Tag Archives: Polish Navy

B-52, B-1, Typhoon and V-22 Among The assets Supporting A Spectacular Beach Landing Operation During BALTOPS 2017

This Is What A Modern Beach Landing Operation In The Baltic Region Would Look Like.

BALTOPS 2017 is the largest military exercise organized in the Baltic region this year.

The operation was held by the STRIKFORNATO (SFN) command, with Poland acting as the host nation. More than 40 vessels have entered the ports of Stettin and Świnoujście on Jun. 1, with some of them being accessible to the visitors.

Three days later, the aforesaid units sailed out, where the sailors perfected their interoperational abilities. The whole operation ended up on Jun. 18, in Germany.

The BALTOPS has taken place regularly, in the Baltic Sea region, since 1972. Initially, the operation only involved the NATO forces; beginning in 1993, members of the former Warsaw Pact were also invited to participate, Poland being no exception in that regard.

Since 1993 BALTOPS has become a part of the Partnership for Peace program. Currently the operation has a multinational profile and places a particular emphasis on training in the areas of gunnery, replenishment at sea, anti-submarine warfare (ASW), radar tracking & interception, mine countermeasures, seamanship, search and rescue, maritime interdiction operations and scenarios dealing with potential real world crises and maritime security.

AAV-7 amphibious carriers and LCAC hovercraft supporting the Beach Landing Ops

A USMC vehicle during the landing operation.

This year, the operation involved forces from Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, Norway, Poland, Sweden, the UK and the United States (here we are also referring to the vessels of the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1).

The Polish Navy was involved in the BALTOPS operation for the 27th time this year. The main naval component of the Polish Navy detached to take part in the operation included five minesweepers (ORP Dąbie, ORP Mielno, ORP Wicko, ORP Mamry, ORP Wdzydze), Lublin-class minelayer-landing ships: ORP Gniezno and ORP Kraków; and a submarine, ORP Bielik.

A B-52 approaching the naval range.

The whole operation was staged in the Baltic Sea area, within the naval training ranges of the Polish Navy, as well as within the naval and land portion of the Central Air Force Training Range, also located in the coastal region of Ustka.

On Wednesday, Jun. 14 the beach in Ustka became an arena, within which one of the most important portions of the exercise took place – a landing operation carried out by the task force group involved in the event. The main forces landing on the Polish beach included the 1st Battalion of the 23rd US Marines regiment, utilizing AAV-7 amphibious carriers and LCAC hovercraft. The whole operation was supported by 8 vessels, including two Polish minelayer-landing ships hailing from the 8th Coastal Defense Flotilla.

One of the APCs involved in the BALTOPS beach landing event.

Nonetheless, the landing operation would not have been complete without involvement of the coalition’s air assets. The landing was preceded by a CAS (Close Air Support) simulation involving the USAF B-52 and B-1B bombers, two Polish F-16 jets, German Eurofighter Typhoons, as well as V-22 Osprey. Notably, due to the humid air over the Polish coast, clouds of condensation and vapor cones have been clearly visible on the surfaces of the participating aircraft.

A German Typhoon “sweeps” the beach landing area

A B-1B deployed to RAF Fairford during its attack run.

The B-1 overflies the beach landing area.

The red force simulation has been provided by a mechanized company of the Polish 7th Coastal Defense Brigade.

The whole operation was supervised by the commander of the 6th Fleet and STRIKFORNATO, Vice-Admiral Christopher Grady, along with Deputy Commander, Rear Admiral P. A. McAlpine. Poland was represented by the Deputy General Commander of the Armed Forces, Division General Jan Śliwka, and by Rear Admiral Jarosław Ziemiański – Deputy Inspector of the Navy, along with Brig. General Wojciech Grabowski.

A CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft was among the assets that supported BALTOPS 2017.

Image credit: Wojciech Mazurkiewicz

 

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Poland To Reinitiate Procurement Of Combat SAR Helicopters

A new procurement procedure would see a competition between S-70i, H225M and AW101.

According to the information circulated around the Polish defense media outlets, the Armament Inspectorate of the Polish MoD (which is the Polish defense procurement agency) eyes acquisition of CSAR helicopters for the Special Operations component. The 7th Special Operations Squadron based at the Powidz 33rd Airlift Base of the Polish Air Force is the most probable user of the future rotary-wing aircraft. The plan is to procure 8 helicopters.

The recently opened procurement procedure involves all of the contractors that have submitted the offers, according to the Inspectorate – none of the offers was rejected.

Interestingly, the current procedure involves the very same contractors of the previous, cancelled tender: Airbus Helicopters that partnered with Heli Invest Sp. z o.o. company; Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation and PZL Mielec Sp. z o.o.; and “PZL-Świdnik” S.A. company, which is a part of the Italian Leonardo Group.

Due to the Polish national security interest, the negotiation is legally required to be carried out in strict secrecy and, until the moment the process ends, no information can be released.

Unofficial information, on the other hand, suggests that the new procurement procedure would see a competition between almost the same types of helicopters pitched in the former tender: Sikorsky is offering the Black Hawk, Airbus is offering the H.225M Caracal whereas PZL-Swidnik company, instead of proposing the lighter AW149 platform, is now rumored to try to pitch the AW101 helicopter which close in its specs to the Italian Air Force HH-101A Caesar.

HH-101A Caesar during a recent demo that took place at the Bemowo/Babice airfield in Warsaw

A source having an in-depth insight in the aforesaid procurement program who wishes to remain anonymous has told us that the technical requirements and spec-sheet remain almost identical to the ones defined for the former tender. The S-70i Black Hawk, according to our informant, would remain non-compliant with the requirements drafted by the Polish MoD for the CSAR platform. Any other Black Hawk derivative that could be pushed for the Polish Special Ops component (e.g. Pave Hawk) would require a consent to be issued by the Congress and such helicopter should be procured through the FMS (Foreign Military Sales) process.

The Eurocopter EC-725 Cougar now called H225M.

Dealing with thePolish Navy‘s W-3 Anakonda and Mi-14 Haze helicopters replacement, the MoD still is inclined to press on and define requirements for a “joint, omni-capable” platform which would be suited to carrying out both ASW as well as SAR operations.

The maritime platform would be acquired within a separate procedure, as the facts and scarcity of information suggest.

The Sikorsky S-70i

Image Credit: Foto Poork/Wikimedia

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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

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Poland facing Maritime SAR capability gap after Helicopter Tender cancellation?

Maritime Search And Rescue in Poland at risk?

With Poland scrapping the helicopter deal with the Airbus Helicopters company and opening a new procurement procedure (the aim of which is to meet the “Urgent Operational Requirements” of the Polish Army, with most of the emphasis placed on acquisition of the S-70i Black Hawk helicopters for the special operations component) a close observation of the helicopter debate taking place in Poland may only lead to one grim conclusion: maritime SAR capabilities remaining at disposal of the Polish Navy, responsible for conducting the SAR operations in the Baltic are not going to last long.

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However, SAR issue has not been brought up in the general discourse, thus the public has no awareness whatsoever of the critical circumstances.

On Oct. 24, 2016 an additional release has been issued, suggesting that the Ministry of Defence of Poland decided to place the maritime SAR helicopters acquisition at a similar level of priority, as the one dealing with the rotorcraft for the Special Forces. Nonetheless, it is worth highlighting some interesting things.

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Even now, there is a burning need to prolong the lifetimes of the operated Mi-14 Haze airframes, which currently serve as the primary heavy SAR platform within the Polish Area of Responsibility in the Baltic region. The first of the such Russian helicopters, manufactured at the beginning of 1980s, is going to be withdrawn in two years.

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Typically, a military helicopter is capable of staying in active service for 30 years, as Paweł Malicki, a Polish freelance military journalist noted in a recent podcast. This means that prolonging the lifetime of the rotary-wing aircraft may no longer be feasible, in the light of the emerging structural problems.

This is amplified by the fact that Polish Mi-14PŁ Hazes, which are an ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) platform, primarily, have been adapted and converted to fit in the SAR role by widening the side door, to make it easier for the rescue crew to operate the hoist.

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This had a significant impact on the structure of the airframes; moreover, it is said that the helicopters in question face vibration problems. Remaining SAR sorties are flown by the W-3RM platform, which is lighter, but also has limited spatial capabilities and faces fuel and load constraints.

Until Sept. 30, 2015, the SAR duty and QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) was held at Babie Doły and Darlowo bases (with the former one located in Gdynia, in the region of the Gdansk Bay, while the latter one is placed in the very center of the Polish coastline). Since five W-3 helicopters were transferred to the PZL Świdnik facility for maintenance and overhaul, only a single airframe is used to fulfill the SAR commitments – and two helicopters are used for that purpose interchangeably: the W-3RM Anakonda and Mi-14PŁ/R. The W-3 helicopters from Świdnik were not returned, and the overhauls are significantly delayed.

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Moreover, Babie Doły base is no longer an active location from where QRA SAR sorties are being flown – the base is used solely for refueling, stopover and hospital transport purposes of the potential victims of accidents at sea. The aforesaid situation has critical ramifications, since the mission endurance time for the rotorcraft is significantly shortened, which also limits the options of providing effective help and assistance, should any incident occur.

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The above mentioned situation may not only affect those in need of help but also the SAR crews, flying the outdated aircraft. Potentially, solutions could be found in a single source procurement of new or second-hand specialized SAR helicopters.

The crisis, that would surely emerge should no steps be taken to acquire a capable maritime SAR platform, leads to emergence of a context, in which Poland would face condemnation on the part of the European Union, since provisioning of SAR services within the given AOR (Area Of Responsibility) and retention of the capability within that scope constitutes a political obligation, to say the least.

On a more mundane level, this creates a danger for anyone traveling using the Baltic Sea routes.

One of the possible solutions to the problem that could be applied to utilize Swedish or Danish, or German SAR fleet and assets, however this would require significant expenditure, paid in Euro or Swedish Krona. Secondly, Polish reputation in the international arena, already damaged by lack of serious approach towards the helicopter procurement (canceling the negotiation with Airbus and creating a single source procurement procedure involving the same contractors after one year, on grounds which are potentially of political nature), is going to face further deterioration, with Warsaw not being able to maintain its SAR assets.

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Finally, lack of the SAR assets would mean that shipowners will probably wonder whether they should use the Polish ports or sail towards their German counterparts instead, in order to avoid risking the lives of their sailors. Maritime traffic within the Polish ports has been on the rise recently, however, should any risk exist for the crew, the shipowners will become hesitant, especially in the autumn and winter seasons, when chances of surviving a longer period in the waters of the Baltic Sea are close to zero.

Still, the latest steps undertaken by the Polish government seem to suggest that the problem is not being disregarded, and that the authorities are aware of is.

As Dziennik Zbrojny recently noted, within the canceled tender, 8 helicopters were to be received by the Polish 7th Special Operations Squadron, and 13 were to come in SAR/CSAR variant which would be operated by both the CSAR component of the air force, as well as the SAR unit of the Polish Navy.

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Image Credit: Wojciech Mazurkiewicz

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Cold War planes (including some special colors) to star at Radom Air Show in Poland

One of the biggest Air Shows in the Mid-Eastern part of Europe will take place on Aug. 24 and 25 at Radom, central Poland.

The Radom Air Show offers a rare occasion to see several Cold War planes (as well as some Western ones) during one event. It is a rarity for Russian aerobatic teams to perform outside the Russian borders (with a few exceptions, as this year’s show in Kecksemet, Hungary), so if one wants to spot a MiG-29 or Su-22 – Radom is the place to go.

Speaking of Soviet designs, two Ukrainian Su-27’s are to come to Radom, accompanied with an Il-76 transport. According to the official website of the show this will be their first appearance on a foreign show since 10 years.

What is more, Romanian MiG-21 Lancer is also going to take part in a dynamic display. It is now a very rare sight to see a Fishbed on any European Air Show.

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Image credit: RoAF

Among the Polish aircraft to take part in the airshow, a Polish Navy Aviation SH-2G chopper stationed in the 43. AB of Navy Aviation in Gdynia, will wear a special color scheme to celebrate the service’s 10th anniversary.

The Kaman helicopters are an integral part of Oliver Hazard Perry rocket frigates that Polish Navy got from the U.S.

The choppers have served in the Navy aviation since the October 2002, when the first two examples arrived on board of ORP Gen. T Kościuszko. Subsequently two more Kamans arrived from Nordholz base in Germany.

It was August 2003 when the choppers achieved operational status.

SH-2

Image credit: Lt. Artur Weber

The Navy Aviation will also present W-3R Anaconda chopper, Bryza reconnaisance aircraft and Mi-14PŁ ASW chopper with special markings on a static display.

Other interesting attendees are the White-Red Sparks, the Polish Air Force aerobatic team flying TS-11 Iskra old je trainers.

The team’s Iskras have alredy made their appearances on several international air shows, including MAKS show in Moscow and Frecce Tricolori’s 50th Anniversary airshow in Rivolto.

Even the Polish Orlik aerobatic team, equipped with Orlik turboprop trainer aircraft will attend the airshow.

The abovementioned aircraft are just a few to be named that are to be a part of this year’s Radom Air Show.

The full programme of the show might be seen here.

Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist

 

 

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