Author Archives: 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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The Polish Air Force Takes Delivery Of Its First Gulfstream G550 VIP Aircraft

The Polish Air Force has received its new G550, the first post-Soviet VIP aircraft.

The first of the new Polish Air Force’s G550 VIP jets (with the second one expected to be received in mid July, and with the first operational flights to take place in the autumn) has landed at the Warsaw Chopin International Airport on Jun. 21.

The delivery of the aircraft is a tangible effect of the effort made by the Polish government to replace the aging VIP transport fleet, until now consisting of Tu-154M and Yak-40 post-soviet jets.

The introduction of the G550 paves the way for this airframe being also considered in other applications in the Polish Air Force, such as MPA (Maritime Patrol Aircraft) or ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) platforms. The Polish MoD is currently pursuing Płomykówka (ISR) and Rybitwa (MPA/ASW aircraft) programmes, and G550 may seem to be a viable candidate in both cases.

The first Polish Air Force G550 is greeted after landing at the Warsaw Chopin International Airport on Jun. 21.

Alongside the procurement of G550s, the Polish MoD also eyes the procurement of three Boeing 737 aircraft, which would act as the medium-sized platform.

Notably, the 737 has been selected without any tendering procedure, which has created major legal controversies in Poland and in the EU.

The MoD’s justification is that time had a critical relevance since the PLN 540 million, reserved in the FY2016 budget for that purpose, were only available until the end of March this year. This was the main argument supporting the single source procurement procedure: as the Polish MoD officials claimed, if the 737 aircraft were not contracted early this year, the potential acquisition would be delayed for several years. The opposition was not happy, as the MoD spent PLN 2 billion, without any tender, in 19 days, favoring a single manufacturer.

Coming back to the post-soviet VIP aircraft, the initiative to have the aforesaid aircraft replaced is someone an effect of the Smolensk incident in which a Polish Tupolev Tu-154M has crashed, killing the Polish President and numerous government officials. Following the tragedy, the 36th Special Airlift Regiment was disbanded and transformed into the 1st Airlift Base unit. Moreover, most official flights were served by two leased Embraer E-175 operated by the LOT Polish Airlines.

According to the official statements made by the Minister of National Defence Antoni Macierewicz during the reception ceremony, G550’s purpose would be to “provide safety for the people elected by the nation.”

The received aircraft has been named after the Polish Prince, Józef Poniatowski. During his speech Macierewicz additionally referred to the aircraft as if it was a sign of an ideological transition, from post-soviet, into western, modern chapter of the Polish history.

The head of the MoD is also known for making statements that may seem to be ridiculous. This time, it was no different, as Macierewicz publicly admitted that the Tu-154M aircraft that crashed in Smolensk could have been rigged and monitored by the Russians remotely, which seems to be a far-fetched claim.

Even though the official investigation of the Smolensk crash has ended a long time ago, pointing to erroneous training and recklessness as the reasons for the tragedy, the current Polish government claims that the crash was purposely caused by Putin, and it was a sort of attack/special forces operation to kill the Polish President.

The first G550 taxies at Warsaw Chopin International Airport.

Image credit: Wojciech Mazurkiewicz

Here Are Some Details And Photographs About The Polish F-16s Involved In The Air War Against The Islamic State

Polish Air Force F-16 Jets Log More than 1,500 Hours in Support Of Operation Inherent Resolve Against Daesh.

Little is known about the missions carried out by the Polish Air Force F-16 Block 52+ combat aircraft deployed to the Middle East in support of the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

According to the report issued by the Polish Altair.com.pl media outlet, the four Polish F-16s, that are restricted to the reconnaissance role using the DB110 recce pod, have logged more than 1,500 hours of flight time.

The F-16 operations in Kuwait, carried out by the Polish Air Force within the framework of Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), are supported by 150 military.

Interestingly, according to the Polish officers deployed in theater, quoted by Altair, while conducting their sorties, the Polish F-16 pilot also got a chance to encounter some non-coalition aircraft: this, undoubtedly, contributes to the amount of combat experience gained during the Kuwaiti deployment, even though, at least officially, the Polish fighter aircraft do not carry ordnance other than the air-to-air weaponry required for self-defense purposes. Indeed, at least according to the few photos recently released by the U.S. Air Force, the Polish F-16s carry 2x AIM-120 AMRAAM and 2x AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, two drop tanks along with the DB110 recce pod and the Sniper XR targeting pod.

A Polish air force maintainer looks on as an F-16 Fighting Falcon prepares to taxi for a mission at the 407th Air Expeditionary Group, April 24, 2017. The Polish Airmen are part of the 60-nation coalition force supporting Operation Inherent Resolve in the fight against ISIS. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Benjamin Wilson)(Released)

Notably, throughout the recent period we have observed a major spike in activities undertaken by the Polish Air Force, with the F-16 platform. Not only were the Łask Air Base pilots deployed to Kuwait in a reconnaissance role, but beginning on May this year, a detachment of Polish F-16 jets from the Poznan-Krzesiny Air Base deployed to the Baltic to take over the NATO’s Baltic Air Policing duties so far usually assigned to the Polish MiG-29 aircraft from either the Malbork, or the Minsk Mazowiecki Airbase.

A Polish air force pilot performs preflight checks in an F-16 Fighting Falcon before taxiing for a mission at the 407th Air Expeditionary Group, April 24, 2017. The Polish Airmen are part of the 60-nation coalition force supporting Operation Inherent Resolve in the fight against ISIS. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Benjamin Wilson)(Released)

This may be due to different reasons.: maybe the Polish Air Force looks to transition most of the combat duties to its modern assets, or this is a mere political gesture, showcasing the involvement of the most modern Polish aircraft abroad, in order to flex some muscles.

Last but not least, it is worth mentioning that the Polish, domestically based, F-16s are currently stationed at the Krzesiny AB, while Łask Air Base undergoes runway maintenance works, with the strip being extended to accommodate a C-5 Galaxy aircraft: according to the rumors, Łask is going to become a major NATO hub on the Eastern Flank.

A Polish air force maintainer looks on as an F-16 Fighting Falcon prepares to taxi for a mission at the 407th Air Expeditionary Group, April 24, 2017. The Polish Airmen are part of the 60-nation coalition force supporting Operation Inherent Resolve in the fight against ISIS. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Benjamin Wilson)(Released)(U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Benjamin Wilson)(Released)

 

Poland To Reinitiate Procurement Of Combat SAR Helicopters

A new procurement procedure would see a competition between S-70i, H225M and AW101.

According to the information circulated around the Polish defense media outlets, the Armament Inspectorate of the Polish MoD (which is the Polish defense procurement agency) eyes acquisition of CSAR helicopters for the Special Operations component. The 7th Special Operations Squadron based at the Powidz 33rd Airlift Base of the Polish Air Force is the most probable user of the future rotary-wing aircraft. The plan is to procure 8 helicopters.

The recently opened procurement procedure involves all of the contractors that have submitted the offers, according to the Inspectorate – none of the offers was rejected.

Interestingly, the current procedure involves the very same contractors of the previous, cancelled tender: Airbus Helicopters that partnered with Heli Invest Sp. z o.o. company; Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation and PZL Mielec Sp. z o.o.; and “PZL-Świdnik” S.A. company, which is a part of the Italian Leonardo Group.

Due to the Polish national security interest, the negotiation is legally required to be carried out in strict secrecy and, until the moment the process ends, no information can be released.

Unofficial information, on the other hand, suggests that the new procurement procedure would see a competition between almost the same types of helicopters pitched in the former tender: Sikorsky is offering the Black Hawk, Airbus is offering the H.225M Caracal whereas PZL-Swidnik company, instead of proposing the lighter AW149 platform, is now rumored to try to pitch the AW101 helicopter which close in its specs to the Italian Air Force HH-101A Caesar.

HH-101A Caesar during a recent demo that took place at the Bemowo/Babice airfield in Warsaw

A source having an in-depth insight in the aforesaid procurement program who wishes to remain anonymous has told us that the technical requirements and spec-sheet remain almost identical to the ones defined for the former tender. The S-70i Black Hawk, according to our informant, would remain non-compliant with the requirements drafted by the Polish MoD for the CSAR platform. Any other Black Hawk derivative that could be pushed for the Polish Special Ops component (e.g. Pave Hawk) would require a consent to be issued by the Congress and such helicopter should be procured through the FMS (Foreign Military Sales) process.

The Eurocopter EC-725 Cougar now called H225M.

Dealing with thePolish Navy‘s W-3 Anakonda and Mi-14 Haze helicopters replacement, the MoD still is inclined to press on and define requirements for a “joint, omni-capable” platform which would be suited to carrying out both ASW as well as SAR operations.

The maritime platform would be acquired within a separate procedure, as the facts and scarcity of information suggest.

The Sikorsky S-70i

Image Credit: Foto Poork/Wikimedia

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Ramstein Alloy 4 Served To Exercise Baltic Air Policing Alert Aircraft Procedures

Check Out These Awesome Air-to-Air Shots Taken During Ramstein Alloy 4 Exercise.

The fourth edition of the NATO air drills series Ramstein Alloy took place in Baltic airspace, mainly over Lithuania, on Apr. 25 and 26.

Combat planes supporting the Baltic Air Policing mission and belonging to the Royal Netherlands Air Force, German Air Force, Polish Air Force and Royal Norwegian Air Force took part in the exercise alongside transport aircraft from Lithuania, a U.S. tanker and NATO AWACS aircraft undertaking several different missions to exercise BAP alert procedures as well as to enhance relations and interoperability amongst allied Air Forces.

The BAP mission serves to protect the Baltic states airspace. The activity of the Russian Air Force in the area remains one of the main reasons for which the mission has been established, however the NATO assets in the region are also scrambled to intercept civilian aircraft that do not use proper flight plans, transponder codes or which have lost communication with the ATC. And most of the aforesaid procedures were trained during the Ramstein Alloy 4 training event.

A Dutch F-16 escorts the C-27J Spartan.

According to NATO, “participants practiced air intercepts, air to air refueling, search and rescue operations as well as practice diversions, the approaches to different Baltic airfields. Furthermore, involved aircraft also trained intercept procedures for COMLOSS situations, a scenario in which a civilian aircraft loses contact with ground controls and requires midair identification by Air Policing alert jets.”

The RNlAF F-16s involved in the Ramstein Alloy 4 mission that included the escort to the C-27J

Foto Poork’s Filip Modrzejewski took part in the exercise and provided us some stunning air-to-air images taken during Ramstein Alloy.

The photo-shoot took place at the altitudes between 22 and 24,000 feet, with the C-27 Spartan playing the role of a photoship. Due to the scarcity of oxygen available in the air, all of the photos were taken through the Spartan’s windows which, nonetheless remain photographer-friendly, as the images prove.

Dutch F-16s and one of two Typhoons closing on the camera ship’s left wing.

Moreover, taking photos as high also has its advantages, being less dependent on the weather. The shoot involved three formations: 2x F-16s, 2x F-16s + 2x Eurofighters, and, finally, a pair of Eurofighters. The aircraft also performed some breaks, to make the photos even more interesting.

The operation is a sequel to the Baltic Region Training Event (BRTE) series, 20 editions of which preceded the Ramstein Alloy exercise.

The two armed Typhoons break the formation.

Image Credit: Filip Modrzejewski