Poland Heightens Surveillance Near Border Amidst Growing Tensions With Belarus

Polish Belarus
Polish Border Guard L-410 spotted on the night of August 3 near border (screenshot via ADSBexchange.com with author’s annotations)

Polish Border Guard light patrol aircraft spotted flying close to the border with Belarus for two consecutive days after Belarusian helicopters intrusion.

With recent tensions between Poland and Belarus rising as a consequence of the alleged intrusion of two Belarusian helicopters into the Polish airspace, a Polish Border Guard L-410 Turbolet has been spotted flying near the Polish-Belarusian border over the past few days. SN-61YG (#193301, previously SP-VST) is one of two Turbolets operated by the Polish Border Guard (Straż Graniczna – SG)

On Jul. 27, 2023 an irregular flight of the aircraft was noted approaching the border south of Białystok was first noted. The aircraft was first seen approaching the border and turning its transponder off for roughly two hours until reappearing headed northwest back to its base in Gdańsk. This was initially assumed to be a mere transponder error and was promptly disregarded.

SN-61YG disappearing on August 2 between 22:16 to 00:05 the next day (screenshot via ADSBexchange.com)

However, it isn’t until recently that the aircraft’s movement was noted to be attention worthy. The Turbolet was spotted again on August 2 at around 22:16 local time approaching the Belarus border again. Once more, it took over two hours before appearing back on ADSBExchange.com headed back to its base.

SN-61YG disappearing on August 3 for the second time in a row between 22:24 to 00:47 the next day (screenshot via ADSBexchange.com)

Last night on August 3, the aircraft subsequently went on the same mission, going dark between 22:24 to 00:47 local time. The near identical mission profile executed on two consecutive days is noteworthy as the aircraft is operated under the Central Government Agency rather than a branch of the Military Air Arms.


The aircraft in question

The aircraft involved in the surveillance operation is an LET L-410 UVP-E20. Two of the patrol aircraft were recently transferred to the Polish Border Guard service in Gdańsk. The Turbolet was designed for patrolling and monitoring traffic on land, sea, and air by utilising an Osprey 30 radar along with an L3 MX-15 EO/IR camera. The AESA Osprey 30 is can also be found on the British HM Coastguard Beechcraft King Air and AHRLAC.

Polish Border Guard LET L-410 UVP-E20 (image courtesy of LET Aircraft Industries)

This specific aircraft SN-61YG also happens to be the same aircraft that was previously involved in a incursion with a Russian Su-35. Back in May 5, 2023 the aircraft was on a Frontex patrol mission over the Black Sea when it was intercepted by a Russian Sukhoi 60km East of Romanian airspace, over international waters.

While the Border Guard operates two of the patrol aircraft; SN-61YG and SN-62YG, the latter seems to have been out of action for the last week. Due to the various change in aircraft designation, tracking down Polish aircraft has been fairly confusing. In 2002, all Polish aircraft changed their prefix from PL-XXXX to SN-XXXX. Due to the Border Guards being under the Central Government and being an official state entity, it subsequently changed their prefix from SN-XXXX to SP-XXXX in 2011. However, in 2014 the prefix was reinstated to SN-XXXX, when all aircraft had their previous registration code revived. As a result of this confusing bureaucratic move, our aircraft in question (SN-61YG, serial no. 193301) previously bared the registration code SP-VSU as well as OK-JRZ when it was first flown in from the Czech Republic. Although not seen recently, the other L-410 pair SN-62YG (193301) previously sported SP-VST and OK-JRY. While this may have been a slight tangent, the author believes that no concise information of the history of registration changes were made widely known and hopes it will aid other spotters in the future.

Tension between Poland and Belarus continues to increase

As Wagner troops move closer East in Belarus, the tension between the Russian puppet state and Poland is increasing day by day. Hence, every small movement of either side should be monitored with great caution. While Polish Air Force aircraft along with NATO aircraft were regularly spotted near the border, these series of events marked an exception where a government aircraft was involved. While this alone may suggest a mere ISR patrol operation, it can be deduced that Poland is using all its forces at its disposal during its most heightened state. Until the situation deescalates, the involvement of the rare L-410 aircraft is expected to become more widespread.

About Wonwoo Choi
Wonwoo is a student journalist and contributor to The Aviationist based in London, United Kingdom. Currently studying MEng in Aeronautical Engineering with a keen interest in OSINT, plane spotting and aircraft design. He is a former Sergeant of the Republic of Korea Army, having served as an artillery Fire Direction Centre Vehicle Radio Operator.