Tag Archives: Polish Air Force

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

Polish Air Force MiG-29 Crashes in Minsk Mazowiecki. It’s The First Ever Crash Of A Polish Fulcrum

The pilot survived the first Polish MiG-29 crash since July 1989.

A Polish Air Force MiG-29 Fulcrum (“67” Blue, formerly known as “67” Red – the number was repainted after the overhaul) has crashed in the vicinity of the Minsk Mazowiecki airbase, while landing there on Dec. 18.

Police and Fire Department were dispatched to conduct the SAR operation. The pilot survived the accident, suffering minor injuries. Some sources suggested that the Fulcrum driver did not eject, contrary to the official statement from the Polish MoD, according to which the pilot successfully ejected from the aircraft.

Due to the fact that the crash took place in the middle of the forest, the SAR operation took some time, stated the commander of the 23rd Tactical Airbase, Col. Piotr Iwaszko. Iwaszko announced that at least 200 persons were involved in the SAR effort. After 90 minutes, the pilot was found. According to the report issued by Interia.pl the weather was too bad to use the SAR assets available at the Minsk airbase.

Contrary to some claims made by some journalists via Twitter, according to official sources, the MiG-29 involved in the accident was neither on QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) duty nor did it carry any missiles.

Polish National Commission for Aviation Accidents Investigation is bound to start the investigation of the event today.

Notably, this is the first ever crash of a Polish Air Force Fulcrum in history. The jets, have had a flawless track-record in the service, so far, flying with the Polish Air Force for nearly 3 decades. Along with the Soviet-era Su-22 Fitters, the MiG-29 Fulcrums will be replaced by the new multirole combat plane procured within the “Harpia” program, launched on Nov. 23, 2017.

Image Credit: 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 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