Author Archives: Jacek Siminski

Poland Launches “Harpia” Programme To Procure A New Multirole Combat Aircraft

Warsaw eyes new combat aircraft to replace the Su-22 and MiG-29 jets.

According to the announcement made by the Armament Inspectorate on Nov. 23, Poland has eventually initiated the procedure to acquire new fighter aircraft for the Polish Air Force.

The new assets would be replacing the fleet of Soviet-era Su-22 Fitters and MiG-29 Fulcrums, still part of the Polish Air Force’s inventory. The Armament Inspectorate of the Polish Ministry of Defence announced that it is willing to carry out a market analysis – this is one of the first stages of the analytical-conceptual phase of procurement with regards to operational requirements.

Two Polish Air Force MiG-29s. The Fulcrum is one of the type that Warsaw will replace within the “Harpia” programme.

The interesting fact is that the requirement has been defined for a “Multi-role Combat Aircraft”, within a programme that has been given the name “Harpia” (harpy eagle), along with “Airborne Electronic Jamming Capabilities.”

It is assumed, as the Polish Media Outlet “Dziennik Zbrojny” points out, that the analytical-conceptual phase with regards to procurement of the multi-role combat aircraft may last until December 2018, nonetheless, as procurement is complicated, steps may be made to extend the aforesaid term.

When it comes to the other operational requirement, concerning the Electronic Warfare, the Armament Inspectorate of the Polish MoD expects the potential bidders to present offers related to EW pods or modules that could be potentially integrated with the fighter aircraft.

Any entity interested in participation in the aforesaid market analysis may submit their requests until Dec. 18, 2017.

Even though the market analysis has been announced, the tight procurement schedule adopted by the Polish MoD leaves little space for extra spending – as currently Poland pursues costly programs such as Orka (new generation submarine) or Wisła (medium range air/missile defense program).

The insider talk suggests that F-16V could be the possible way to go for the Polish MoD. Meanwhile, Eurofighter GmbH also launched quite intense marketing campaign in Poland with regards to Harpia this year – e.g. by sending two Eurofighter aircraft to attend the Radom Air Show static display.

Considering the generational progress and capabilities made available by the type, the Polish could also consider the F-35 Lightning II even though this does not seem to be the path the Polish Air Force intends to take. Nonetheless the procurement is still in its infancy and it is too early to try to guess what the final decision will be.

A U.S. F-35A Lightning II from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, performs for a crowd of nearly 100,000 people at Le Bourget Airport, France, during the Paris Air Show, June 23, 2017. The Paris Air Show offers the U.S. a unique opportunity to showcase their leadership in aerospace technology to an international audience. By participating, the U.S. hopes to promote standardization and interoperability of equipment with their NATO allies and international partners. This year marks the 52nd Paris Air Show and the event features more than 100 aircraft from around the world. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

Image Credit: Wojciech Mazurkiewicz

We Have Visited Powidz Air Base, Poland, During Aviation Rotation 18-1 In Support Of Operation Atlantic Resolve

Starting from Oct. 13. Polish Powidz AB (33rd Airlift Base) has hosted US airlift aviation crews flying the C-130 Hercules aircraft.

Within the framework of Rotation 18-1, the second one held this year, almost 130 US airmen have taken part in the joint training with four USAF and two Polish Air Force C-130 airlifters. On Nov. 8, we visited Powdiz during the rotation’s media day to get some insights into the American Deployment.

During the Detachment, two missions a day were flown – one at night and one during the day, lasting on average 3 hours. The sorties were preceded by many hours of preparations and two-hour briefing, as explained by the 33rd Airlift Base’s spokeswoman, Cpt. Martyna Fedro Samojedny.

The flying took place in any weather conditions that would make it possible to complete the mission, all over the territory of Poland.

C130J from the 934th Airlift Wing at Powdiz, Poland.

The training involved 2 C-130H airframes of the 96th Airlift Squadron 934th Airlift wing, hailing from Minneapolis, two C-130J airframes of the 37th Airlift Squadron of the 86th Airlift Wing hailing from Ramstein and two C-130E aircraft stationed locally, at the 33rd Airlift Base of the Polish Air Force. Furthermore, the training also involved more Polish units, including the 1st Airlift Wing, 2nd Tactical Aviation Wing and the 6th Airborne Brigade.

One of the Polish Air Force C-130s taking part in the joint drills with the U.S. “Herkys”.

The missions included formation flying, cargo and paratrooper drops, grass strip operations, fighter engagements, NVGs and low-level training.

Tactical airdrop over Powdiz.

Tactical airdrop over Powdiz.

Polish Air Force C-130E about to land at Powdiz.

The whole deployment allowed the Poles to gather new, invaluable experiences, as the Polish staff also had an opportunity to polish its language skills. Moreover, the operation allowed the involved parties to unify and standardize the operational procedures, through joint planning of the missions.

The U.S. and Polish teams together for a group photo during the Media Day.

Images: Jacek Siminski and Witosław Stachowiak

Poland Deploys Its F-16 Jets For Blue Flag 2017, Israel’s Largest Ever Exercise

Blue Flag is the largest ever aerial exercise in Israel.

Gathering more than 100 aircraft from 8 countries, Exercise Blue Flag 2017, underway at Ovda, in Israel, is the biggest exercise ever organized by the Israeli Air Force. Combat planes from the United States, Greece, Poland, France, Germany, India, Italy and Israel are taking part in the drills.

The main focus of the exercise has been placed on reconnaissance, air-strikes and SEAD operations.

As the Polska Zbrojna outlet reports, Poland has sent six F-16 jets and 120 soldiers to participate in the operation. Starting from Nov. 2. the Polish pilots were involved in briefings, with the first missions scheduled for the subsequent weekend.

The exercise involves large multinational flight-groups with a variety of aircraft types in a classic COMAO scenario. The Polish pilots are stating that the experiences gathered during the operation would be invaluable, with the flights taking place over the whole territory of Israel, over the deserts, the sea, at night and during the day.

One of the issues that the pilots need to get ready for is the fact that the air over the operational theater in Israel would by much more dusty, with a possible impact on operation of the sensors, as one of the Polish pilots, Col. Przemysław Struj, said within his statement for Polska Zbrojna.

Nonetheless the experience is not be entirely new for the Polish crews as the Polish F-16 aircraft have already taken part in a Blue Flag exercise in the past and have supported Operation Inherent Resolve, the US-led air war on ISIS, from Kuwait. However, for some of the pilots the Blue Flag operation will be a first-time flying over the desert. The scenario also assumes usage of means of electronic warfare.

Image Credit: Filip Modrzejewski

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.