Tag Archives: Polish Air Force

Is this futuristic jet the replacement for the Polish Sukhoi Su-22 Fitter?

During the recent  Kielce Defense Fair, the Polish Air Force Technical Institute (ITWL – Instytut Techniczny Wojsk Lotniczych) has announced that it continues to work on the Grot-2 airplane.

The Grot-2 is a twin-seater that should have flying characteristics similar to those of fifth generation combat planes, and will be considered in the upcoming bids for the Polish Air Force.

Due to the fact that the project is in its infancy there is no chance for it to become a fourth player in the LIFT (Lead-In Fighter Trainer) competition to replace the ageing TS-11 Iskra jets. The companies that take part in the trainer bid are KAI/Lockheed Martin with T-50, Alenia Aermacchi with M-346 and BAe Systems with their Hawk.

Nevertheless the airplane is considered, most notably, as a replacement for the Polish Su-22 Fitter fighter bombers.

The priorities for the programme are to create an airframe that would be cheaper than its fifth generation counterparts whilst maintaining the same combat and training capabilities. What is more, the little jet is to be created in two versions – manned and unmanned one.

The unmanned version is a response to the Ministry’s of Defence’s rather brave project to replace the Su-22’s with unmanned aircraft.

The Grot’s airframe is to be made mainly from carbon fibre. The ongoing market analysis is yet to point to the engine manufacturer and  the first airframe is to be built within the next 2 years.

This is not the first attempt of Polish industry to create an indigenous jet trainer or assault aircraft or even a fighter. Nevertheless some of these designs never made it beyond the test-flying stage.

In the last decade Marganski & Mysłowski aviation works proposed a concept prototype of EM-10 Bielik Fighter-Trainer. Bielik was to be a cheap trainer for military pilots. It was also referred to as Iskra II, after the TS-11 trainer that was successful and is still used e.g. by the Polish White Red Sparks aerobatic team.

The aircraft, built with stealth principles in mind, was made of composite materials, propelled with the J-85 turbojet engine and was to feature fly-by-wire controls.

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Image Credit:  Marek Czerpkowski 

The airplane flew but never made it into production. The mock-up of Bielik can be seen in the Polish Aviation Museum in Cracow.

PZL-Mielec (Polish Aviation Works) back in the 1970s tried to create an indigenous jet-trainer, I-22 Iryda, largely inspired by the French Alpha Jet. Iryda was to be a replacement of the TS-11 Iskra trainers.

The design stage of Iryda lasted 4 years, from 1976 till 1980. Then the project was approved and Iryda made its maiden flight on Mar. 3, 1985.

The process was painful: test pilot Jerzy Bachta died during flatter tests.

Nonetheless, in 1992, Iryda M93K with PZL K-15 engines flew and later, M93V prototype with Rolls-Royce Viper engine, also made it in the air. M96 prototype featured a redesigned wing with Fowler Flaps and new avionics.

In the period between 1992 and 1996 8 Irydas were used in the 58. Aviation Training Regiment of the Polish Air Force. 19 were to be produced, not all of them were completed.

Iryda even made an appearance on RIAT show back in 1994 as this video shows.

The sole remaining airworthy Iryda is now owned by the Air Force Technical Institute. Lacking the certificates it is unfortunately not flown on a regular basis at all.

Most of the remaining jets can be seen in Museums all around Poland.

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Image Credit: Polish Ministry of National Defence

Another interesting airframe Polish aviation industry tried to develop was the PZL-230 Skorpion.

This design never made it beyond a stage of wooden mock-up. It was being developed during the 1990s in the Warsaw PZL facility.

Skorpion comes from the late 1980s. It was to be a lightweight close air support aircraft. Poles did not invent what was needed – they new what happened in Vietnam and Afghanistan.

The model 230 was to be agile, heavily armed and to possess STOL (Short Take Off and Landing) capabilities. What is more, the airframe was to be constructed in modules, that would make maitenance fairly easy.

In the beginning, the plane was to be a cannard turboprop able to carry 2 tonnes of armament. The engines were to be mounted on top of the aircraft, just like in A-10 Thunderbolt. The STOL capabilities were crucial. Take-off was to be completed on 250m runway, landing. Five barrell 25mm cannon was to be the fixed weapon.

The most peculiar feature was the way that the wing pylons were designed. Due to the political reasons the plane had to be able to carry both Soviet and Western armament.

Airframe was designed to be built of composite materials and the aircraft would feature fly-by-wire controls.

In the year 1990 the project requirements were changed by the Army. The top speed of the plane had to be higher – 1000 km/h and the plane had to be able to carry 4 tonnes of load.

The design was significantly changed. The agility was traded for weight and performance, as the turboprop engines were replaced with the Lycoming LF507 jet engines. The airframe was flat. This was done in order to provide basic stealth features to the plane.

In this way PZL-230F was born.

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A wooden mock-up of the plane was created in 1992, and in 1993 need for such a design was verified by the military. The plane was verified by vice-prime minister of Poland at the time, Henryk Goryszewski. The outcome was positive and financing was approved.

Nonetheless, the next government cut the funds – I-22 Iryda project being realized at the same time makes it highly probable that the government simply ran out of money.

Desert Storm operation also had its impact on the Skorpion. Success of the A-10 Thunderbolt has shown that the concept of an assault plane ought to be simplier, than the ambitious design proposed by the Polish engineers.

Experts argue whether the PZL-230F was a design that could be realized, as Poland at the time did not have the technology needed to create such advanced design. Notably, the airplane is a bit similiar to the Iranian F-313 Qaher. Nevertheless the Poles never claimed the mock-up to be flyable.

Going back into the past there was another airplane that never made it into the skies and was cancelled.

After the TS-11 Iskra trainer was created, the design teams in Poland had to get a new project to carry out. In the 1958, the leader of the OKB-1, Tadeusz Sołtyk, Docent BSc, started to think about a transition jet that would get the pilots prepared to the supersonic area of the flying envelope before they start to fly the real thing. At that time MiG-21 Fishbed was the main fighter in the Polish Air Force.

The TS-13 Grot project was issued in 1959 and was very similar to F-101 Voodoo due to the trapeze wing shape.

It was to be propelled by two SO-2 jet engines with the afterburners. It was in the April that T-38 Talon made its maiden flight in the U.S., and it was very similar to the Grot airframe. The airframe, under the Talon’s influence was redesigned and proposed to the Air Force.

There were some political problems though.

The Air Force suspected that the name of the plane comes from the pseudonym of general Stefan Grot Rowecki, who was the chief commanding officer of AK (Armia Krajowa – Home Army), that was a resistance movement in Poland during the WW2. It had a communist counterpart, AL (Armia Ludowa – People’s Army). The AK officially disbanded on January 19, 1945 to avoid armed conflict with the Soviets and civil war.

Nonetheless the AK was still faithful to the Polish Government in exile, in Britain. The history has shown that Poland was to face a different fate, and that the authority that fled to the UK was not the one to rule the country after the War.

The armed forces also had objections towards the TS-13 name, and they forced the designer to change the name to TS-16.

The new airframe was to feature delta shaped wings with 45 degree of sweep. Two versions were planned – B version, a trainer, and an assault fighter – A version. The armament was to be the same as of the early Fishbeds. Due to the fact that the engines design was still lagging behind, Grot was redesigned to use RD-9B engine from MiG-19. The thrust was similar to the power of two SO-2 engines that were to be the Grot’s power plant.

The plane was named TS-16RD, and the design was ready in mid-1960. At the same time a twin-seater mock-up was also created.

The aircraft did share some design traits with the Soviet aircraft, e.g. the landing gear was to be retracted inside the fuselage, similarly to the MiG-23.

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Image Credit: konstrukcjeinzynierskie.pl

There are many speculations about the reasons why the project was dropped.

Within the period between 1961 and 1963, a design ready for production was created. Nevertheless, The Mighty Integral as Todd Wolffe, the author of The Right Stuff book, referred to the Soviet authority, decided to cancel the project and limit the capabilities of the Polish design bureaus.

The Polish aviation industry was to focus on producing licensed plane of Soviet design rather than invest its efforts in creating an indigenous supersonic aircraft.

The project was not cancelled at the time yet, but it was hampered. The bureau dealing with Grot employed just 40 people, while it needed over 200 professionals to finish the project.

Nonetheless, Grot was sent up to the government for being accepted.  The Scientific Council of Defence Ministry decided that the project should be consulted with the USSR authorities. This was an end to Grot as the Soviets being afraid of Poles creating an independent fighter jet decided the project should be cancelled.

Despite all of the above, Grot would – no doubt about it – have been a revolutionary design, being the second supersonic jet trainer ever created.

It is yet unclear whether the Grot-2, that took the name after the unlucky predecessor, will make it beyond a stage of a wooden mock-up or prototype, or even an early production stage.

Nevertheless there is no doubt that creating an independent military jet in Poland would be a major step for Warsaw’s aviation industry.

Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist

Top image credit: Jarosław Chęciński, aerospotter.com

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Poland about to upgrade its fleet of Mig-29 Fulcrum fighter jets

It looks like Poland is about to upgrade its fleet of Mig-29s, again.

In an interview for Interfax-AWN agency, Sergey Maxin, the CEO of Schwabe Co. (earlier named Optical systems and technologies) said that the company will supply spare parts and equipment for the Polish Air Force Fulcrums.

The transaction allegedly took place during the MAKS 2013 show in Moscow, as defence24.pl reports.

Poland did cooperate with Schwabe Co. earlier, getting spare parts for 32 Fulcrums operating with the Polish Air Force.

The Schwabe Co. produces optoelectronic equipment for military purposes. It is highly probable that the contract deals with the IRST spare parts for the Polish Fulcrums.

Polish Fulcrums constitute the second largest fighter group in the Air Force (32 airplanes) after the F-16’s (48 fighters).

Regarding the IRST – Infra Red Search and Track, the sensor works like a radar but in a passive mode thus without emitting electromagnetic radiations; it detects the heat of the different targets offering a stealthy capability that enhances the overall survaivability of the aircraft. It is mounted in front of the cockpit and is a characteristic feature of the Fulcrum and Flanker planes; both Soviet 4th generation milestone designs – Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-29 and Sukhoi Su-27 had this system mounted on, unlike their Western counterparts – the F-16 and F-15.

Jacek Siminski for The Aviationist

Image: Mig-29SMT (Tony Lovelock)


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Even if they are ready to, Polish Air Force F-16s will not be involved in the Air War in Syria

According to the stance of the Polish Ministry of Defence the Polish Air Force F-16 Block 52+s could be ready to take part in an eventual operation in Syria. But, according to a statement of the Prime Minister, they won’t.

The ‘Jastrząb’ (Polish name for the F-16) Aviation Component achieved the combat ready status back in September 2011. It was achieved under a strict surveilance of 123 NATO Command inspectors.

The combat readiness means that the Polish Viper pilots are fully capable of taking part in any operations involving the NATO forces.

According to MoD the capability is constantly prolonged.

The readiness is verified in the course of the exercises, such as this year’s Raróg-13 exercise. Even now five of Polish F-16 are taking part in NATO Response Forces exercise in Norway.

Nonetheless detailed information about combat readiness of the Polish F-16s is classified, according to the MoD.

What is more it is still not clear whether the Vipers have AIDEWS (Advanced Integrated Defensive Electronic Warfare Suite) pods, that are crucial in a dense SAM environment.

Anyway, in spite of the Polish capabilities and rumors among analysts, the Polish PM has officially stated he does not expect a Polish involvement in Syria: the F-16s will have to wait for a real combat evaluation.

Thanks to Konrad Muzyka for heads-up.

Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist


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M-346 advanced jet trainer’s Helmet Mounted Display for the Polish Air Force’s F-16 Block 52+ pilots

Last year, during the Farnborough International Airshow 2012, I had the opportunity to fly with the M-346 “Master” advanced jet trainer simulator.

During that flight, I had the opportunity to try the M-346’s HMD (Helmet Mounted Display), designed by the VSI, the same firm that manufactures the JHMCS (Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System).

Built around the HGU-55P flight helmet, the new, futuristic device is currently being offered to the Polish Air Force to train student pilots destined to the F-16 Block 52+.

In fact, in connection with the advanced jet trainer tender recently launched by the Polish Ministry of Defence, Alenia Aermacchi has signed a series of agreements with the Polish aerospace industry covering  joint development of technologies, and the M-346, the most advanced jet trainer and Lead-in fighter trainer available on the market that has returned to flight on Aug. 22, after the precautionary grounding that followed the loss of the second prototype on May 11, is among the candidates for the fleet of new Polish Air Force trainers, to be delivered between 2015 and 2017.

Alenia Aermacchi has strengthened its footprint in Poland with collaboration agreements with the Polish aerospace industry. Such agreemets.

Indeed, the HMD would enable them to develop skills in the use of advanced weapons systems management in operations fully representative of modern combat aircraft, making their training even more cost effective.

According to Alenia Aermacchi, that is showcasing the MSPO – International Defence Industry Exhibition at Targi Kielce, the HMD is particularly useful in those missions where the trainee employs the Embedded Tactical Training System (ETTS) for sensor and weapons systems training.

“In these missions the HMD demonstrates its outstanding capability to augment the pilot’s Situational Awareness (SA), both in Air-To-Air and Air-To-Ground missions. Optically integrated with the M-346 Head-Up Display (HUD), the M-346 HMD provides training in the combined use of HMD and HUD provided information, employing both on and off boresight targeting techniques.

The M-346 HMD is particularly effective during off boresight “target tracking”; tactical symbology is displayed on the helmet visor and provides targeting and tracking information in direct view allowing the student to concentrate on performing tactical maneuvers and weapon release in pursuit of his mission objective.”

The HMD, that supports all the most common NVGs (Night Vision Goggles) can also be used to to train Weapon System Officers.

M-346 HMD close-up

Image credit: Alenia Aermacchi


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Some of the most interesting “hardware” showcased at this year’s Radom Air Show in Poland

On Aug. 24. and 25 Radom Sadków Airfield in south-central Poland hosted one of the largest air shows in Eastern Europe.

This year’s Radom Air Show was somehow unique, as it marked the 95th anniversary of the Polish military aviation.

To celebrate the event, Polish Air Force aircraft performed a unique flypast, including some interesting formations, featuring MiG-29 and F-16 aircraft.

The air show was also an opportunity to have a close look at some candidates of the current Polish modernization programs.

For instance, when it comes to the Army chopper bid, every player did appear both on the static and dynamic displays. The company representatives and the pilots were open to the questions. Eurocopter brought in some French pilots who did fly the Cougar in the tough conditions of Afghanistan.

The Eurocopter’s dynamic display was particularly interesting due to the CSAR demo. The helo performed a combat pickup in  with special forces using the Fast Rope.

Image Credit: Jerzy Siminski

Poland also seeks to replace the old Iskra trainers.

The AJT programme deadline for accepting the offers was set on Jun. 7, 2013. Four companies proposed their designs. One resigned – it was the Czech company Aero Vodochody that opted out oficially due to the unclear bid conditions).

BAe Systems brought their full-sized airplane to the show, the newest version of the Hawk, that turned out to be the only jet training plane still eventually attending the air show.

The new Hawk is particularly interesting, due to its simulated radar system; tt does not carry a radar but the instructor may use an avionics system to simulate A2A and G2A engagements with an incredible fidelity.

The Hawk is also the sole out of the three competitors that has been used and checked quite thoroughly. RAF uses it to train the Typhoon pilots. It does not use fly-by-wire system like the Typhoon does. At the Air Show I had an opportunity to speak to one of the BAe engineers, who said that this was done deliberately to teach the pilot how to recognize the end of a flying envelope.

The Polish Air Force did a presentation of the most of their flying machines, both in dynamic and static displays, including the MiG-29 with Kościuszko sign on its back.

Image Credit: Andrzej Rogucki

All the helicopter types that fly in the Afghan theatre could also be spotted.

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Image Credit: Jerzy Siminski

The static display also featured some interesting Western aircraft, including RNLAF F-16 with a special color scheme, portraying Diana, the goddes of hunting on the vertical fin. Another special colored bird, a Czech Gripen in a NATO Tiger Meet paint scheme made its appearance in a dynamic display.

Image Credit Jerzy Siminski

One of the most spectacular displays featured tw0 F-16s and two Su-22M4 bombers simulating a CAS mission. The demonstration included explosions on the airfield surface.

Polish Air Force display teams did also have a dynamic display.

Firstly it was the Orlik Team, flying PZL-130 Orlik turboprop planes and Team White-Red Sparks, flying old Polish Jet Trainers, TS-11 Iskra (which means Spark in Polish). The Iskras have a long history, flying the same aircraft since 1991 and making several appearances on international air shows, including the last year’s anniversary MAKS show in Moscow.

Image Credit: Andrzej Rogucki

Out of the unique opportunities at Radom Air Show one could see a Su-27 and MiG-21 displays. The ex-Soviet aircraft are still a rare sight at any show outside the Russian borders.

Out of the aerobatic teams, two made noteworthy appearances. The Patrouille Suisse have shown an impressive skill in their formation flying. Moreover, the F-5  being so fast a jet made the display very spectacular.

And Wings of Storm from Croatian Air Force, flying on PC.9 airplane. The team has shown some unique maneuvers that are not performed by any aerobatic team worldwidely, including a formation tailslide.

Other teams that took part in the display were the Baltic Bees, flying L-159 ALCAs and Finland’s Midnight Hawks.

Contrary to the British RIAT rules, the safety regulations allow the pilots in Radom to use the flares during the displays. The flares were used by many machines, but one of the most spectacular application could be seen in RNLAF AH-64 Apache display with an unusual series of maneuvers, including a high barell roll and tailslide.

Image Credit: Andrzej Rogucki

There were many F-16s including RNLAF, Solo Turk and Hellenic AF display and Belgian team acts.

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Image Credit: Andrzej Rogucki

Another interesting display was the one of an Italian C-27J which performed loops and rolls.

Summing up, Radom was a successful event with several interesting attendees, nice weather and high clouds that offered incredible backgrounds to the photographers.

Static display photos credit: Jerzy Siminski

Dynamic display photos credit: Andrzej Rogucki

Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist


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