Author Archives: Jacek Siminski

Polish Air Force Celebrates the 10th Anniversary of the F-16 service with An Awesome Air-To-Air Photoshoot

Poland celebrated the 10th anniversary of the F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 52+ service with an unbelievable air-to-air photo sortie.

This year is special when it comes to the relationship between the Viper and the Polish Air Force since it has been 10 years since Poland has acquired this slick airframe, significantly modernizing the inventory which remains at disposal of the military aviation units.

The anniversary provides an interesting opportunity to sum up the history of the relationship between the Lockheed’s jet and the Polish Air Force.

Within the Polish Air Force, the F-16 “Jastrząb” (Jastrząb – Northern goshawk – is the Polish name for the F-16 jet) is being used for a variety of missions, including air-superiority, close air support or reconnaissance with the application of the Goodrich DB110 pod.

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The Polish Air Force’s F-16 aircraft are stationed at two main locations, namely the Krzesiny-Poznan airbase and Łask airbase, with the latter one being located close to the city of Łódź. Currently, Poland has its F-16 aircraft from Łask deployed to Kuwait, supporting Operation Inherent Resolve performing the recce role.

Being a part of the Warsaw Pact up until the late 1980s, Poland Armed Forces have operated Soviet equipment for decades. MiG-15s, MiG-17s, MiG-21s, MiG-23s, Su-22s, Yak-23s, MiG-29s were (and in some case still are) flown by the Polish Air Force (with the Fulcrums, in particular, procured at the end of the Soviet Union’s existence).

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The Air Force’s structure was also largely similar to the organization patterns utilized in the East.

Beginning in 1989 the geopolitical landscape changed and Poland started to have ties with the West until it became a NATO frontline nation, joining the alliance in 1999. Prior to that event, the Armed Forces suffered reductions and cuts, along with a restructuring process.

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With the entry into NATO the operational tasks for the Polish Armed Forces, including the Air Force, were redefined: Poland was tasked with stopping the potential adversary during the initial phase of the conflict, with air superiority being one of the cornerstones of the applied strategy. Hence the main task for the Polish Air Force is to provide control within the Polish Airspace, as a part of the NATO IADS (Integrated Air Defence System), and secondly, the air branch is to provide support for the other armed services, including the Navy and the Land Component.

The main element of the Polish air defense modernization process was in the acquisition of the F-16 aircraft used by three out of seven squadrons of the Polish Air Force, alongside the MiG-29 and Su-22 fast jets.

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The first glimpse at the future of the Polish Air Force could be caught at the beginning of the nineties: between Aug. 23 and 25, 1991, an Air Show took place at the Ławica airport in Poznan, during which U.S. Spangdahlem-based F-16C airframes made their first ever appearance in Poland.

In 1994 Poland joined the “Partnership for Peace” program. The initial plan contained within the “Armia 2012” modernization program assumed that 160 new fighter aircraft were to be acquired. The tender procedure which was announced at the time did not even reach the implementation stage,  as the MoD’s leadership changed and the multi-role jet tender was postponed.

The undertaken analysis suggested that the new fighters would be utilized both within the framework of national defense, as well as within NATO deployments. The task range for the jets included air superiority, air interdiction, close air support, navy support and reconnaissance.

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Meanwhile, at the end of the year 2001, Germany decided to deliver, for free, 23 MiG-29 jets for the Polish Air Force, as the Fulcrums were being withdrawn by the Luftwaffe at the time. This, in a consequence, led to a decision which resulted in limitation of the multi-role fighter acquisition plan down to 48 examples.

The relevant tender began in 2001, involving three offers: Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 52+, Dassault Mirage 2000-5, and SAAB/BAe Gripen. The F-16 won the tender, with the highest rating and the corresponding decision was announced on Dec. 27. 2002. The contract, concerning the procurement of 36 F-16 single-seaters and 12 F-16D twin-seaters, was concluded on Apr. 18 2003, with prospects of receiving the first airframes manufactured by the Lockheed Martin company in 2006.

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The first Polish F-16C jet, no. 4040, made its maiden flight on Mar. 14. 2006 and was delivered, along with 4 other examples, on Nov. 11 2006.

“C” airframes were given serial numbers ranging from 4040 to 4075, while the “D” variant received the numbering ranging from 4076 to 4087.

The main operational task fulfilled by the jets is focused solely on the air-to-air role, however each of the three squadrons has its extra specialty, with the 3rd Fighter Squadron dealing with training, 6th Fighter Squadron dealing with air-to-ground operations and 10th Fighter Squadron focused on recce activities.

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When it comes to the direct legacy, the F-16 replaced the old MiG-21 Fishbed aircraft which were stationed both in Łask, as well as in Krzesiny.

The Łask airbase, at the moment, is a home for a single squadron of the F-16 jets, contrary to Krzesiny, which hosts two squadrons, however, the base located in the central Poland has the DB-110 reconnaissance pod at its disposal, and the Łask crews specialize in recce sorties, as mentioned above.

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When it comes to the air-to-air ordnance used by the Polish Vipers, the inventory includes  Raytheon AIM-120C-5 AMRAAM and Raytheon AIM-9X Super Sidewinder missiles. The air-to-air weapons system is complemented with a Northrop Grumman (Westinghouse) AN/APG-68(V)9 radar and IDM Link 16 suite, ensuring that the jet has net-centric capabilities at its disposal.

The air-to-ground weaponry  includes the AGM-65G Maverick Missiles, along with Mk 82 and Mk 84 bombs, complemented with Paveway laser guided and JDAM satellite kits. The inventory above also includes the AGM-154C JSOW stand-off weapon. However, this, however does not exhaust the air-to-surface ordnance remaining at disposal of the Polish jet.

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The F-16 is one of the cornerstones of the Polish deterrence policy, also known under the name of “Polskie Kły” [Polish Claws]. As a result of the aforementioned arrangement, the Polish MoD decided to acquire AGM-158 JASSM missiles for the jets, with a prospect of procuring the JASSM-ER extended range variant. We have described the JASSM procurement in several articles in detail.

The Polish Air Force’s Vipers also employ the Sniper XR targeting pods and the Link-16 communications suite. Sniper XR pod creates a prospect for the Polish Air Force’s jet to utilize EGBU-12 and SDB air-to-ground ordnance, as well as the AIM-120D and new AIM-9X air to air missiles.

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Poland is also looking forward towards acquisition of the Orbital ATK AARGM anti-radiation missile which was vividly marketed during the last year’s Radom Air Show and the Kielce MSPO Defence Salon.

Noteworthy, it was not until last year that the Polish Air Force established a Tiger Demo Team is based at the aforementioned Krzesiny airbase and made its first international appearance during the RIAT air show this year.

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Within the presented photo-set, the jet carrying the Polish flag in the cockpit is the Demo Team’s airframe.

The photographs we are presenting are unique, due to the fact that it is the first time when 4 Polish F-16 jets are presented together, in the air, flying with the conformal fuel tanks on top of their fuselages – such configuration has never been photographed and captured before. Two airframes come in the C variant, while the remaining two jets are in the D version.

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The shots captured by Filip Modrzejewski were taken from the rear ramp of the CASA C-295M transport aircraft of the Polish Air Force. The main portion of the photo-shoot took place over the Greater Poland voivodeship, also over the centre of Poznan and the Ławica airport.

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Image Credit: Filip Modrzejewski / Foto Poork

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Stunning air-to-air photographs show Polish Su-22, F-16 and Mig-29 flying together

Polish Air Force Jets Up Close and Personal.

In June, in collaboration with the Polish General Command of Armed Forces, Foto Poork’s Filip Modrzejewski has been involved in an air-to-air photoshoot with the Polish Air Force Su-22 Fitter, F-16 Block 52+ and MiG-29 Fulcrum.

Noteworthy, this was also the very first time that the Polish jets were presented together, in a single flight.

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Notably, the F-16 jet depicted by Modrzejewski is the 6th Fighter Squadron’s Tiger Demo Team display airframe, with the CFT (Conformal Fuel Tanks) mounted on top of the fuselage.

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Moreover, the photoshoot also constituted the first opportunity ever to capture the Su-22 Fitters flying with the new, grey paint scheme, from an air-to-air perspective.

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When it comes to the photoship used during the shoot which took place over the territory of Poland, the photographers were flying onboard a Polish Air Force Casa C-295M aircraft, using the back ramp of the cargo plane.

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Filip was kind enough to share his shots with us, so that we are able to present you the images depicting the founding elements of the Polish fighter force like you’ve never seen them before.

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Image Credit: Filip Modrzejewski / Foto Poork

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Eight A-10 tankbusters have deployed to Slovakia “to demonstrate U.S. deterrence efforts against Russia”

Cross-border training in eastern Europe for the A-10 Thunderbolts from Indiana.

Eight A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft, along with 140 airmen, belonging to the 122nd Fighter Wing, Fort Wayne Air Station, Indiana, have deployed for a one-month combined training exercise at the Slovakian Sliač Air Base on Jul. 8. The deployment is a part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, whose aim is to provide support and reinforcement on the NATO Eastern Flank somehow threatened by Russia.

“This deployment continues to demonstrate our commitment to our allies and our deterrence efforts against Russia” states an official U.S. Air Force release.

The 163rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron will be flying with the Slovakian Air Force to demonstrate Close Air Support (CAS) capabilities and will also be participating in cross-border flights with deployed USAF total-force partners flying F-16s, KC-135s, C-130s as well as assets from other regional allied air Forces.

Although this is the first deployment of the 163rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron to Sliač, the A-10 “Warthog” has already shown its presence in Slovakia and across eastern Europe operating, among other locations, from the Polish Łask and Powidz airbases, from Bulgaria or even from the Estonian Amari airbase.

Image Credit: U.S. Air Force

Polish Air Force F-16 jets deploy to Kuwait to fight Daesh

The Polish Vipers join the coalition fighting ISIS

Polish Air Force F-16 fighters from the Łask Airbase, located close to the city of Łódź in the central part of Poland, have departed their homeland for the Middle East on Jul. 5.

Operating from the territory of Kuwait, the Polish Vipers are going to become a part of the global coalition fighting against ISIS, providing reconnaissance capabilities in support of Operation Inherent Resolve

According to the Polska Zbrojna, officers of the detachment are also going to provide their support to the Qatar multinational air operations centre, from where the reconnaissance sorties carried out by the Polish F-16s using the Goodrich DB110 recce pod will be coordinated.

Four additional aircraft have departed from the 23rd Air Base in Minsk Mazowiecki, not from Łask, which is their usual gathering point (Minsk Mazowiecki airbase is being currently used by the Polish Air Force MiG-29 jets).

Aerial refueling along the route is going to be provided by the Royal Netherlands Air Force KDC-10 tankers.

A report published by Polskie Radio quotes Lt. Col. Tomasz Jatczak, Lt. commander of the Polish detachment in Kuwait, who in an interview for the IAR outlet stressed that the sortie would constitute a great challenge for the pilots, since it is the first operational combat deployment of the Polish F-16 jets.

The observational character of the mission does not mean that the Polish fighters would be exempted from flying over the enemy territory, and this, as Jatczak claims, may be seen as a demanding task.

The Kuwaiti deployment, according to the reports emerging in the media, involves 130 persons.

Simultaneously Polish special forces are also going to be operating in the region, deploying 60 specialists who would provide training and consultancy support for the Iraqi Army, as Polskie Radio claims.

According to Polska Zbrojna, the Kuwaiti deployment is a direct result of a order issued by President Andrzej Duda. Two detachments have been created, which are to remain on alert within the period between Jun. 20. and Dec. 31. this year.

Image Credit: Michał Gajzler

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Here are some crazy cool shots of a Polish F-16 performing a “sunset display” at the Leszno airshow

F-16 Block 52+ releasing plenty of flares and all the other highlights of the Leszno Air Picnic.

On Jun. 17 and 18 we visited the Leszno Aeroclub airfield, in collaboration with Foto Poork, during the 10th edition of the Leszno Air Picnic, which is organized annually by the city of Leszno.

The event, strongly focused on gliders and non-powered flight, includes evening/night displays that have become Leszno’s peculiar feature. During this part of the event, the aircraft perform a number of flying displays involving spectacular pyrotechnical and light-based special effects, creating a truly unique and marvelous show. It is the only sunset/night air show organized in Eastern Europe, and one of the two air shows of this kind in Europe in general, besides the Sanicole Show in Belgium.

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Obviously, even though the night section is the main highlight of the show, it is complemented by a rich daytime flying program: some of the teams usually present their skills twice, both during the day, as well as during the night and sunset segments.

This year’s edition of Leszno Air Picnic was unique also due to some “firsts,” including the display of the Polish Air Force F-16 “Tiger Demo Team.

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Flying an interesting “sunset” programme that included the release of several flares, Captain Robert “Bluto” Galązka aboard its “clean” F-16 Block 52+ took the stage during the Leszno airshow.

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Another unique highlight was a dynamic display of two WW2 fighter aircraft – P-51 Mustang and Yak-3. These warbirds, besides the individual show, also carried out several formation flypasts.

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The Air Picnic also involved aerobatic teams, including “The Flying Bulls” aerobatic team, performing a new program with four aircraft; the Czech “Follow Me” Formation Flying Team, flying the Zlin aircraft, that showcased a unique team flying skill set maitaining minimum distance between the airframes.

Obviously, the Air Picnic would not be complete without involvement of glider aerobatics.

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Here, “The White Wings” team hailing from Romania was one of highlights. Their show created almost a romantic atmosphere, demonstrating the beauty of engine-less flying. Additionally, Johann Gustafsson attended the show, presenting his aerobatics program.

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The night portion of the show belonged to two main actors: AeroSparx and FireFlies. Besides the gliders that have displayed awesome light and fire show, the teams mentioned above have brought the display to a whole new level.

This year’s edition of the show was successful also organization-wise. When it comes to the photographing – it is done against the sun during the day. Thanks to the courtesy of the organizers and Foto-Poork team, we also had a chance to take several shots on the other side of the airfield area, and realize an air-to-ground photoshoot from a Cessna 172.

Non-powered flight bears some degree of romanticism and primal nature, it constitutes an amazing “different” thing, which allows you to get some rest during the long air show season, filled with the sound of the afterburner.

We would like to highly recommend the Leszno Show: the organization and program constitute a pleasant surprise of the 2016 season and the event cannot be rated highly enough.

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Image Credit: Jacek Siminski and Aleksandra “Alex” Kuczyńska