Poland is about to support the air policing mission over the Baltic States.
The Polish Air Force is to commit some of its F-16 jets to the NATO BAP (Baltic Air Policing) operation beginning in May.
This is going to be the first time long-term deployment to Lithuania for the Polish Vipers: so far, Poland has contributed to the mission with the venerable MiG-29 Fulcrum jets.
Pilots and soldiers of the 31st Airbase of Krzesiny (in the vicinity of Poznan) are going to be tasked with operating four F-16 airframes during the BAP mission. Furthermore, as Polska Zbrojna reports, the operation is going to have a very joint and expansive character, since the deployment is to include personnel of the Łask 32nd AB (which is the second base hosting the Polish Air Force’s Lockheed jets), navigators and air traffic controllers, weather specialists, Polish military Police, as well as intelligence and counterintelligence servicemen.
This is the first time that the Polish F-16 replaced the Soviet-era Fulcrums in the Baltic Air Policing task. A few years back, doubts were voiced, as to why the F-16 could not deployed in the Baltics, ranging from cost considerations, to FOD damage risk.
It seems that tape M6.5 update, recently implemented, was required to have the jets deployed.
It is interesting to notice a change in the Polish F-16’s engagement doctrine: along with operating in the “recce role” against ISIS in the Middle East, they will also support BAP from Lithuania.
The “Orlik” Deployment is going to be stationed at the BAP MOB (Main Operating Base) in Šiauliai. Intelligence and ATC officers and navigators are going to be stationed at the control and recce center of Karmelava.
The Polish rotation is going to last from May 1 to Aug. 31, with the Polish pilots of the Krzesiny AB carrying out the QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) and air policing duties. Deployment of the forces is going to begin in late April, and it is going to be preceded with “Orlik-17” exercise, planned in Poland.
This is the seventh Polish rotation in support of Baltic Air Policing operation, with the Poles now taking over the responsibilities from the Dutch RNlAF pilots flying the F-16 fighter aircraft, who have been on duty in Lithuania since Jan 5, 2017.
The first ever Polish deployment took place back in 2006. The mission has been carried out since 2004, when Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia asked NATO to provide air assets to protect their airspace.
An Atlas Air Boeing 747-400 on “a military passenger charter flight” for the U.S. Defense Department’s (DoD) landed for the first time at the Polish airport of Poznan.
An Atlas Air B747, operating for the Pentagon, was used to transport more than 300 US soldiers to Poznan, in western Poland, on Jan. 11, 2017.
The soldiers were then transported to Żagań, Świętoszów, Skwierzyna and Bolesławiec from Poznan by buses, while the jet later flew to Wrocław, transporting some of the troops to an alternate destination.
Noteworthy, this was the very first time that the iconic Boeing’s airliner landed at the Poznan Ławica Airport.
According to the soldiers speaking to the press, the weather in Poland now is similar to the one in Colorado, except for more humidity and milder winds.
Originally, the Jumbo Jet was to land in Poznan (flying from Colorado Springs) on midday, however, due to bad weather it arrived at the Polish airport (with a stopover in Frankfurt) around 4.50 AM at night.
The troop transport carried out by the Atlast Air, one of the largest carriers of air cargo for the U.S. military, is part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, whose aim is to provide support and reinforcement on the NATO Eastern Flank threatened by Russia since the Ukrainian crisis.
The U.S. units deployed to Poland include medics and CRBN specialists, as well as the communications experts.
The Aviationist had a chance to be at the Ławica airport in Poznan at the night of the Boeing’s arrival, which has been possible thanks to the Airport’s marketing team. Many thanks go to Witold Łożyński, who hosted us at the departures.
The visit to Siauliai airbase, in Lithuania, main operating base of NATO’s BAP (Baltic Air Patrol) mission was preceded by a presentation of the NATO E-3 AWACS component E-3A at the 1st Airlift Base of the Polish Air Force in Warsaw. A visit that marked the surveillance plane’s 1,000th operational flight at NATO’s eastern flank since the beginning of Ukraine crisis.
The Boeing surveillance aircraft, one of the 16 E-3A AWACS planes based at Geilenkirchen, in Germany, was welcome to Warsaw by F-16 and MiG-29 jet fighters from the 31 and 23 Airbases of the Polish Air Force.
Besides the Director of the Arms Policy Department, Col. Karol Dymanowski, the E-3 visit to Poland was the opportunity to celebrate the 1,000 sorties of the NATO’s primary Airborne Early Warning & Control platform in eastern Europe with a meeting attended by Deputy Commander of the Polish Armed Forces, Div. Gen. Jan Śliwka, commander of the Geilenkirchen NATO E-3A Component Brig. Gen. Karsten Stoye, along with the crew of the AWACS aircraft.
Interestingly, 5 members of the multinational aircrew were Polish.
E-3A Sentry aircraft have been operating inside the Polish airspace since the 2000. Once Poland joined the NAPMO (NATO Early Warning and Control Program Management Organization) program, along with 15 other countries, Warsaw acquired a right to use the fleet of the 17 AWACS platforms that remain at the NATO’s disposal. Besides Geilenkirchen, the jets are also authorized to use the Polish airbases, such as the Powidz 33rd Airlift Base which is visited by them quite frequently.
AWACS airframes were involved in operations over Poland for the first time during the Fruit Fly/Eagle Talon exercise back in 2006, which was the first exercise with the participation of Sentry, following the acquisition of the F-16 Block 52+ jets, ten years ago On the other hand, the Geilenkirchen-based aircraft also provide support in organization of mass events, such as the Euro Football Cup organized back in 2012, or the visit of Pope Benedict XVI.
This year, E-3A component participated in and supported the ANAKONDA-16 exercise, NATO Summit in Warsaw and the World Youth Day, as well as the Baltic Air Policing operation. According to the release issued by the Polish MoD, the Geilenkirchen component has also been closely cooperating with the Polish fighter pilots of the 1st and 2nd Tactical Aviation Wings, since 2015.
The operations undertaken by the airborne radar are also tied to a number of NATO initiatives, including the aforementioned BAP mission as well as the rotational presence of the NATO forces in the region, within the framework of the Operation Atlantic Resolve.
The E-3A airborne radar is available to the member states during the crisis, as well as during the exercises concerning the IADS (Integrated Air Defense System) or other significant allied training initiatives.
On Jul. 2, eight F-15C Eagles belonging to the 131st Fighter Squadron, Barnes Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts, and the 194th Fighter Squadron, Fresno Air National Guard Base, California, depolyed to the 71st airbase Campia Turzii, Romania, to take part in exercise Dacian Eagle 2016.
The arrival of these F-15s occurred on the same day the Romanian Air Force MiG-21s returned home after a few months deployment at the 95th Airbase in Bacau, while the runway at Campia Turzii was being repaired.
Both aircraft types will take part in Dacian Eagle between July and September.
According to the Romanian Air Force, along with 200 American personnel from the California and Massachusetts ANG, more than 200 romanian pilots and technical personnel from the 71st Airbase are taking part with MiG 21 LancerRs and IAR 330 Puma helicopters (SOCAT and MEDEVAC) in the traditional drills at the 71st airbase with the purpose of increasing the level of preparation and interoperability between the participants.
“The excercise is an opportunity to practice the techniques, tactics and standard procedures common in air operations, according to NATO standards by performing flights in cooperations with the American partners” and to deter further Russian aggression….
The LanceRs are modernized MiG-21s that were given new avionics for all-weather operations, more modern avionics and the ability to employ PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions).
Although they have a limited endurance (30-45 minutes “play time”), the LanceRs are fast and maneuverable and quite good to perform the adversary role against more modern fighters.
They will start being replaced by F-16 MLUs starting this autumn.
Interestingly, as noted by Interfax, the aircraft deployed more or less as an RC-135W from RAF Mildenhall carried out a routine (intelligence gathering) mission over the Baltic Sea using radio callsign “Abilo 71”.