Tag: Poland

Poland Procures AW149 Helicopters for Its Land Forces

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Poland Procures AW149 Helicopters for Its Land Forces
Render of the AW149 in Polish colors. (Image credit: Polish MOD)

The AW149 is the selection made in the Perkoz program.

Head of the Polish MoD, Mariusz Błaszczak, signed a procurement agreement on Jul. 1, 2022, at the PZL-Świdnik facility owned by Leonardo, covering the procurement of AW149 helicopters for the land forces.

The agreement, with a value of PLN 8.25B gross (USD ~1.81B) concerns the delivery of 32 AW149 battlefield support helicopters, while the deliveries would take place between 2023 and 2029. Krzysztof Płatek, spokesman for the Armament Agency, the Polish MoD’s procurement body added, via his Twitter account, that the agreement would also entail establishing relevant industrial potential – domestically.

This procurement concludes the Polish Perkoz helicopter program, aimed initially at replacing the obsolete Mi-2 fleet. Noteworthy, this is a second acquisition that Poland is making at Leonardo’s PZL-Świdnik facility. Previously Warsaw also acquired 4 AW101 maritime helicopters for its Navy.

Let us recall that the original assumption of the Perkoz program was to procure 32 rotary-wing aircraft in three different variants: combat support/advanced airmanship training, command and control version, and reconnaissance/EW variant. The specification published in May 2020 suggested that the aircraft are to be capable of transporting either 5 troops with full kit, or up to 1,000 kilograms of payload. The training requirement means that the helicopters shall have a dual set of controls, while the close support requirement suggests that the helicopter shall be armed.

The MoD claims that the helicopters would receive sensors, guns, and guided and unguided missiles/rockets, as well as a self-protection suite. The guided effectors would also include ATGMs – but it is unclear which missile would be selected for that role. Krzysztof Płatek, spokesman for the Armament Agency suggested that the missile is going to be a Hellfire-class ATGM, without naming a specific effector. Poland could then procure either Hellfires, Spike ATGMs (manufactured locally), or the MBDA UK Brimstone, already selected in the Army’s Ottokar-Brzoza tank destroyer program.

In further tweets, Płatek explains that even though the type of the missile has not been disclosed (as it is confidential), the missile belonging to the same class as the US-made Hellfire shall have a range of at least 8 kilometers. Nonetheless, using the argument that the information on the specific type is confidential, Płatek did not reveal that type.

The Polish helicopter procurement saga continues, following the 2016 cancelation of the Caracal deal. So far the Polish MoD procured minor quantities of S-70i Black Hawk helicopters for the SOF component and AW101s for the Navy. The AW149 would become the third type in service – which departs from the Caracal tender assumptions, where 50 helicopters were to be gathered in a common fleet, across all branches of the military.

About Jacek Siminski
Standing contributor for TheAviationist. Aviation photojournalist. Co-Founder of DefensePhoto.com. Expert in linguistics, Cold War discourse, Cold War history and policy and media communications.

Antidotum Airshow Leszno 2022: The Biggest Airshow in Poland This Year

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Antidotum Airshow Leszno 2022: The Biggest Airshow in Poland This Year
Swiss Super Puma Flares Drop. (All images: Author)

Leszno: A growing gem of the European air show calendar.

We’ve been worryingly observing the Polish air show calendar this year. Leszno has always been and still is, one of its highlights, nonetheless, the cancelation of the LOTOS Gdynia Aerobaltic (caused by the war in Ukraine) has brought in some concern as to what would happen to the second most significant aviation event planned in Poland, at the small Leszno Flying Club. Leszno-Strzyżewice (EPLS) is a small, but growing GA (General Aviation) airport, with a grass strip. Now it also has a hardened runway, and a set of runway lights which is unusual for a Polish GA airstrip, but seems to be a natural way to go, given the fact that the venue is the home of the Antidotum Airshow – currently one of a very few, and certainly the biggest of the Polish air shows that consistently organizes day and sunset/night display programs.

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Slovenian PC-9.

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Slovenian PC-9.

The show took place on Jun. 17 and Jun. 18, 2022. It is an afternoon/evening event, with the displays scheduled between 4 PM and 11 PM. The airfield’s location, with the beautiful sunsets providing a stunning backdrop for the spectacle in the air only adds to the spectacular, stunning nature of what was happening in the air.

Not everything according to the plan

Unfortunately, the organizers this year also had to overcome some obstacles.

For instance, neither did the pre-announced A-26 Invader, nor the original Yak-3 come to perform at the show – the owner of both aircraft is still working on the A-26’s transatlantic transit tackling relevant formalities with the FAA. This was somewhat causing distress among the show’s social media crowd, but that matter remained out of the hands of the organizers. They, righteously, focused on what they could have done. Last-minute confirmations resulted in the appearance of the single-seater Lim-2 (MiG-15) and Yak-3UPW in the Leszno sky – so all credit for saving the program gaps go to the Antidotum Air Show team. The Red Bull’s P-38 and B-25 – even though their participation was also confirmed – also could not have made it to Leszno because of technical problems.

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Polish single-seat Lim-2/MiG-15 – The only one flying in Europe.

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Polish single-seat Lim-2/MiG-15 – The only one flying in Europe.

Red Bull Special – Trojan is back

The highlights of the show included the new Red Bull’s T-28 Trojan. The airframe wears its original US Navy livery – and for now, at least – it also does not have the smoke system that was one of the trademarks of the former RB T-28. The Red Bull flying department seems to like the air show at Leszno – despite the tragic accident en route back last year, with the loss of the T-28 – the Austrian aviation heritage restorers came to Leszno in numbers. Apart from the T-28 they also brought the F-4U Corsair and Cessna Push-Pull to perform at Leszno. Red Bull also brought its Piper Carbon Cub with the  Air Race’s Luke Czepiela flying it in a comedy act – copying Kyle Franklin’s drunk pilot comedy routine.

Additionally, the show also included Luca Baumann, who did RC model aerobatics, and Blacky, who performed a hang glider aerobatic routine, with smoke and pyro – an unusual sight at an airshow of any kind.

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Red Bull’s new T-28

” data-medium-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-25.jpg” data-large-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-4.jpg” loading=”lazy” class=”size-large wp-image-79893″ src=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-4.jpg” alt width=”706″ height=”397″ srcset=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-4.jpg 706w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-25.jpg 460w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-26.jpg 128w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-27.jpg 768w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-28.jpg 678w, https://theaviationist.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/2.jpg 1280w” sizes=”(max-width: 706px) 100vw, 706px”>

Red Bull’s new T-28

Vintage Delight

In the warbirds department, we also had the chance to watch the OV-10 Bronco display during the day, and night portion of the show as well. The aircraft wore a very special Desert Storm livery, whilst the night display also involved lights and pyro show. It could have come by as a surprise how dynamic that airframe is, and how agile the Bronco can be!

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OV-10 Bronco wearing the Desert Storm Camo

” data-medium-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-29.jpg” data-large-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-5.jpg” loading=”lazy” class=”size-large wp-image-79903″ src=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-5.jpg” alt=”OV-10″ width=”706″ height=”397″ srcset=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-5.jpg 706w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-29.jpg 460w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-30.jpg 128w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-31.jpg 768w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-32.jpg 678w, https://theaviationist.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/12.jpg 1280w” sizes=”(max-width: 706px) 100vw, 706px”>

OV-10 Bronco wearing the Desert Storm Camo

The program also involved skydivers, and they were using a very unique platform in their display – a Hungarian Lisunov Li-2 (Soviet-made DC-3 copy), which is a very unique aircraft, and a rare treat at any air show.

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Lisunov Li-2

” data-medium-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-33.jpg” data-large-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-6.jpg” loading=”lazy” class=”size-large wp-image-79894″ src=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-6.jpg” alt width=”706″ height=”397″ srcset=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-6.jpg 706w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-33.jpg 460w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-34.jpg 128w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-35.jpg 768w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-36.jpg 678w, https://theaviationist.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/3.jpg 1280w” sizes=”(max-width: 706px) 100vw, 706px”>

Lisunov Li-2

Helicopter Bonanza

This year’s Leszno helicopters line-up was quite rich, with five very different dynamic displays performed. The first was the Czech Air Force W-3 SAR role display demo. This has to be one of the best SAR/helicopter displays in Europe right now. Not only are the Czechs showing what a proper SAR operation should look like, but the Sokol’s pilot also seems to squeeze every inch of performance out of his ride. The second helicopter display came in a form of the Red Bull’s Cobra – a very challenging aircraft to photograph given its twin-blade main rotor. One needs a slow shutter speed to show it move.

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Swiss Super Puma Flares Drop

” data-medium-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-37.jpg” data-large-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-7.jpg” loading=”lazy” class=”size-large wp-image-79896″ src=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-7.jpg” alt width=”706″ height=”914″ srcset=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-7.jpg 706w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-37.jpg 355w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-38.jpg 74w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-39.jpg 768w, https://theaviationist.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/5.jpg 989w” sizes=”(max-width: 706px) 100vw, 706px”>

Swiss Super Puma Flares Drop

The show organizers in Leszno like to improvise, and Cobra flew a duo display with Bronco this year. The third helicopter display was the Polish Bolkov Bo-105 display team, with smoke and pyro – the Bolkov did two, fantastic displays solo – at night, and during the day, and also one display together with the British Aerosparx display team – that one was arranged in Leszno ad hoc. If there’s one lesson that this air show teaches its audience, it is that you may expect the unexpected.

The fourth, and the most expected of the helicopter displays was the Swiss Super Puma Demo Team, the display of which also involves a massive flares drop in its final phase – especially spectacular when done in the late part of the show, with the sun beginning to set. The fifth helicopter partaking in the show was a Polish military Mi-17, showing off a spectacular display, showcasing some elements of SOF flying tactics.

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Polish Air Force’s Mi-17 role demo.

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Polish Air Force’s Mi-17 role demo.

Jets – Vintage

Unusually for an “air picnic” at a small GA airport, the Antidotum Air Show distinguishes itself by the fact that jet displays may also be expected. And both vintage aircraft invited to Leszno this year were unique in their own way. The first one – the Polish MiG-15/Lim-2 is unique because it, for now, remains the only single-seat MiG-15 aircraft in Europe. Its participation was unexpected, but the aircraft filled in the gap left in the program by the A-26 – this shows great flexibility and willingness to put on the best show of the organizers – even if one piece of the puzzle disappears, the Leszno airfield team still has an ace up its sleeve.

<img data-attachment-id="79897" data-permalink="https://theaviationist.com/2022/06/24/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-report/6-11/" data-orig-file="https://theaviationist.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/6.jpg" data-orig-size="1280,720" data-comments-opened="0" data-image-meta="{"aperture":"0","credit":"","camera":"","caption":"","created_timestamp":"0","copyright":"","focal_length":"0","iso":"0","shutter_speed":"0","title":"","orientation":"0"}" data-image-title="L-29" data-image-description data-image-caption="

The Slovak L-29 Delfin

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The Slovak L-29 Delfin

The uniqueness of the second aircraft stems from the fact that it landed at Leszno, using a grass strip – this refers to the L-29 Delfin. It did this last year as well, but still, seeing a military trainer aircraft land at a small GA airport is a sight to behold.

Jets – Modern

Modern military aviation is not a very usual sight at a small air show – yet, the Antidotum Air Show in Leszno featured two acts of the kind: the Polish Air Force F-16 Tiger Demo Team, and the Luftwaffe’s Eurofighter Demo. Both of these aircraft were reaching the venue flying from the Krzesiny (EPKS) airbase.

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Luftwaffe’s Eurofighter demo team.

” data-medium-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-47.jpg” data-large-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-10.jpg” loading=”lazy” class=”size-large wp-image-79898″ src=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-10.jpg” alt=”GAF Eurofighter” width=”706″ height=”397″ srcset=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-10.jpg 706w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-47.jpg 460w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-48.jpg 128w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-49.jpg 768w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-50.jpg 678w, https://theaviationist.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/7.jpg 1280w” sizes=”(max-width: 706px) 100vw, 706px”>

Luftwaffe’s Eurofighter demo team.

The personnel at the Krzesiny base helped the organizers in securing these displays, as both aircraft can be proudly distinguished as members of the NATO Tigers community. The personnel from Krzesiny openly said they were amazed by the air show, and this may be a sign that Leszno would host more military aircraft in the future. Possibly, this could mean that there would be a necessity to reformulate the air show and arrange it as a classic, weekend (Saturday and Sunday) event, but we will see what the future may bring.

Also, one more military highlight came in a form of a Slovenian PC-9 demo – with copious amount of impressive negative G maneuvers being the highlight of the routine.

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F-16 Tiger Demo Team of the Polish Air Force

” data-medium-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-51.jpg” data-large-file=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-11.jpg” loading=”lazy” class=”size-large wp-image-79899″ src=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-11.jpg” alt width=”706″ height=”397″ srcset=”https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-11.jpg 706w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-51.jpg 460w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-52.jpg 128w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-53.jpg 768w, https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/antidotum-airshow-leszno-2022-the-biggest-airshow-in-poland-this-year-54.jpg 678w, https://theaviationist.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/8.jpg 1280w” sizes=”(max-width: 706px) 100vw, 706px”>

F-16 Tiger Demo Team of the Polish Air Force

Gliders and Wilgas

One of the more interesting displays was performed by a trio of Leszno-based Wilgas, towing the Flying Club’s gliders and flying in a 6-aircraft formation. Wilga alone is an exotic sight to behold, three Wilgas towing gliders are a treat. Wilga was also used as a tow plane by Guy Westgate, in his GliderFX act including a pyro-take-off, and roll-on-tow elements. Notably, the Leszno show has its roots in the Glider Picnic series of events held there, and it is nice to see that the organizers are not forgetting their sailplanes heritage. A pair of Alon A2 Ercoupes was another act performed on behalf of the Aeroklub Leszczyński.

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Leszno-based PZL-104 Wilga

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Leszno-based PZL-104 Wilga

Polish Military Props

The Polish 33rd Airlift Base also made a unique contribution to the Leszno program. First, we have seen a dynamic display of the Polish Air Force’s C-130 Hercules and M-28 Bryza STOL aircraft. And this was during the daytime portion of the show. Secondly, the C-130, as it did last year, also has shown its spectacular flares drop, releasing all of its flares at once, in a single pass, leaving the audience amazed. The C-130’s flare display has now, undoubtedly, become a trademark of the Leszno show and no images or videos do it justice – it must be witnessed live.

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Massive flares drop by the Polish C-130

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Massive flares drop by the Polish C-130

Night show

The Hercules was opening the night pyro portion of the show. This part has been a usually spectacular (however ridiculous it may sound) part of Leszno’s magic – AeroSPARX, OV-10 Bronco, and The Flying Dragons Team on paramotors, all performed a stunning, night spectacle. So far the evening/night portion of the show has been the main reason to go to Leszno, it seems now that the organizers are starting to strike the right balance between the night and day sections (with the daytime section now being so expansive and rich).

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Marek Choim’s night display routine

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Marek Choim’s night display routine

Overall, it is great to witness the growth of this small, Polish GA show, to the size of a proper international display. We do hope, and we have our fingers crossed, that Leszno would soon become a solid element of the European air show calendars, attracting more than just the local audiences. A show like that deserves to evolve and grow at a rapid pace, considering the amount of effort and passion the small team of organizers has for this event.

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Aerosparx night show finale, long exposure shot showing the pyros.

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Aerosparx night show finale, long exposure shot showing the pyros.

More photos of the airshow can be found here.

About Jacek Siminski
Standing contributor for TheAviationist. Aviation photojournalist. Co-Founder of DefensePhoto.com. Expert in linguistics, Cold War discourse, Cold War history and policy and media communications.

Is Poland Really Considering Procurement Of Korean FA-50 Light Combat Aircraft?

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Is Poland Really Considering Procurement Of Korean FA-50 Light Combat Aircraft?
File picture of a Korean FA-50. (Wiki) Procurement of one more kind might have no actual advantage. Spokesperson for the Polish Armament Agency (Polish MoD’s protection purchase body organ )mentioned, using his Twitter account, that Warsaw is thinking about purchase of the KAI FA-50 as a prospective support of the Polish Air Force. The information showed up in the Polish public ball following the MoD’s agents’, consisting of the head of the Polish MoD, Mariusz Błaszczak, check out to Korea, where they have actually been talking about the possibility for commercial collaboration in between Poland as well as Korea. The major topic of the talks worried the Wilk major fight containers program sought by the MoD. It is additionally worth to go over the air domain name part of this go to.

The declaration is confusing, to state the least. As Poland runs the M-346 Master in the instructor duty currently, with even more heading, and also with the F-16s being the foundation of the flying force, and also with unavoidable purchase of the F-35, it is rather tough to examine the reasoning behind such an acquisiton. Back in Oct. 2020 the Polish MoD made a decision to acquire 8 extra Masters, bringing the overall variety of the Italian AJT systems to 16.

Dawid Kamizela, Polish protection expert benefiting the Nowa Technika Wojskowa, and also Frag Out! publications informed us: “The T-50 is currently understood in Poland, as the T-50 completed versus the M-346 in the LIFT (Lead-in Fighter Trainer) program. As most of us understand, the Italian system won that tendering treatment. It would just be feasible if the T-50 won that LIFT tender if we were to validate the purchase of the FA-50 currently. If any kind of specific niche for airplane because of this– combat-capable instructor– exists in the Polish Air Force, after that, for apparent factors– the M-346 must be the main option.”

The Polish Air Force would certainly require to develop a brand-new supply/maintenance chain for a completely brand-new, unique system, complying with the currently expensive F-35 purchase. Keeping 3 various system kinds might position a substantial obstacle. The framework for FA-50 would certainly consist of garages, however some difficulties within the range of logistics as well as training, in addition to consumables and also spares, would certainly require to be attended to. Also if the FA-50 is taken into consideration as a light fight airplane, its minimal haul ability, or reduced efficiency envelope for the air-to-air rockets (as a result of the reduced rate) might likewise appear to be a significant issue. The only circumstance in which the FA-50 can use a possible as a battle airplane is when the enemy runs outdated 2nd or 3rd gen systems, such as MiG-19, or MiG-21– as in situation of North Korea. Some wild declarations were being made weeks earlier, recommending the FA-50 can change the Polish MiG-29s, after these are possibly handed off to Ukraine– yet neither did move therefore occur, neither is it presently on the table, as a prospective alternative.

Rather than acquiring an additional sort of airplane, one might take the chance of a declaration that Poland would certainly be much better off obtaining taken part in allied interoperability programs, such as the MMF (Multinational MRTT Fleet), or the NATO AWACS part. These would in fact reasonably enhance the possible offered to the Polish Air Force, without always hurting the currently greatly strained logistics chain.

Defence24 at the same time additionally hypothesized that Korea can possibly supply a transfer of its pre-owned KF-16 MRCA– as a possible support of the Polish Air Force’s capacity, This appears to be an extra reasonable choice, given that it would certainly not be such a pressure on the upkeep chain, as KF-16 shows a high level of commonness with the Polish F-16 Block 52 jets.

About Jacek Siminski Standing factor for TheAviationist. Aeronautics photographer. Founder of DefensePhoto.com. Professional in grammars, Cold War discussion, Cold War background and also plan as well as media interactions.

United State Air Force Certifies Polish Air Force M-346 Training System For Future F-16 And F-35 Pilots

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United State Air Force Certifies Polish Air Force M-346 Training System For Future F-16 And F-35 Pilots
Two Polish M-346s throughout a training objective.

(Photo: Polish Air Force )The qualification testifies that the training of Polish pilots amounts the training done in the USA on the T-38C as much as the Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals. Adhering to a week-long evaluation in late 2021, the U.S. Air Force licensed the Polish Air Force training system with the M-346 Bielik at the 41st Training Aviation Base in Dęblin as comparable to the training executed on the T-38C Talon in the USA, several Polish media electrical outlets have actually reported. Following this qualification, Polish pilots will certainly currently have the ability to finish their training in the house prior to signing up with the Operational Conversion Unit, without the demand of added training abroad. The United States employees executed an extremely throughout evaluation of the training system fixated the M-346. Amongst the products examined there are the facilities, the academic talks, the abilities of the trainers, the objective preparation, debriefing as well as instruction procedure, the trip simulator training and also the online trip training.” A group of a number of United States Air Force pilots, standing for both battle and also

training air travel, involved us as well as thoroughly examined just how we educate”, stated Maj. Pil. Mariusz Fischer, M-346 Bielik teacher pilot.”The Americans likewise examined our framework in regards to its performance, the variety of offered aircrafts and also simulators. The training paperwork and also the trip safety and security system were additionally evaluated. Each component was evaluated in excellent information.”For a long period of time, pilots appointed to fly the F-16 Fighting Falcon finished first trip training in Poland on the PZL-130 Orlik at the 42nd Training Air Base in Radom and afterwards transferred to the United States for sophisticated training and also Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals(IFF)on the T-38C Talon, prior to going to the F-16 Basic Course in Tucson, Arizona. This was a forced selection as the currently retired TS-11 Iskra was inadequate qualified to give the pupil pilots with the called for skillset prior to the F-16 B-Course. A Polish M-346 Bielik on top of a looping.(Photo: Polish Air Force)Following the distribution of the M-346, the Polish Air Force got in a change stage and also currently, with this qualification, Polish pilots will certainly have the ability to finish at Dęblin all their innovative training as much as the IFF stage. Especially, the training was licensed likewise for the future F-35 pilots Like their 4th gen equivalents, they will just relocate to the United States when prepared to participate in the F-35 B-Course at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. The evaluation group likewise located area for additional renovation, starting from the variety of trip simulators.”We satisfied the demands established by the United States in the area of training pilots of 5th and also 4th generation airplane. This is a substantial success for our team. Our allies likewise offered us high marks for training paperwork as well as teachers’ abilities”, included Maj. Fischer.” The aspect that requires enhancement is the variety of simulators. These are really modern-day tools, yet their number insufficient to the fleet of aircrafts gotten under the agreement might have an effect on keeping the prepared training rhythm. Getting an added simulator appears essential to accomplish the needed system throughput “. Poland presently runs a fleet of 12 M-346s, of which the initial 8

were purchased in 2014 with the various other 4 airplane as an alternative. In 2014, an agreement for a brand-new choice of 4 M-346 was introduced, which must be supplied by the end of the year as well as bring the complete fleet to 16 airplane. Together with the last 4 airplane, Poland will certainly obtain a brand-new assistance bundle in addition to an upgrade of the whole M-346 fleet to the NATO STANAG 4193 Edition 3 IFF basic established by Leonardo. About Stefano D’Urso Stefano D’Urso is an independent reporter as well as factor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A grad in Industral Engineering he’s additionally researching to accomplish a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Digital Warfare, Loitering Munitions as well as OSINT strategies related to the globe of existing disputes as well as armed forces procedures are amongst his locations of knowledge.

Poland Procures Turkish Bayraktar TB2 Drones Almost Out of the Blue

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The Bayraktar TB2 UCAV on the ground. (Image credit: Wikimedia)

Poland announced the procurement of the Turkish Bayraktar TB2 medium altitude long endurance (MALE) unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV).

Polish Minister of Defence, Mariusz Błaszczak, announced that Poland will acquire the Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones as a part of its Gryf UAV procurement program, on May 22, 2021. The first rumors emerged just last week, earlier on there was no sight of similar procurement on the roadmap. The Polish defense analysts were stunned by the news.

It all started with a tweet, by Mariusz Błaszczak, depicting a scale model of the Turkish drone, wearing the Polish Air Force checkerboard on its side. The tweet was posted on May 19. Yesterday, on May 22, the head of the Polish MoD confirmed Poland’s willingness to acquire the drones in question, during an interview for Polskie Radio 24.

The Bayraktar TB2 medium altitude long endurance (MALE) unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) has seen combat use recently in the conflict in Nagorno Karabakh.

Poland is willing to acquire 24 UCAVs as such, armed with ATGMs. The Polish Gryf UAV acquisition program initially assumed that 15 UCAV sets would be procured (90 aircraft). It may be, that the Turkish drones are just a part of a broader procurement scheme. We do not know yet.

The Polish defense analysts criticize the procurement in a multidimensional manner, but none of the voices remain positive. Given the discourse created by the Polish MoD, suggesting that the Ministry is willing to support the Polish industry primarily, off-the-shelf acquisitions – such as the F-35 procurement (without any offset deal, and without any competitive procurement process), or the Bayraktar TB2 deal, both spark a lot of controversies.

Even though Błaszczak noted that no Polish company is manufacturing UCAVs of capabilities equivalent to these of Bayraktar, the manufacturing of such aircraft would be feasible in the Polish industry, the experts argue – both the WB Group, as well as the PGZ Group – two major Polish defense umbrella companies – could easily design and manufacture a platform as such. Michał Gajzler, from Nowa Technika Wojskowa, commented on the above as follows:

Błaszczak’s statement probably means that the Polish MoD is not willing to spend a lot on R&D – we are coming back to a problem recently signaled by Tomasz Dmitruk: the R&D expenditure in the Polish MoD is too low. This, in turn, hampers the development of the Polish industry. It is difficult to expect the private or state entities to finance their R&D autonomously, using their own funds – regardless of whether it refers to tactical long-range UAVs, or MALE UAVs. The Polish businesses cannot carry out a project as such on their own – this is proven, for instance, by statements made by the Vice-President at WB Group, who, openly, stated that the company would not be able to finance a task as such on its own. It is not the first case of the Polish MoD procuring systems off-the-shelf, leaving the technical modernization plans aside. The TB2 procurement offset agreement is to only cover the maintenance, locally, in Poland. This is not a broad agreement. The Polish MoD does not seem to be interested in a transfer of technology of any kind. This is quite the opposite thing, from what was announced before, as the MoD and the PM of Poland were claiming that unmanned platforms would become a Polish specialty. The MoD took the easy way out here. The procurement of ammunition carriers for the Rak self-propelled mortar units announced on the same day, could be viewed as a fig leaf.

Other concerns refer specifically to the operational environment in which the Bayraktar TB2s have been and potentially will be operating.

The Polish defense and security analysts doubt whether a lack of systemic approach, seen in the procurement discussed within the present article, would bring any benefits other than the rapid acquisition of a system that would ultimately be a standalone, non-networked solution.

Michał Piekarski, Ph.D., a defense analyst, and security researcher from Poland (University of Wrocław) told us about his concerns, regarding the acquisition:

The decision is quite surprising, especially given the availability of the local industrial resources. Not only is the matter related to manufacturing alone, as local, domestic entities have been delivering UAVs already integrated within the Polish C2 network – this refers to the WB Group’s FlyEye platform primarily. In fact, the Polish artillery component is operating the FlyEye, as they are simply a part of the system. If Poland receives the Bayraktar TB2s, regardless of the politics, the platform may be isolated from the remaining components used in the multi-domain environment. The role of the aforesaid drones is another matter. 4 packages is the quantity, which means that 1 package would be assigned to each land forces’ division. It still remains unclear, however, how these drones would fare against the Russian IADS. The procurement announced out of the blue also begs another question: was it based on an in-depth analysis or made, because last year UCAVs became fashionable, following the tensions in Nagorno Karabakh?

Another dimension of the acquisition is related to the PR surrounding the Turkish drones, and the successful employment in operational conditions. The potential employment in the Armed Conflict on the NATO eastern flank might be much different than a limited scale warfare. Dawid Kamizela, Polish defense journalist (Nowa Technika Wojskowa, Frag Out!), expressed his doubts, being similar to the ones voiced by Piekarski, as follows:

The success of these UAVs, or tactical armed UCAV platforms in general, is dependent on the environment in which they are operated. In case of the famour US Predator and Reaper UAVs, they were usually used in an environment where virtually no enemy air defense systems were present. In case of the Turkish drones, these have been used on battlefields where VSHORAD (Very Short Range Air Defense Systems) assets were present – such as the Russian Pantsir solution. So how come, that the drones had a successful PR, being depicted as a platform capable of acting agaist assets protected by VSHORAD systems? The answer is buried in the systemic approach, as Bayraktar TB2s have been a part on an effective system tha also included ELINT assets and armament – such as tube and rocket artillery. The Pantsir systems on the other side had no systemic foundation at hand. They were used as individual assets, without early warning radars electronic warfare assets, or an efficient C2 solution – and it is difficult to claim that the Russian military does not have these assets at hand. Meanwhile, the challenge posed by the integration of the Turkish UCAVs with the Polish C2 assets (such as the WB Group’s TOPAZ system), is another point that is difficult to be discussed – it is an obvious doubt and unknown area.

Considering the global trend to integrate all domains on the battlefield, into a single, coherent battlespace, troubles in the integration of a new system into the national, coherent network, seem to be quite concerning. The general discourse, regarding the development of modern military operations, raises an argument of a multi-domain concept of operations. As no statements were made about the integration of the Turkish Bayraktar TB2 platforms in Poland’s C4ISR network, this is undoubtedly a point to be aware of.

Poland Bayraktar TB2
Another file image of a Bayraktar TB2 drone.

Turkey is also expanding its involvement on the NATO Eastern Flank: recently its E-7 AWACS platform was deployed to Romania; yesterday the head of the Polish MoD also announced that the Turkish F-16 jets would be deployed to the Polish Malbork AB, to support NATO’s Baltic Air Policing operation.

Standing contributor for TheAviationist. Aviation photojournalist. Co-Founder of DefensePhoto.com. Expert in linguistics, Cold War discourse, Cold War history and policy and media communications.

USAF Deploys Major Fighter Component to Poland

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An F-15C of the 48th Fighter Wing lands at Krzesiny on Apr. 19, 2021.
(All images credit: Paweł Nowak/EPKS Spotters)

USAF deployed 24 fighters to Poland.

Twenty F-15s and four F-16s belonging to the U.S. Air Force deployed to Poland on Apr. 19, 2021. The two dozen USAF fighters arrived at Łask (EPLK) and Krzesiny (EPKS) airbases from where they will operate within the framework of an Agile Combat Employment exercise during Aviation Detachment Rotation (AvRot) 21-2. The F-15s, both E and C models, come from RAF Lakenheath, UK, and belong to the 48th Fighter Wing, whilst the F-16s are assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron, 52nd Fighter Wing, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.

C-130J Super Hercules aircraft assigned to the 37th Airlift Squadron, 86th Airlift Wing, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, are also supporting AvRot 21-2.

While the F-15Cs and F-16s went to Krzesiny AB, the F-15Es landed at Łask. The 86th AW’s C-130 will operate out of Chièvres AB, Belgium, to disperse, organize and generate airlift for the ACE event.

The USAF jets will be involved in interoperationability, joint procedures, and mission tactics training with the Polish 2nd Tactical Aviation Wing and the Polish Vipers. Two sorties a day are planned. The operations would also involve the Polish Fulcrums, Polska Zbrojna outlet reports.

This is not the first-ever visit of the U.S. F-15s to Poland: in July 2019, the U.S. F-15E Strike Eagles from the 4th FW out of Seymour Johnson AFB, NC, temporarily deployed to Spangdahlem, landed at Powidz AB as a part of the Rapid Forge exercise. Dealing with the Vipers, in the same period (June 2019), Spangdahlem’s F-16s deployed to Krzesiny AB for bilatelar training with the Polish Air Force, as a part of AvRot 19-2.

U.S. Air Force F-15 in Poland
One of the 48th Fighter Wing Eagles landing at Krzesiny. (All images credit: Paweł Nowak/EPKS Spotters)

The American combat aircraft will start flying the first missions after a short period of orientation required to get the U.S. aircrews acquainted with the specific nature of the Polish airspace and local procedures. Polska Zbrojna reports that Cpt. Michał Kolad, the spokesman for Łask AB, stated that air combat training is one of the elements of the deployment. Defensive air/territory defense sorties have also been planned, as well as strike missions and aerial refueling operations. The deployment is to end with COMAO (Composite Air Operations) setting sorties, that are to be supported by NATO AWACS.

“Opportunities to train alongside our Polish allies are incredibly valuable and critically important,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces Europe-Air Forces Africa commander in a public statement. “It allows us to hone our combat skills, build lasting relationships and learn to operate seamlessly as a combined force. The reoccurring aviation detachment rotations make both nations stronger by developing highly capable Airmen ready to deliver combat airpower, anytime and anywhere.”

A 480th FS F-16.

According to the U.S. Air Force, the Agile Combat Employment (ACE) concept envisions the use of agile operations to generate resilient airpower in a contested environment: “ACE is a proactive and reactive operational scheme of maneuver executed within threat timelines to increase survivability while generating combat power. U.S. Air Forces Europe-Air Forces Africa is operationalizing ACE concepts to increase agility, resiliency and lethality in all air operations.”

Following the ACE exercise, the 48 FW will conduct bilateral training with the Polish air force to maintain joint readiness while building interoperability capabilities.

Another shot of an Eagle arriving in Poland on Apr. 19, 2021.

Standing contributor for TheAviationist. Aviation photojournalist. Co-Founder of DefensePhoto.com. Expert in linguistics, Cold War discourse, Cold War history and policy and media communications.

U.S. B-1B Lancer Bomber Lands in Poland for the First Time

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B-1’s first landing in Poland (All images, courtesy: Albert Jabłoński/EPKS Spotters)

USAF B-1B made a fuel stop at the Polish 33rd Airlift Base in Powidz. This has been the first ever landing of the Bone on the Polish soil.

On Mar. 12, 2021, on the 22nd anniversary of the Polish accession to NATO, a U.S. Air Force B-1B belonging to the 7th Bomb Wing at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, currently deployed to Norway, as part of a BTF (Bomber Task Force), landed a Powidz Air Base. The BONE (from “B-One”) landing in Powidz came from Orland Air Force Station, and conducted interoperability drills with tactical aviation elements of Sweden, Poland, and the Netherlands before landing at Powidz.

The aircraft visiting Poland, used radio callsign HUSSR02 and entered the Polish airspace via KARTKI, GRUDA, DEKUT, GINOK, BANPI route.

After conducting the hot pit refueling (refueling without turning off the engines, with its crew remaining in the cockpit) the aircraft departed from Powidz. USAF release made today stated that the maneuvers “drastically reduce refueling times, so that bombers can more rapidly return to the skies”. The procedure is a part of the so called Agile Combat Employment tactic boosting the bombers’ capability to rapidly deploy to remote airbases of varied capacity. In a sense, the concept is somewhat very similar to the one adopted during similar exercises that took place at the Powidz AB – the Rapid Raptor, and Rapid Forge operations, we could have witnessed during the recent years.

The B-1 over Powidz.

In the Polish airspace, the B-1Bs were escorted by the Polish Air Force’s F-16 jets that were scrambled from the Krzesiny AB near Poznan around noon.

The Polish MoD stressed the fact that another visit of the Lancers in the Polish airspace can be viewed as a visible sign of the US readiness to react to potential crises in the region.

The U.S. bomber escorted by two Polish F-16s.

Standing contributor for TheAviationist. Aviation photojournalist. Co-Founder of DefensePhoto.com. Expert in linguistics, Cold War discourse, Cold War history and policy and media communications.

Polish F-35 Jets to Be Stationed At Lask Air Base in Central Poland

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F-35 in Polish Air Force markings. (Image credit: Wiki/Mateusz Rynski). In the box, Lask AB (Image credit: Google Earth)

Poland designated the airbase that will host its F-35 Lightning II jets.

According to an interview that the Polish Press Agency (PAP) conducted with the head of the MoD, Minister Mariusz Błaszczak, the Polish F-35 fleet of 32 aircraft is planned to be stationed at Łask AB in central Poland.

This is a surprise, nonetheless, Błaszczak suggested that the plan in question has been in place for about a year now.

When asked about the expected arrival of the F-35s (in 2024), Błaszczak also answered the question concerning the infrastructure that could be used to properly host them. He responded:

The place for the base for these aircraft has been designated already, last year – it is Łask AB. The infrastructure there only needs to be complemented, there is no need to build it from a scratch. The work has already been launched. I can assure you, we will make it on time.

Mariusz Błaszczak, head of the Polish MoD, as interviewed by PAP

The above statement puts an end to the rumors surrounding the procurement of the F-35s in Poland when it comes to the place where the jets could potentially be stationed. Last year there was an agreement signed, the purpose of which was to find a contractor who would be willing to modernize the infrastructure at the Polish Świdwin AB, currently hosting the Polish Su-22 Fitter fleet. However, it turns out that the Polish F-35 jets, procured within the framework of the Harpia program, would not be stationed there. Poland may still be moving its air assets around the country though.

Let us recall: the Polish F-16s are currently stationed at Łask (ICAO code: EPLK) and Poznań-Krzesiny (EPKS) airbases (31st Tactical Airbase and 32nd Tactical Airbase respectively). The Polish MiG-29 Fulcrums are stationed at Minsk Mazowiecki (EPMM) and at Malbork AB (EPMB) (23rd Tactical Airbase and 22nd Tactical Airbase). Finally, the Polish Su-22 Fitters are currently stationed at Świdwin AB (EPSN) (21st Tactical Airbase). We do not know for sure, how the Polish Air Force’s assets would be moved around. Some F-16s currently stationed in Łask could be deployed somewhere else. Artur Goławski (former Air Force media rep) suggests that 21st AB is the intended destination for the Łask-based F-16s, along with the simulators that are a part of the infrastructure.

Furthermore, and interestingly, Defence24 reported yesterday that the Polish Air Force is seeking options within the scope of carrying out an MLU program for the Polish F-16 fleet. We do not know, as of yet, what the scope and timeline of the upgrade could be. However, it seems natural, after 15 years in service, to carry out a mid-life upgrade of the fleet. Fitting the Polish Vipers with an AESA radar, and addition of relevant capabilities to their comms suite (so that they can covertly communicate with the F-35s) seem to be obvious here.

Notably, the Polish Air Force’s F-16s have received a minor upgrade already – in a form of M6.5 software update, carried out along with the procurement of the JASSM missiles. What comes next, remains to be seen.

Standing contributor for TheAviationist. Aviation photojournalist. Co-Founder of DefensePhoto.com. Expert in linguistics, Cold War discourse, Cold War history and policy and media communications.

Listen To Three B-52s Discussing Their “Gameplan” For Landing After Black Sea and Astral Knight Missions

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HERO34 #61-0034 flying over Poland with Polish Air Force escort. (Image credit: Polish AF).

On Sept. 23, 2020, five U.S. B-52H Stratofortress strategic bombers belonging to the 5th Bomb Wing, from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, deployed to Europe as part of BTF 20-4, flew missions over Eastern Europe: two two-ships, flying as “HERO 31/32” and “HERO 33/34” operated in the Black Sea area; one single-ship, “LEMAY35”, flew to Poland.

The radio callsign of the latter is noteworthy, as it appears to be a tribute to Gen. Curtis Emerson LeMay, Strategic Air Command commander from 1948 to 1957 (the longest tenure of any US military commander in nearly 100 years) and later 5th Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force. LeMay had a clear vision of SAC being so obviously powerful that it would be perceived by any and all enemies to be unbeatable and so deter them from any aggressive action. He was instrumental in SAC’s acquisition of a large fleet of new strategic bombers, establishment of a vast aerial refueling system, the formation of many new units and bases, development of a strategic ballistic missile force, and establishment of a strict command and control system with an unprecedented readiness capability. Under LeMay command, SAC grew from a  to close to 2,000 heavy bombers, and nearly 800 tanker aircraft.

While LEMAY integrated with the assets involved in Astral Knight 2020, the two HERO flights operated in the Ukrainian airspace (closely monitored by several Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance assets flying in the Black Sea area likely interested in recording the reactions of the Russian air defenses to the presence of the B-52s in the area) and caused two Russian Su-27 Flanker to scramble, before returning to RAF Fairford.

On their way back to the UK, HERO33 (#60-0029) and HERO34 (#61-0034), that were also escorted by 2x Polish F-16s and 2x MiG-29s, rejoined with LEMAY35 (#60-0044) and flew as a three-ship towards RAF Faiford. Interestingly, the bombers talked one another on their OPS frequency and discussed the “gameplan” for recovery. Their radio comms, in the clear (not encrypted), were recorded on 321.0 Mhz by @EHEH_Spotter as the formation progressed over Germany, and we can listen them in the following video (the footage is cool, but is not related to this specific mission):

At the beginning of the clip LEMAY 35 is about 4NM behind HERO flight and starts rejoins with the two B-52s flying in the block 270-280, at 300 kts. The trailing BUFF asks the channel of the air-to-air TACAN (30Y) so that it can read the actual distance from the preceding B-52s. The initial plan was to reach Fairford as a three-ship, but, because of the weather, the formation splits and the B-52s perform separate ILS procedures. The leader will fly at 280 knots, the number 2 at 275 KIAS and the number 3 will keep 250 KIAS so that they get 23NM between them.

The following cool video shows the arrival of LEMAY 35:

Astral Knight mission

As mentioned, LEMAY 35 supported Astral Knight 2020. We got to learn a bit more about the exercise thanks to a telephone media briefing that took place as the B-52 operated over Poland, not too far from the Belarus border.

“This year we’re building on the lessons learned from Astral Knight ’19, enhancing our ability to build a resilient, integrated air and missile defense enterprise,” said U.S. Air Forces Maj. Gen. Derek France. “We will be putting our combined airmen and soldiers through a demanding set of scenarios over the course of this week using both live fly and computer-based scenarios.  Our goal at the end of this week is to enhance command and control integration, improve coordination interoperability, land and air capabilities, and successfully overlap operations into an integrated air and missile defense architecture.”

“Astral Knight incorporates a variety of U.S. Air Force and Polish Air Force aircraft, including elements of our current bomber task force in theater as well as Army Patriot missile systems and Polish ground-based missile systems.  Additionally, we will – and most importantly will be integrating our air operations centers, on the U.S. side at Ramstein, and the Polish air operations center in Warsaw to give us a greater combined awareness of the air defense picture.”

Basically, it’s a pre-Article five defensive scenario.

“The scenarios we’ve developed over the course of the week involve a variety of threats,” Gen. France added. “We have forces that are capable of engaging each of those, and when we talk about command and control, which is one of the focus areas of this, it’s about putting the right force to defend against the right threat and the right place at the right time. If we do that, our operators will hit homeruns all day long. But it’s the understanding of how to posture those correctly. And so it is a variety of threats, everything from ballistic missiles to aircraft to cruise missiles to unmanned aerial things. And some of them are live fly, some of them are simulated, and some of them are injects that go into the planning system so that we plan against them.”

“This exercise is also an avenue to enhance our partnerships across the Baltic region between U.S. joint partners and other nations such as Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, as mentioned, and Sweden as we share common interests in maintaining a Europe that is safe and secure and prosperous.  By training together in the region, we’re able to enhance our flexibility, our interoperability in the interests of strengthening combined response capabilities and demonstrating international resolve.  Our partners fly a variety of different weapons systems, and it’s important and crucial that we expand those capabilities by integrating with one another.”

“The ever-evolving security situation in this theater requires precise focus and dedication, and Astral Knight is one of the key measures that ensures our nations are able to respond to any situation with speed and agility.  Enhancing our readiness through demanding and challenging exercises such as Astral Knight ’20 allows our joint and multinational team to be ready for any challenge we may face in the future.”

“And the bottom line is this: that no nation can confront today’s challenges alone.  But because of the relationships we have built in these AOCs and through this exercise, they become the bedrock for us to undertake Astral Knight and present a ready and capable defense that is able to defend this area.”

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Astral Knight 2020 Exercise Kicks Off In Eastern Europe

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File photo of a B-52H Stratofortress bomber aircraft assigned to the 5th Bomb Wing, Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, taking off from RAF Fairford, UK. The B-52s will take part in AK 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jesse Jenny)

Astral Knight 2020 is a multinational exercise focused on air defense capabilities.

Between Sep. 17 and 25, 2020, it is going to involve relevant air assets in Poland (airbases and aircraft), Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. Interestingly, the Tobruq Legacy 20 exercise focused on air defense, is taking place almost simultaneously in Lithuania. Last year the Tobruq Legacy took place in Poland.

Astral Knight 2020 will see the participations of U.S., Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, and Sweden forces.

The air assets involved in the drills include the USAF F-16s, KC-135s, KC-10s, E-3s, and B-52s, alongside the Polish F-16s, Su-22s, and the Mi-17 helicopters. Furthermore, U.S. Army Europe plans to provide soldiers and equipment to operate the Patriot surface-to-air missile system out of Szymany Air Base, Poland.

The U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Public Affairs release states that the exercise is aimed to “develop and exercise an enduring regional integrated air and missile defense architecture, command and control integration, coordination, and interoperability of air and land capabilities with overlapping operations into the integrated air and missile defense enterprise.”

Interestingly, the Polish MoD also outlined the threats that will be simulated or addressed during the exercise. These are going to include missile and air threats, UAVs, stealth cruise missiles, hypersonic weapons, and advanced ballistic missiles, because, as the Polish Ministry highlights, “close competitors are rapidly developing the military domain”.

Finally, the Astral Knight 20 will also allow the participants to test the command capabilities. This remains relevant, as it will involve cooperation between the allied nations and U.S. Air Forces in Europe.

The official press release also specifies the deployment location for the US Army Europe Patriot SAM system. The Patriot battery in question is to be operated out of the Szymany Air Base in Poland. The release may be misleading – Szymany is not an airbase; it is a civil airport located near Olsztyn. The airport issued a note that it would be hosting the US and Polish forces between Aug. 18 and Sep. 30. Thus, the civil airport would undergo a militarization. This is yet another important (and overlooked by most of the media outlets) aspect of the training. The Olsztyn-Mazury (Szymany) airport’s release places a major emphasis on the fact that the General Aviation and passenger flight ops would not be interrupted by the training undertaken by the military operations there.

This would not be a major issue also due to the limited amount of traffic that flies out of Szymany. The airport offers connections to Krakow, Dortmund (Germany), London Luton, and London Stansted. During July 2020 the airport has been a point of departure by 8,368 passengers, msn.com reports. The above translates into a 45.7% drop when compared to last year (15,408 passengers checking in). This renders the aforesaid airport a perfect spot for militarization. Not to mention its strategic location near the so-called Suwałki Gap. NATO views the region as a pain-point in the conflict with the potential adversary.

Another interesting notion is that the USAF Europe strongly emphasizes the fact that the exercise has been long-planned and is not associated with any current events. The statement above seems to be a preemptive measure, refuting the potential reaction of the Kremlin – Moscow could potentially create a narrative here, suggesting that Astral Knight could be a part of a military buildup in response to the crisis events currently unfolding in Belarus.

Astral Knight 2019

Last year, Astral Knight was a 4-day exercise held in the Adriatic region: more than 30 USAF aircraft took part in the exercise, including the F-35A Lightning IIs deployed to Aviano as part of TSP (Theater Security Package) on May 23, 2019, (and moved to Spangdahlem, Germany, on Jun. 11, 2019), F-16 Fighting Falcons, KC-135 Stratotankers and E-3 Sentry aircraft. The Italian Air Force took part in the exercise with the F-35A Lightning IIs and Eurofighter Typhoons deployed to Istrana as well as a G550 CAEW (Conformal Airborne Early Warning) aircraft from Pratica di Mare airbase. The Croatian Air Force took part in the drills with its MiG-21s.

The focus of the multi-national exercise, was to defend several key areas of terrain from cruise-missile and aircraft strikes. Integration was one of the key themes of Astral Knight because it will be essential in any future war, and for the first time, U.S. Air Force F-35As (belonging to Hill AFB’s 421st Fighter Squadron) integrated operationally with Italian Air Force F-35As and communicated with each other over the MADL.

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