Tag Archives: Poland

U.S. F-22 Raptors Deploy to Poland To Take Part in the Armed Forces Day Parade Over Warsaw

U.S. Air Force F-22 deployed to Poland.

Five jets USAF F-22s have arrived at Powidz Airbase, Poland, this week.

On Aug. 15, along with a C-130J that acted as a camera-ship, four stealth aircraft celebrated the 100th Anniversary of Polish Independence and Armed Forces Day by participating in a multi-aircraft flyover in Warsaw (most probably, the fifth F-22 was a spare aircraft). The jets made a forward hop to Powidz from Spangdahlem, where they have been deployed recently to participate in a number of exercises in the region.

The USAF F-22s are deployed to Europe for theater familiarization and to conduct interoperability training with NATO aircraft. (All images: Jacek Siminski).

According to unofficial information Raptors would also be engaged in some training sorties and possibly engagements, with the Polish F-16 jets.

The rumor suggesting that the American fighters would be involved in the Polish Air Force’s centenary in Radom next week has been denied by one of the officials involved in organization of the show we’ve been speaking to; however the Poles are still hoping that USAF Europe will make a contribution, in a form of 5th Gen. jets, at the event in Radom.

Close up view of one of the Raptors deployed to Poland.

We’re attending the Radom Air Show next week and we’re going to provide you with a relevant report. We also had our photo contributors at the Warsaw event, so we’re hoping to provide you with a report on the Polish Armed Forces Day too.

Almost Unnoticed, U.S. Air Force Begins MQ-9 Reaper Drone Operations out of Poland

USAF deploys its MQ-9 Reaper Drones to Poland.

USAF issued a short release, suggesting that the service has deployed MQ-9 Reaper UAV systems to Poland. The drones would be stationed at the Mirosławiec Air Base, which is the Poland’s airbase dedicated to host the unmanned platforms. The release issued by the Americans reads as follows:

The United States and Poland have a standing relationship to address issues of regional and global security. To advance those interests, U.S. Air Forces in Europe, the air component of U.S. European Command, is operating MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft at Miroslawiec Air Base as a visible expression of U.S. efforts to enhance regional stability. This mission, starting in May 2018, has been fully coordinated with the Polish government. It is designed to promote stability and security within the region and to strengthen relationships with NATO allies and other European partners.

The release, as we can see, is laconic and went by virtually unnoticed. It was issued on May 21 and does not specifiy how long the deployment is going to last. The Mirosławiec Airbase only operates smaller UAV platforms, hence Reapers would be a major addition to its capabilities.

The news issued by USAFE sparked some doubts and questions among the experts and defense media practitioners in Poland. Since the Polish MoD cancelled some of its drone procurement plans some time ago, shifting the priorities, the USAFE assets may act as a complementary measure filling in the capability gap – this is an opinion that has widely circulated in the Polish defense media public sphere. The experts suggest that no further procurement in the area of ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) would be pursued by the Polish MoD, making use of the US assets to complement the capabilities at hand even though, for what deals with JASSMs (Joint Air-to-Surface Strategic Missiles) that have been acquired by the Polish Air Force, there is concern about a capability gap when it comes to actually designating targets for this strategic weapon.

Dawid Kamizela who works an analyst for the Polish Dziennik Zbrojny outlet expressed his concern that the UAVs in Poland may not even boost the Polish ISR capabilities. In a conversation, he told us the following:

According to what we have seen when it comes to operational practice pertaining to the MQ-9, the detachment in Poland, most probably, solely deals with maintenance of the assets and take offs and landings. The core of the operational activities would be controlled from CONUS, and the intelligence gathered when the UAV is flying in the Polish airspace is also being sent to CONUS directly – it is not being collected in Poland, it does not even ‘touch’ any part of the Polish infrastructure. As worrying as it is, the above would mean that even if Poland receives any intelligence, it would not come in a form of raw data, but rather as an interpreted report. Taking the local awareness into account, along with the knowledge of local conditions and geopolitical factors, the US interpretation may differ from the conclusions that could potentially be formed by the Polish analysts in Warsaw. This sparks numerous doubts, when it comes to the actual boost of the Polish ISR capability.

The Polish military has no MALE UAVs at its disposal now, procurement is being planned as a part of the Zefir programme that has not, fortunately, been a subject to cuts. MQ-9 and Israeli Hermes 900 platforms are viable candidates here. The Israeli drones, as the Defence24 outlet notes, have already made their operational debut in the Polish airspace, during the NATO Summit hosted in Warsaw and the World Youth Day. Two Zefir packages, as Defence24 recalled, are to be acquired until 2022, with procurement of another two envisaged as an option after the aforesaid deadline.

An-124 cargo aircraft were used to transfer the MQ-9s in Poland.

According to the unofficial information we have obtained, the Reapers arrived in Poland on May 9 and they were transported via the NATO SALIS solution by two An-124 airlifters that landed at the Poznan airport.

Image Credit: USAF, An-124 Image Credit: Jacek Siminski

Five Companies Interested In Poland’s Next Generation Fighter Program “Harpia”

Contenders could be F-35, Eurofighter Typhoon, Gripen, Advanced Super Hornet and second-hand F-16 jets.

According to a news piece published by Dziennik Zbrojny today, five entities have expressed their will to participate in the market analysis initiative concerning the potential procurement of new fighter aircraft, referred to as “Harpia” (harpy eagle).

The operational requirement for this program is defined as “Enhancing the capability to carry out missions within the framework of offensive and defensive combat against the enemy air power, as well as missions carried out for the purpose of supporting land, naval and special operations – “Multi-Role Combat Aircraft” and “Airborne Electronic Jamming Capabilities.”

The companies that expressed their interest in the Multi-Role Combat Aircraft portion of the initiative include: Saab AB, Lockheed Martin, Boeing Company, Leonardo S.p.A. and Fights-On Logistics. Meanwhile, the Airborne Electronic Jamming segment of the procurement would see involvement in case of three potential contractors: Saab AB, Elbit Systems EW and SIGINT – Elisra Ltd., and Griffin working together with Elta Systems Ltd, as Tomasz Dmitruk of Dziennik Zbrojny reports.

When it comes to multi-role combat aircraft, the only true versatile platform operated by the Polish Air Force is the F-16: 48 jets of this type have been used by Poland for more than a decade now; MiG-29 Fulcrums are used primarily in an air-to-air role, while Su-22 Fitters are tasked with air-to-ground missions. Dziennik Zbrojny suggests that the new aircraft sought by the Armament Inspectorate of the Polish MoD (Polish armament procurement organ), would replace the legacy Soviet designs heading towards the ends of their life-cycle, with replacement of the Su-22 being more critical.

It seems that the participants would offer the following designs to the Polish Air Force: F-35 (Lockheed Martin), Advanced Super Hornet (Boeing), Eurofighter (with Leonardo leading the consortium bid), Gripen (Saab AB), and second-hand F-16s.

However, putting the matter into a wider perspective, we cannot think of procurement of new fighter aircraft to be certain in Poland. The Polish military still needs to enhance its air/missile defense systems, within the scope of Wisła, Narew and Noteć programs, for instance. Wisła program has a price tag of whooping 10.5 Billion USD, defined as the maximum procurement value by the US DSCA agency which deals with the FMS (Foreign Military Sales) procedure management.

Furthermore, the Polish MoD is also looking forward to acquiring Orka next generation submarines, Homar rocket artillery systems, attack and multi-role helicopters – even though no procurement has been launched with regard to these requirements, this does not mean that the need disappears.

If one adds Płomykówka (SIGINT) and Rybitwa (Maritime Patrol Aircraft) procurements to the list, it seems that the priority shall not go first to the multi-role combat aircraft. And the above programs are just the tip of the iceberg – as land forces and newly-established Territorial Defense service of the Polish military also have significant equipment-related requirements.

Taking all of the above factors into account, it remains probable that Harpia would be significantly delayed, and we will not be seeing new fighter assets in the Polish Air Force anytime soon. If acquisition of new multi-role combat aircraft is accelerated, then this should be done with the use of funding provided outside the Polish defense budget (as happened in case of the F-16s a decade ago), or priorities ascribed to the ongoing procurement initiatives shall be redefined and evaluated once again. For instance, Warsaw would have to resign from acquiring helicopters or submarines, to have funds that would be sufficient to procure the new jets.

Image Credit: Filip Modrzejewski / Foto Poork

AW101 Merlin Helicopter: a Prospective SAR Platform for the Polish Navy?

The Leonardo (AgustaWestland) HH-101 Caesar has been demonstrated in Warsaw. Leonardo Helicopters company starts a marketing campaign in Poland

Leonardo is trying hard to pitch the AW101 Merlin helicopter as a perfect offer for the Polish Navy following the cancellation of the former multi-role helicopter tendering procedure (during which Airbus Helicopters Caracal was indicated as the winning bid).

This is what the demo that took place at the Bemowo/Babice airfield in Warsaw last week seems to suggest.

Considered that the tender was canceled and that the Polish MoD would be inclined to acquire several types instead of a single platform, the presentation of the HH-101A Caesar (a variant of the baseline AW101 advanced medium lift helicopter used by the Italian Air Force for Personnel Recovery, Special Forces Operations support, SAR, MEDEVAC and Slow Mover Intercept) is a clear symptom that the PR campaign concerning the procurement SAR plaftorm for the Polish Navy has just started.

Enjoying strong support by the current government, which is rejecting anything that was done by the predecessors including the selection of Caracal during the previous tender, PZL Świdnik (the biggest helicopter manufacturer in Poland and part of Leonardo-Finmeccanica’s Helicopter Division since 2015) is quite confident that the AW101 has no competition on the market when it comes to the maritime operational regime.

However, some of the statements made by President Krzysztof Krystowski about the Leonardo helicopter are at least inaccurate, as duly noted by Interia.pl’s Sławomir Zagórski.  For instance, Krystowski said that the Italian helicopter is 20 to 30 years younger than its competitors, even though the AW101, on which the more modern Caesar is based, made its maiden flight on Oct. 9, 1987, about 10 years before the Sikorsky’s S-92, which is considered a competitor of the Merlin in the global market (although S-92 is not offered in the Polish tender as of now, only the SH-60, designed at the end of the 1970s, is being offered according to the reports).

Nonetheless, it cannot be negated that the AW101 is a great, capable and specialized maritime helicopter.

The aircraft is very safe, since it utilizes 3 engines, contrary to its counterparts proposed by other manufacturers, which are equipped with 2 engines. Two engines are running during a normal flight, while the third acts as a reserve.

Moreover, its size allows the AW101 to carry up to 30 persons onboard, making it a perfect platform for SAR operations (and not only…). For this reason, the Merlin is operated by several air arms around the world, including the Italian Navy, the Royal Navy, Royal Danish Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Portuguese Air Force and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. Noteworthy, a Merlin variant, designated VH-71 Kestrel, was developed and manufactured in the US by a consortium headed by Lockheed Martin to serve in the US presidential transport fleet but the program was cancelled.

Therefore, it’s safe to say that the AW101 and its variants, with proven experience over the North Sea, in the Arctic or over the Atlantic certainly has features that make it a perfect solution, in the specific field of applications – maritime SAR ops in adverse weather conditions.

On the other hand, the W-3 Anakonda helicopters operated by the Polish Naval Aviation Brigade  are capable of picking up only 2 casualties at sea and are very sensitive to adverse weather, whereas the Mi-14 Hazes, also used by the Polish Navy, are expected to be withdrawn from service soon, for safety/maintenance reasons.

But pilot shortage could be an ever greater issue for the Polish Navy than the helicopters’ obsolescence.

Back in January, three Mi-14 pilots, including two commanders who had credentials required to fly the helicopter in adverse weather, retired. Along with them, two rescuers, engineer and some other members of specialized personnel – 23 soldiers in total – have left the unit, facing a prospect of cuts in the area of retirement benefits, expected to be introduced by the government. Only one and a half of the Mi-14 crew still serves in the Polish Naval Aviation Brigade, as Zagórski was told by the Navy officials. One should also remember that Mi-14PŁ/R helicopters are also coming near the end of their operational lifetimes, with one expected to be withdrawn by the end of this year, and the other having its service life expectancy one year longer. As we were writing last year, the Mi-14 cannot be replaced with the W-3 Anakonda helicopter, due to weather limitations imposed on the latter.

Anyway, the possible procurement of the Leonardo helicopter praised by the service and supported by the government has also been criticised by some analysts.

There is someone who questioned whether Poland would require such a helicopter, considered the current platforms being flown and the fact that the new chopper may turn out to be barely affordable for Warsaw.

The size also has raised some concern, since 14,600 kilograms of maximum take-off weight make would make the AW101 unable to operate from landing pads of the ships of the Polish Navy. This would also limit the ASW (Anti Submarine Warfare) capabilities of the new asset: for this reason the MTOW (Maximum Take Off Weight) requirement within the former tender was limited down to 10.5 tonnes. What is more, the high MTOW of the AW101 does not translate into higher payload carrying capacity, which is comparable with the helicopters of the 10 tonnes-class. This is caused by additional load imposed by the third engine and a larger main gearbox.

Furthermore, there is the issue of cooperation between the Polish MoD and the Leonardo-owned PZL Świdnik facility. The sailors of the Naval Aviation Brigade doubt whether the facility could cope with delivering the AW101, seeing it struggle with maintaining the W-3WA Anakonda rescue helicopters. The first of the aircraft which underwent maintenance and overhaul works at Świdnik has been returned with one year of delay. This contributes to a prospect of a crisis in the Polish SAR units – as Mi-14s are being withdrawn, and W-3s are still in Świdnik, the equipment available would be simply insufficient to maintain proper capabilities along the coast, as we reported last year.

Anyway, since the procurement is defined by the Polish MoD as being of principal importance for the national security, it has been made confidential. Hence the bidding information remains unavailable publicly. This issue has been criticized by General Waldemar Skrzypczak one of the generals who were dismissed from the Army back in December – Polish General Command has suffered from a “purge”, with most of the top officers resigning from service, following the dismissal of General Miroslaw Rózański, General Commander of the Armed Forces.

The claims suggest that confidentiality would make it easier for the government to hide the per unit cost of both the AW101 and any other contender making it impossible to compare the chosen SAR helicopter with those selected in former tender, where 50 Caracals were to be acquired for a gross amount of PLN 13.3 billion, along with proper offset arrangements (training, maintenance and logistical capabilities established in Poland).

Leonardo said that the helicopters could be delivered in two years from the signing the potential procurement agreement.

Update: reportedly the Italian HH-101A Caesar helicopter presented in Warsaw was forced to perform an emergency landing at Dubnica airport in Slovakia on its way back to Italy, after two out engines lost power/suffered an unspecified failure. The aircraft landed safely on the third engine and the crew is waiting in Slovakia for the spares to be delivered. A photo of the aircraft on the ground was published on the Airplane-Pictures network.

Images: Foto Poork’s Wojciech Mazurkiewicz and Filip Modrzejewski

Salva

Salva

Polish F-16s have received the first AGM-158 JASSM low observable standoff air-launched cruise missiles

Polish Air Force Receives the First Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles.

Based on the photographs taken by Cpt. Krzysztof Nanuś of the 31st Airbase in Krzesny, and subsequent publication of the aforesaid imagery by Bartosz Kownacki, Polish Deputy Minister of Defense, Poland has already received the first AGM-158 JASSM missiles.

Just recently, in December, a contract concerning the acquisition of the extended range AGM-158B variant has been signed.

As Dziennik Zbrojny notes, the blue stripes visible on the missiles depicted by the photographs suggest that the ordnance presented is inert. More importantly, the release probably refers to deliveries related to the contract signed by the former government, back in 2014.

There was no mention of the modernization of the F-16 jets in the release though. The MLU program in question assumes that the Polish F-16 software suite would be upgraded from the 4.3 up to the M6.5 variant. The upgrade integrates new armament, Link 16 net-centric suite, IFF system and updates and modifies the AIDEWS defensive suite.

Moreover, the new software also implements simulation capabilities and, finally, allows the jets to use the modified SniperXR targeting pods, as Mariusz Cielma of Polish media outlet Dziennik Zbrojny reports.

AGM-158A missiles are expected to achieve initial operational readiness, within the Polish Air Force, in March this year.

Poland currently operates 48 Vipers in the Block 52+ variant. The JASSMs will significantly increase the their strike capabilities:  the large, stealthy long-range weapon is able to destroy targets at distances of 370 km (ca. 220 miles). This allows the Viper to destroy the target outside of the SAMs (Surface to Air Missiles) envelope, which is a major step in comparison to the current Polish A2G armament which has a maximum range of 70km.

The AGM-158 has been used by the Americans since 2003 and it is one of the most modern missiles in the world. The new missile uses its inertial navigation and GPS (global positioning systems) to find its target, and an infrared seeker for pinpoint accuracy right before impact.

Image Credit: Cpt Krzysztof Nanuś via Bartosz Kownacki’s TT account