110 million (30M USD). The Agreement signed by the Border Guard and the JB Investments Sp. z o.o. company assumes that the aircraft will be delivered by October 2020. The whole acquisition is being financed with the use of EU funds through the Internal Security Fund (ISF). Since the EU supports the whole acquisition it could also be expected that Turbolets will be used for the purpose of protecting the external borders of the EU, as Infosecurity24.pl notes. This effort is being coordinated by the FRONTEX agency.
However, the acquisition sparked some questions.
The most significant one is: why did the Polish Ministry of Interior and Administration decide to acquire the L-410 airframe, while the Polish Mielec facility manufactures an aircraft that is equally capable, the M28 Bryza? This would be a logical step, considering the narrative of the government which places a great emphasis on supporting the domestic industry.
Secondly, the Polish military operates around 30 examples of the M28 Bryza airframe. Even though the BG specified that it needs a brand new aircraft in tender requirements, one might wonder whether it would have been cheaper to transfer two of those aircraft to Border Guard, and retrofit them with proper equipment instead of buying new ones. Also, another question emerges here, as we do not know whether this still could be financed by the EU. More doubts appear, when it comes to the pricetag associated with such action – the logic dictates that retrofitting an aircraft that is already in existence could be cheaper that procuring an entirely new airframe.
The M28 was offered in the tender as a new aircraft by a consortium consisting of Parasnake Arkadiusz Szewczyk and Airborne Technologies companies, however, the bidder did not settle the bid bond correctly (the bid bond had been paid by a consortium member before the consortium was formed – in other words, the bid bond was paid on behalf of a non-existent entity). A complaint was consequently submitted by another bidder (Beechcraft Berlin Aviation working with the Arminex Trading company). The National Chamber of Appeal was forced to exclude the contractor and reject the offer, ordering another selection procedure to begin.
Noteworthy, Turbolet has aerodynamics different than Bryza (better efficiency wise, achieved at a cost of STOL capabilities) and its engines, even though less powerful, make it possible for the airframe to offer better fuel consumption parameters overall. Thus, the L-410 could be much cheaper to operate, when compared to the M28.
Politically, the most significant inconsistency which also enters the area of the foreign policy run by the Polish government, with a reserved, or even hostile stance taken with regards to Russia, can be seen in the fact that L-410s are supplied by a Russian, Ural-based UGMK company. This has been pointed out by the former Polish Minister of Defense Tomasz Siemoniak, via his Twitter account:
Czy dobrze rozumiem, że MSWiA pod kierunkiem ministra Brudzińskiego zamiast kupić samoloty w "polskich" zakładach w Mielcu zdecydowało się na samoloty produkowane w zakładach będących własnością rosyjskiej firmy UGMK z Uralu? Co na to premier Morawiecki? https://t.co/1nfcRJoBQD
— Tomasz Siemoniak (@TomaszSiemoniak) January 29, 2019