The Polish Air Force pilots will fly their Sukhoi Su-22M Fitter strike aircraft for another decade. The life-extension program has been okayed, confirmed the Polish Ministry of Defence on 4 April 2014. The original plan was to start withdrawing the fighter-bombers in 2016.
The modernisation will concern 18 aircraft: 12 standard Su-22M4s and six Su-22UM3K operational trainers. That’s two more than the preliminary planned 16 aircraft of one squadron. The original life-extension plan also included the merge of the upgraded Fitters into one squadron to save costs, but AIRheads↑Fly could not get confirmation that either 8. Eskadra Lotnictwa Taktycznego (Tactical Aviation Squadron or 8.elt) or 40.elt might loose its operational status or be disbanded.
Both units fly from 21 BLT Swidwin, which will be expanded and upgraded for US$ 180 million (EUR 140 million) to handle modern multi-purpose combat aircraft. The work on the base should be completed in 2022, ahead of the Polish plans to acquire up to 64 fifth-generation fighters like the F-35 Lightning II.
Each of the Fitters earmarked for service-life extension will be able to fly at least another 3,000 hours, meaning they could soldier on until 2025. Wojskowe Zaklady Lotnicze (WZL) will execute the overhaul, which includes the installation of new communications systems, a flight recording system and upgrading the instruments to the NATO feet and knots standards. Russian made fighters like the Su-22s normally have the altitude in metres and the speed in kilometres per hour. Each overhaul will take almost a year to complete.
The Polish Air Force (Siły Powietrzne) received 90 single-seat and 20 two-seat Fitters from 1984 onwards, of which 26 M4s and 6 UM3Ks remain. The eight aircraft not to be upgraded might be used for training purposes or spare parts. After 2020 both the remaining 18 Su-22s and 16 modernised MiG-29s will be replaced by the new 5th generation fighter.
© 2014 AIRheads’ editor Marcel Burger
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