Author Archives: Jacek Siminski

Poland Introduces New Aircraft, Changes Its VIP Airlift Regulations: Lessons Learned After Smolensk Crash

The Polish Air Force is renewing its VIP fleet and flights regulation.

Poland is about to change its Presidential and governmental (VIP) flights instructions and requirements, as the Polish Air Force takes delivery of its new aircraft and MoD plans to amend and prepare new regulations with regards to the VIP transport operations.

According to Col. Michał Marciniak, a member of a group within the Polish MoD which works on the new VIP/Head of State flights regulations who recently gave an interview to the Polish dlapilota.pl outlet, “One of the reasons for changes is the expansion of the Polish Air Force’s VIP fleet, including procurement of the new [Gulfstream G550 and Boeing B737-800/BBJ2] jets. Some of the provisions are resulting from the experiences.” Marciniak is probably referring to the controversial Smolensk crash, when the Polish President was killed aboard a Tu-154 in a CFIT (Controlled Flight Into Terrain) incident that took place in very bad weather conditions in Smolensk, Russia back in 2010. During the said infamous flight, e.g. numerous officials were flying together with their replacements (Deputy Ministers and Ministers, Commanders of the Armed Forces and so on) onboard of a single aircraft, which has been one of the reasons for harsh social pressure placed on the authorities, to redefine the VIP transport regulations and requirements.

Indeed the accident caused 96 victims: along with the President of Poland Lech Kaczyński and his wife Maria, the former President of Poland in exile Ryszard Kaczorowski, the chief of the Polish General Staff and other senior Polish military officers, the president of the National Bank of Poland, Polish Government officials, 18 members of the Polish Parliament, senior members of the Polish clergy and relatives of victims of the Katyn massacre.

The crash sparked also a wave of conspiracy theories; however, no evidence supporting the version according to which the accident was the result of a political assassination was found in Polish and international investigations

The first of the listed amendments assumes that the PM, deputy PM and two Vice-PMs may fly on-board of a single aircraft, nonetheless the third vice-PM cannot fly in the same airframe, which shall guarantee continuity of leadership, should any incident take place. This is still a problematic issue, since many important persons would be flying on-board a single jet.

Changes concerning the flying crews requirements seem to be even more worrying.

The VIP pilot has to have at least 250 hours of flight time accumulated on the given type of aircraft. Nonetheless, according to Marciniak “gaining the operational readiness on a new aircraft is prolonged by several months”, hence “task-based flight-time is going to be more important”, as, and this is the most controversial claim “higher amount of hours logged does not always translate into higher skills”. The Polish official states that the new regulations assume that if the pilot can fly in tough weather, this would be sufficient for him to be eligible to fly similar operations in HEAD settings. Ultimately the General Commander of the Armed Forces, would be the decisive person to approve the given crew for VIP operations. Each of the crew members should also have multi-engine aircraft experience, with the commanders having at least 1,000 hours of lifetime flight-time logged.

Arrangement of the VIP flights is also going to be changed, as it would be permissible to plan the flight less than 24 hours before the departure, on condition that the Polish Government Protection Bureau issues an approval and that the commander of the Airlift-responsible military unit issues a confirmation of readiness (i.e. ensuring that a crew is available, with proper approvals issued, airframe is available and so on). The assumption is that in case of the newly acquired VIP aircraft (G550 and to-be-acquired 737 jets) three crews per jet would be formed to ensure that a crew is always available in case an unforeseen flight is requested.

A question that emerges almost instantly, when considering the aforesaid flight-time requirements is that little experience is required to pilot a Polish VIP flight compared to the requirements in place in other air arms.

For instance, in case of the U.S. Air Force One, the Air Force Personnel Center claims that the applicant needs to have flown as an Airlift, Tanker, or C2ISR (E-3, E-4, E-8, KC-135) Major Weapon System (MWS) Aircraft Commander, with no fighter experience. It is also explicitly stated that no fighter pilots would be accepted in that role. The required flight-time in case of AFO is 2,000 hours in total, with 3 years Time on Station. Furthermore, Instructor experience is required. It would be also highly desired by the 89th Airlift Wing that the pilot has logged 2,500 total hours, with 250 gained as a MWS/OSA instructor with evaluator pilot experience. Moreover, the ideal candidate should also have recent worldwide flights experience and minimal number of qualification level 3 (or equivalent) flight evaluations. In practical terms, the AFO pilots often have more than 4,000 hours logged.

According to the reformed Polish regulations, the pilot applying to serve in the 1st Airlift Base in VIP operations may have logged his flight hours on any type of multi-engine aircraft.

Image Credit: Author

Here Are The Highlights Of Radom Air Show 2017 In Poland

Some Cool Photographs Of The Most Interesting Jets.

On Aug. 26 and 27, we attended the Radom International Air Show. Held biennially in Poland, the show has sparked a lot of controversy this year, due to the fact that the current MoD leadership in Warsaw has been changing its decisions concerning the organization of the event a couple of times. Nonetheless, ultimately, the Radom Air Show was organized, however the line-up was somewhat modest when compared to the previous editions. This may also have been caused by the fact that, on the very same dates, Slovakia organized the Slovak International Air Fest event at Sliac.

When it comes to the international dimension of the show, we could only witness a very modest set of dynamic displays. Among them, the one of the Romanian Air Force MiG-21 LanceR a type of fighter that is slowly approaching the end of its service in the military, and is being gradually replaced by second-hand F-16s.

The RoAF LanceR

The Ukrainian Su-27 Flanker aircraft seemed to be the star of the show, nonetheless the display routine presented by the pilot is “on the reserved side”, meaning that the maneuvers are being performed with a significant safety margin. Having attended MAKS a month before, the Flanker’s show was definitely not a highlight of the Radom event for us.

Austria sent its SAAB 105, Italy its M-346 Master which staged a good show, along with Typhoon for static. The Luftwaffe also sent its Eurofighter Typhoon for static display. Eurofighter GmbH is trying to pitch its fighter jet as a potential offer in the Harpia program, the goal of which would be to find a replacement of the MiG-29 and Su-22 jets used by the Polish Air Force.

The Leonardo M-346 during its aerial display.

The Polish Air Force showed off almost all of its assets in the dynamic display.

This included both of the Polish Aerobatic Teams – Orlik Team (flying the Orlik turboprop trainers) and White-Red Sparks (flying the TS-11 Iskra jets). MiG-29 demo also performed a dynamic display. The F-16 Tiger Demo Team’s displays were quite spectacular too; however on Sunday the jet  suffered from a systems failure, which forced Major “Zippity” Duda to interrupt the show.

The F-16 Tiger Demo Team releasing flares.

The Polish Su-22 role demo team staged an interesting, somewhat unique performance in Radom, as the Fitter is a rare sight to be seen in the international air show scene.

The Polish Air Force Su-22 Fitter role demo during their display.

One of the Fitters rolling inverted.

Finally, the Xtreme Sky Force Aerobatic Team, with Artur Kielak flying the XA-41/42 aircraft and Jacek Stolarek flying the MiG-29 (a unique, civil-military combo, the only team of this profile in Europe), performed an interesting display, portraying the differences between the two airframes.

The Xtreme Sky Force Aerobatic Team.

The United States sent two aircraft for the Radom show – the B-1B and the B-52. Both bombers performed solely two flypasts over the runway at the Radom Air Base. The runway itself is said to be too short to accommodate airframes this large.

The Buff takes part to the airshow with a low pass.

The civilian highlights of the show included a performance by the Latvian Baltic Bees Jet Team, very common on the European Air Show Scene, as well as participation of the Red Bull’s Austrian Flying Bulls – here the B-25 and the T-28 Trojan were, undoubtedly, the stars and highlights of the civilian portion of the Radom Show. Other aircraft presented included Bo-105 helicopters, aerobatic pilots flying Extras, civilian-owned TS-11 trainer and aerobatic teams, such as Cellfast, 3AT3 or the Żelazny Team.

This year’s edition of the Radom Air Show was very modest, however the rumor is that next year the Polish Air Force is to organize a 100. Anniversary Event. The location is still unknown, as the former leadership of the MoD pinpointed Poznan as a place where the potential show should be held – after all the Polish aviation was born there.

 

The Polish Fulcrum during its solo display.

Indonesia To Trade Coffee And Palm Oil For Su-35 Super Flanker Combat Aircraft

Indonesia to buy 11 Su-35 Flanker jets from Russia.

According to the information released by The Jakarta Post on Aug. 4., Indonesia is going to barter its resources, including coffee, to acquire the Russian Su-35 supermaneuverable fighter aircraft.

The whole deal is to be directed by an Indonesian state-owned company – PT Perusahaan Perdagangan, collaborating with Rostec. The Parties in question, as The Jakarta Post reports, have signed a memorandum of understanding, assuming that Indonesian agricultural commodities would be traded for the Russian fighter aircraft, specifically 11 examples of the Su-35 jets.

Jakarta, in exchange, is to provide Russia with, among other goods, coffee, palm oil, or tea, as the Indonesian Trade Minister, Enggartiasto “Enggar” Lukita, stated, during his official visit to Russia which ended on Aug. 5.

The aforesaid deal is a clear sign that Russia is trying to find a variety of workarounds in order to mitigate the effects sanctions have on its economy. Indeed, during our recent trip to Moscow for MAKS 2017, high prices could have been noticed in case of commodities, the trade exchange of which has been limited by the EU or the US, e.g. apples.

The Indonesian officials interpret the above situation as a major opportunity also to expand and deepen the collaboration with Russia beyond the trading area in fields like tourism, student exchange, energy or technology – according to the statement made for The Jakarta Post by the Indonesian Trade Minister.

The Sukhoi Su-35 is a Russian jet fighter considered to belong to the 4++ generation, with its supermaneuverability capabilities demonstrated during this year’s edition of the Moscow MAKS Aviasalon.

Image Credit: Jacek Siminski

From Russia With Love: Our MAKS 2017 Report From Zhukovsky

Last week we have attended the MAKS 2017 Aviasalon in Moscow, held at the Zhukovsky/Ramenskoe airfield. MAKS is probably the only event where you can see all the latest Russian hardware (including the PAK FA) being demoed in dynamic displays.

MAKS is not a typical air-show, it should rather be seen as a trade exhibition with the aerospace industry gathering in order to sign new agreements and sell their products. Nonetheless, flying demos seem to be a good way to work on this, as you may also see what the given aircraft does in the air.

However, the static display at the Moscow Salon is equally impressive. This year it featured virtually any piece of contemporary Russian hardware one could imagine, as well as some legacy aircraft, including some exotic airframes, such as the MiG 1.44.

There were no PAK FA jets presented within the static display, which is a pity, however the remaining aircraft also brought one to awe. Ranging from Mil’s helicopters, Il-76MD90-A airlifter, through almost all varieties of the MiG-29 family jets, Sukhois (Su-35, Su-34, Su-30SM included), Tupolev’s bombers (Tu-22M, Tu-160, Tu-95MS), Kamov’s helicopters, with Tu-144 supersonic jetliner or Atlant, the Myashischev’s oversize cargo carrier, to finish with.

The Zhukovsky airfield is, undoubtedly, during the MAKS Salon, a place to be for any “aviation Russophile.”

The air show schedule was, according to frequent visitors at MAKS, not so impressive. Still, for someone like this Author – a first timer – it was jaw-dropping enough.

The show began with a display of the Russian helicopters, flying first in formation, just to perform individual displays later on – watching a giant Mil Mi-26T2 in the air performing graceful dance in the air is a thing one could not witness anywhere else. Attack helicopters also performed unique maneuvers. Unfortunately, Kamov’s designs only did a flypast, with no dynamic displays involved.

The helicopters portion of the show was followed by a dynamic display of the Il-2 Sturmovik aircraft, the world’s second surviving and flying example (reportedly, one more aircraft of this type is also flying in the United States). Notably, the pilot did not make it easy for the warbird, pushing it quite hard throughout the demonstration.

SR-10 trainer with its wings swept forward also took the air.

The show also featured several displays by United Federation of Ultralight Aviation of Russia and civilian aerobatic teams like “The First Flight”.

Nonetheless, the MAKS show is attended mainly for the “heavy metal” portion of it. And the prelude to that part came in a form of a MiG-29M2 display, which, nonetheless was only a starter.

MiG-29 Fulcrum head-on.

Then, two Yak-130 (trainer and a combat variant) jets also performed an interesting duo-display, with plenty of flares involved.

A fully armed Yak-130 releases plenty of flares during its demo.

The Yak-130 Red “02” of the Gromov Flight Research Institute.

After that, the Sukhoi company’s pack of aircraft, including two T-50 PAK FAs, a Su-35 and a Su-34 took off into the air, showing off the maneuverability capabilities of the latest Russian jets. The display schedule varied across the days, and on the weekend we could have also witnessed a flight of four Su-35s performing a display.

The stealthy PAK FA was one of the hightlights of the show. The aircraft flew a sort of simulated aerial engagement with another PAK FA and also flew alongside the Su-35.

The T-50 PAK FA and the supermaneuverable Su-35S.

These two Su-35s were part of a larger formation of four Flankers performing their display during the weekend.

The Su-34 17 Red during take off.

The Su-34 turning and burning during the flying display.

The Fullback showcasing its wide array of weapons during its MAKS 2017 display.

To add a spice to the whole dish, two more aerobatic teams were using the Su-27 derivatives: a team of the Russian Navy, flying two Su-30SMs and performing a tactical display with air combat maneuvering involved, and the “Russkiye Vityazi” (the Russian Knights) team, flying six Su-30SMs in a ballet-like, breathtaking group display. Hearing 12 mighty Saturn engines is an experience which has to be lived-through and cannot be described vividly enough.

The Russian Knights were delivered the Su-30SMs in Fall 2016 and performed their first public display with the new supermaneuverable multirole aircraft at Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition earlier this year.

The Su-30SM a 4+ Generation twin-engine, two seat supermaneuverable multi-role aircraft equipped with improved avionics, the Bars-R radar and a wide-angle HUD (Head Up Display).

Also the Russia’s naval aviation operates a batch of advanced Su-30SM (Flanker-C) multirole fighter jets.

Last, but not least, the displays were complemented by a show by the Strizhi aerobatic team flying the MiG-29s.

Notably, the Russians show also featured loads of flares, with quantities very much exceeding what one can witness anywhere in Europe – this concerns the Strizhi and the Russkiye Vityazi displays.

A Russian Knights Su-30 releases flares during the team’s display.

Launching hundreds of flares simultaneously is beyond spectacular. Moreover, the weather conditions at MAKS, involving high level of humidity in the air, mean that some awesome “irisation” phenomena could be captured. This happens when the clouds of condensed vapor form on the airframe as the jet is seen against the sun: one can witness a rainbow being trailed behind the jet. The weather at MAKS was varied, from storms to 30 degrees centigrade heat, hence there were many chances to witness the aforesaid sights.

“Irisation” phenomenon clearly visible in this shot of the Russian Knights.

When it comes to foreign participation in the show, this year, due to the political tensions with Russia, it was somewhat limited, and only two foreign guests performed their displays in the air – the Al Fursan aerobatic team which is very much reminiscent of the program demonstrated by the Italian Frecce Tricolori group (it also involves the very same type of aircraft) and the Baltic Bees Jet Team, hailing from Latvia.

The UAE display team Al Fursan flying the MB.339 aircraft.

Overall, even though the MAKS show was said to be more modest than its former editions, undoubtedly it is an event worth attending. The sole fact that one can witness the Russian most advanced aircraft flown by the best pilots who know the aircraft’s capabilities by heart, is enough to go to Moscow.

Moreover, when attending MAKS, it would be a sin not to visit the Monino Museum of the Russian Air Force, which is just 2 hours train ride from the Kazansky train station in Moscow. The collection of aircraft gathered there, including the Sukhoi T-4 or some unique prototypes is, without any doubt, also worth seeing and appreciating.

The only Sukhoi T-4 on display at Monino Central Air Force Museum.

Many thanks go to Foto Poork who assisted us in obtaining the media accreditation and supported the visa procedure in Poland, and to Andrzej Rogucki who provided us with assistance in getting around Russia without getting hurt.

All Images: Jacek Siminski

B-52, B-1, Typhoon and V-22 Among The assets Supporting A Spectacular Beach Landing Operation During BALTOPS 2017

This Is What A Modern Beach Landing Operation In The Baltic Region Would Look Like.

BALTOPS 2017 is the largest military exercise organized in the Baltic region this year.

The operation was held by the STRIKFORNATO (SFN) command, with Poland acting as the host nation. More than 40 vessels have entered the ports of Stettin and Świnoujście on Jun. 1, with some of them being accessible to the visitors.

Three days later, the aforesaid units sailed out, where the sailors perfected their interoperational abilities. The whole operation ended up on Jun. 18, in Germany.

The BALTOPS has taken place regularly, in the Baltic Sea region, since 1972. Initially, the operation only involved the NATO forces; beginning in 1993, members of the former Warsaw Pact were also invited to participate, Poland being no exception in that regard.

Since 1993 BALTOPS has become a part of the Partnership for Peace program. Currently the operation has a multinational profile and places a particular emphasis on training in the areas of gunnery, replenishment at sea, anti-submarine warfare (ASW), radar tracking & interception, mine countermeasures, seamanship, search and rescue, maritime interdiction operations and scenarios dealing with potential real world crises and maritime security.

AAV-7 amphibious carriers and LCAC hovercraft supporting the Beach Landing Ops

A USMC vehicle during the landing operation.

This year, the operation involved forces from Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, Norway, Poland, Sweden, the UK and the United States (here we are also referring to the vessels of the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1).

The Polish Navy was involved in the BALTOPS operation for the 27th time this year. The main naval component of the Polish Navy detached to take part in the operation included five minesweepers (ORP Dąbie, ORP Mielno, ORP Wicko, ORP Mamry, ORP Wdzydze), Lublin-class minelayer-landing ships: ORP Gniezno and ORP Kraków; and a submarine, ORP Bielik.

A B-52 approaching the naval range.

The whole operation was staged in the Baltic Sea area, within the naval training ranges of the Polish Navy, as well as within the naval and land portion of the Central Air Force Training Range, also located in the coastal region of Ustka.

On Wednesday, Jun. 14 the beach in Ustka became an arena, within which one of the most important portions of the exercise took place – a landing operation carried out by the task force group involved in the event. The main forces landing on the Polish beach included the 1st Battalion of the 23rd US Marines regiment, utilizing AAV-7 amphibious carriers and LCAC hovercraft. The whole operation was supported by 8 vessels, including two Polish minelayer-landing ships hailing from the 8th Coastal Defense Flotilla.

One of the APCs involved in the BALTOPS beach landing event.

Nonetheless, the landing operation would not have been complete without involvement of the coalition’s air assets. The landing was preceded by a CAS (Close Air Support) simulation involving the USAF B-52 and B-1B bombers, two Polish F-16 jets, German Eurofighter Typhoons, as well as V-22 Osprey. Notably, due to the humid air over the Polish coast, clouds of condensation and vapor cones have been clearly visible on the surfaces of the participating aircraft.

A German Typhoon “sweeps” the beach landing area

A B-1B deployed to RAF Fairford during its attack run.

The B-1 overflies the beach landing area.

The red force simulation has been provided by a mechanized company of the Polish 7th Coastal Defense Brigade.

The whole operation was supervised by the commander of the 6th Fleet and STRIKFORNATO, Vice-Admiral Christopher Grady, along with Deputy Commander, Rear Admiral P. A. McAlpine. Poland was represented by the Deputy General Commander of the Armed Forces, Division General Jan Śliwka, and by Rear Admiral Jarosław Ziemiański – Deputy Inspector of the Navy, along with Brig. General Wojciech Grabowski.

A CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft was among the assets that supported BALTOPS 2017.

Image credit: Wojciech Mazurkiewicz

 

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