Polish Parliamentary Committee on National Defense analyzed the current state of the Polish Air Force’s F-16 fighter fleet, its future, as well as plans related to the M-346 AJTs and JASSM / JASSM-ER missiles.
According to the report issued by Tomasz Dmitruk of the Polish “Dziennik Zbrojny” outlet, on Mar. 22, during the meeting of the Polish Parliamentary Committee on National Defense, Division General Pilot Jan Śliwka, who is also acting as the Deputy Commander of the Polish Armed Forces, presented the Polish Parliament the history and capabilities possessed by the F-16 multi-role jet aircraft, along with an overview of their technical status, maintenance requirements, armament and pilot’s training program. The General has also talked about the missions assigned to the backbone of the Polish Air Force.
The information presented during the event also provided a unique insight into the operations of the aircraft.
7-8 out of 48 jets are currently undergoing maintenance or overhauls – this constitutes 14-17% of the fleet, still leaving around 85% of the aircraft combat-ready. A single F-16 jet can spend 8,000 hours in the air, which means that total lifetime is equal to 384,000 hours (48 aircraft, 8000 hours each). Based on the report issued by Dmitruk, all of the Jastrząb (Polish Air Force’s name ascribed to the F-16) jets have spent 53,000 hours in the air so far, which amounts up to 14% of the total lifetime.
This means that, should the operational activity of the jets be maintained at the current level, there is still an option to operate the aircraft for the next 30 years.
The Polish Air Force is also looking forward to the acquisition of more Mk 82 bombs and JDAM and Paveway conversion kits.
Nonetheless, during the Committee Meeting, Śliwka informed that the Ministry is also analyzing the potential prospects of acquisition of more armament for the fighter jets which could expand their capabilities in specific domains. Notably, throughout the last two years we have witnessed an intensification of operations undertaken by the Polish F-16s with Warsaw’s Vipers deploying to Kuwait to join the air war against ISIS and plans to take part in the NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission.
One of the priorities for the Polish Air Force is to acquire anti-radiation missiles. Orbital ATK’s AARGM missile has been quite intensively marketed in Poland throughout the past two years, so it may be safely stated that this weapon is a serious contender to becoming the primary SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) armament for the Polish jets. Furthermore, the MoD is also scrutinizing the prospects of acquiring new PGM (Precision Guided Munition) ordnance (including submunition pods to act against tanks and armored assets, as well as penetrating bombs which could be used to neutralize fortifications underground); lastly, the Air Force would also like to integrate the jet with an anti-ship missile.
Prospective procurement of new multi-role jets for the Polish Air Force was the second issue covered during the meeting.
This matter is somewhat urgent, since the Su-22 and MiG-29 aircraft are gradually becoming obsolete, with a prospect of being withdrawn starting from 2024-2025.
Their successor, as Dmitruk reports, shall be selected well ahead of the retirement of the two post-Soviet era jets.
According to General Śliwka, quoted by Dziennik Zbrojny, the requirements for the new multi-role combat aircraft have already been defined by the command, while the Armament Inspectorate (Polish MoD’s procurement body) is dealing with an analysis that is going to be included in a Strategic Defense Review, similar to its recent British counterpart.
The options currently weighted and considered, span from the acquisition of second-hand F-16A/B or C/D aircraft with subsequent upgrade, through procurement of brand new F-16s, to the eventual purchase of 5th Gen. F-35 aircraft.
The early conclusions indicate that procurement and upgrade of the Alpha/Bravo Falcons would lack a proper degree of cost-effectiveness.
After further analysis, and with the context taken into account at the MoD, General Staff and the Armament Inspectorate, Bartosz Kownacki, Polish Deputy Minister of Defence stated that the workload and expenditure entailed would be too high, in relation to potential benefits.
Kownacki noted that even though the price of second-hand aircraft would be at the level of 50% of the price of a new aircraft, the operational lifetime would also be 50% shorter. General Śliwka also mentioned the fact that the case of Romanian F-16 procurement was also looked at, and it turned out that the cost was higher, in comparison with potential acquisition of new aircraft. Hence the MoD might be inclined to go on, and join the F-35 users club, even though this is a longterm prospect plan
Meanwhile, the rumors (which circulated last year) that Poland would be considering selling its jets to Romania, have been once again denied.
During the meeting, the opposition also had a chance to ask questions to the Ministry.
First of the covered issues, raised by the former Deputy Minister of Defence Czesław Mroczek, dealt with the procurement of the M-346 jet-trainers and their compliance with the Polish specifications. Col. Waldemar Bogusławski, Deputy Head at the Armament Inspectorate, answered that the manufacturer confirmed its readiness to deliver the AJT [Advanced Jet Trainer] in a configuration compliant with the Polish expectations as late as in July this year.
Second question referred to the JASSM missiles.
General Jan Śliwka announced that one of the Polish Vipers is currently staying in the United States, and the tape M6.5 upgrade has been already introduced in its case. Following a test firing of the missile, the jet is to return back to Poland in April. The remaining aircraft are going to receive the software upgrades domestically, in Poland. Delivery of the first four JASSM missiles is to be finalized by the end of April (the photos published in the social media by the press officer of the Krzesiny 31st Airbase suggest that two missiles have already been delivered).
The 2014 procurement contract assumes that the missiles would be delivered in full between 2018 and 2019, with the AGM-158B JASSM-ER ordnance to follow, and subsequent deliveries scheduled in this case before 2020. The -ER missiles were contracted in December, last year.
Image Credit: Filip Modrzejewski / Foto Poork, W. Mazurkiewicz
Noteworthy, the most recent photos from Kuwait published by the Polish General Command of the Armed Forces, depicting jets belonging to the 6th Fighter Squadron based in Krzesiny, near Poznan, fueled speculations that the F-16s might have changed their role in the air war against Daesh into a more offensive one.
In fact, the recce role in the Polish F-16 operational structure is assigned to the 10th FS from Łask, while Krzesiny’s jets are responsible for training and air-to-ground roles.
However, the Polish Ministry of Defense denied the speculations emerging in the mainstream media stating that the mission character has not changed and the Polish F-16s will continue to be limited to reconnaissance missions in Syria and Iraq, carrying drop-tanks and DB110 recon pods only.
Although the denial did not provide any detail about the reasons for swapping the units, such rotations are far from being unusual: air arms regularly rotate airframes deployed abroad to meet maintenance deadlines. Pilots (and supporting personnel) are also rotated so as to give more aircrews the opportunity to gain some experience in combat environment.
For this reason, some air forces deploy to theater their Expeditionary Task Forces that gather aircraft and personnel from several different units. That said, considering the official release, the speculations seem to be unconfirmed. At least until some photos showing the Polish Vipers with bombs under the wings emerge – but that would be another story.
Top image Credit: Polish General Command of the Armed Forces/Twitter. Image below: Filip Modrzejewski / Foto Poork
Last weekend we have attended the second edition of the Poznan Aerofestival air show. And here’s a report.
After the last year’s moderate fiasco, with numerous organizational problems, many people were highly skeptical that the Aeropact company, collaborating with Poznan International Fair, would be able to tackle the challenge of organizing an international air show at a normally operating airport.
The ticket prices were lowered, in comparison with the last year’s event and this, supposedly, was to attract the disappointed audience, which had lost its trust in the Poznan show.
The organizers planned to squeeze the dynamic show in 720 minutes: the Polish Air Navigation Services Agency, long before the show, issued several arrangements, according to which three blocks of flying were to be expected, with landings of the airliners between the display time slots.
The flight display was quite impressive, with the F-16 fighter jets dominating it.
Notably, the F-16 Falcon jet of the Polish Air Force attended the static display: this is an interesting highlight, since for the first time in 10 years of operational use of the jet, the fighter made a full-stop landing at Poznan-Ławica International Airport, arriving for the show.
The Viper’s maneuverability was widely demonstrated by several solo display team, including the Polish Tiger Demo Team, Belgian Air Component Solo Display and Soloturk, that operated from the Krzesiny Air Base, due to the maintenance requirements of the airframes.
Most probably, the logistical side of the air show was also easier to handle, having a fully operational F-16 base at hand.
When it comes to the Falcon demos, they were entirely different. The Turkish one seemed to be the most dynamic, since it had quite a flat profile, throughout most of its length. It also featured many flares. The Polish Tiger team, on the other hand, has shown more of the F-16’s power and spatial capabilities.
Obviously, the Su-22’s display was not nearly as spectacular, especially when compared to the Falcon.
The Polish Air Force has also sent F-16, CASA C-295M, W3-R Sokół and M-28 Bryza aircraft, all of which formed the modest static display at the Aerofestival Air Show, together with Viggen and Saab 105 of the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight team (both of which also flew dynamic displays).
A few sentences should be written about the Viggen too. The jet gave a spectacular demonstration of its capabilities exhibiting its capacity to astonish; even though it is a historic aircraft, the raw power and noise made by the Volvo RM8 engine constitute a great highlight, that needs to be witnessed for appreciation.
Also from Scandinavia, the Grumman Ag-Cat Bi-Plane of the Scandinavian Airshow team performed a poetic and romantic display made even more interesting by the smoke coming out from the airplane, in red and white colors, corresponding with the Polish national colors. The smoke gave an impressionist appearance to the spectacular show formed by the great piloting skills exhibited by Jacob Hollander.
Another highlight of the show was the TS-11 Iskra display, with the Iskra coming from the Polish Air Force Academy. This aircraft, usually flown in a formation demonstration by the White-Red Sparks aerobatic team of the Polish Air Force, performed a solo display, handled by Sławomir Hetman.
The Polish Air Force also sent its Orlik Team to Poznan that was also stationed at the Krzesiny airbase.
The show also featured historic aircraft, including Yak-3 or Texan Trainer, both of which constituted an interesting added value, that contributed to the variety of the show.
When it comes to the aerobatic teams, the Aerofestival featured several smaller teams flying propeller driven aircraft, such as 3 AT-3 or The Victors, as well as the Baltic Bees Jet Team, showing some new formations and new flying programme which was premiered at Ławica.
Notably, the Żelazny Aerobatic Team, formed by Extra 330LC and Zlin aerobatic airframes, along with Fox sailplane, also took part in the dynamic display over Poznan.
When it comes to the show schedule, the only highly anticipated highlight that missed the event was the MiG-15, which could not attend the Aerofestival, due to the technical problems.
The organizers have solved most of the issues that occurred during the first edition of the show and added numerous highlights, including the fighter jets demonstration teams. The show announcer was also well prepared and provided substantial information to the spectators, without making any errors.
The only deficiency this year is the fact that the static display was quite modest.
Moreover, the air show was blessed with good weather.
If the tendency we have witnessed at Poznan is maintained, the organization continues to improve and the flying program becomes more attractive year by year, Aerofestival may become an important point on the European air show map.
Image Credit: Jacek Siminski Orlik Team Image Credit: Agata Olech-Świadek (spfl.pl)
Along with an impressive line-up, what made Radom Airshow 2015 interesting was the fact that it provided an overview of some of the weapons systems involved, in one way or another one, in several Polish Armed Forces procurement programs.
Among the aircraft that took part in the largest airshow organized in Poland this year there was the T129 ATAK helicopter, offered by TAI within the scope of the Polish “Kruk” attack helicopter tender, that performed an interesting dynamic display.
Secondly, the ATK company presented its AGM-88E AARGM (Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile) which is offered as a complementary element of ordnance for the Polish F-16 fleet.
The main portion of the show belonged to the aerobatic teams. Radom flightline included the Polish Orlik and Iskry teams, as well as the famous Frecce Tricolori, along with Patrulla Águila and Patrulla Aspa from Spain, Swiss Patrouille de Suisse team, Baby Blue team from Denmark or the Baltic Bees team from Latvia.
Fighter jets also performed spectacular displays.
Both the Italian Eurofighter Typhoon, the Polish and Slovak MiG-29 and Belgian or Greek F-16 fighters, and the French Rafale took part in the air display with stunning maneuvers.
However, one of the most spectacular displays was performed by the Romanian MiG-21 LanceR, as this fighter is at least two decades older than the fourth generation jets. The MiG-21 display exhibited the raw power of the Cold War jet, with a lot of afterburner coming into play.
Two displays that are worth mentioning here were performed by the role demo teams – the Polish Su-22 aerobatic team which presented the capabilities of the old jet – including spectacular passes with varied geometry of the wings (which is quite difficult, considering the small speed overlap in case of the extreme wing positions). Second display was performed by a CAS-role demo team with the Polish F-16 jets performing a CAS (Close Air Support) demonstration, together with the Fitters.
Unfortunately, the F-16 solo display did not take place during the Radom show, even though the demo team is involved in intensive training activities over the Krzesiny airbase. The display is rumored to have a premiere planned for the Krzesiny Air Base annual air show, scheduled on Sep. 5.
The static display also featured numerous interesting airframes, as the above-mentioned MiG-21, two examples of C-27J Spartan transports, Israeli C-130 Hercules (open to the public) and the German P3 Orion.
The Polish Air Force showcased all of its inventory as well, including the Mi-8 and Mi-14PŁ helicopters and F-16, Su-22 and MiG-29 fighters. Even Kaman Seasprite helicopter of the Polish Navy was presented in a static display, unfortunately without the special color scheme painted on the fuselage.
Overall the air show in Radom was very interesting. The only thing lacking were the jets from beyond the Eastern border of Poland, such as the Ukrainian or Belarusian Su-27 Flankers or Su-24 Fencers.
However, in the current geopolitical situation, it is hard to expect that the Ukrainians would attend any air show east of Hungary. The Belarus’s Flanker fleet is in a really bad shape, on the other hand – according to some of the last year’s reports.
Poland has changed its priorities regarding acquisition of the helicopters. The general-purpose combat helicopter was to be the first purchase of the Polish Armed Forces, but now the weight has been shifted towards the assault choppers.
The original modernization plan for the Polish Armed Forces saw the Mi-24 Hind helicopters replaced not before 2020-22.
However, the ageing Hind gunships could make room to a new chopper as early as 2017, whereas the tender for the utility helicopter has been postponed.
There may be several reasons behind the decision to review the plans, including the Ukrainian crisis and the need to face Russian Mi-28 Havocs, several of those have been deployed to Kaliningrad Oblast, quite close to the Polish northern border.
According to Gazeta Wyborcza, one of the leading Polish dailies, the military officials claim that Mi-24 Hinds no longer have a high combat value. The trends in development of the assault helicopters are quite different from the concept that was driving the development progress of Mi-24 which could be treated as a beefed-up version of Huey with its 8-person transport capacity in the cabin placed within the fuselage. Contemporary assault gunships are more of CAS-tools, with much less transport-related capabilities.
Gazeta Wyborcza daily is quoting the Polish strategists who point out that in case of the Ukrainian crisis, the Ukrainian Army was unable to deploy units quick enough to face the Russian invasion.
Quick deployment is one of the key elements of the defensive operations, and this cannot be realized without CAS (Close Air Support) from the helicopters or assault aircraft. Since acquisition of the A-10 is quite unrealistic, assault choppers may be an appropriate solution.
The value of the attack helicopter bid is estimated to be 1 billion Euro, worth one of the biggest chopper procurement deal issued by a NATO member state.
The AH-64 is quite an expensive whereas the AW-129 is significantly cheaper. However, it will be the situation in eastern Europe and the diplomatic relations between U.S., Italy and Poland rather than the performance, payload and capabilities of the helicopters, to play a major role in the tender.