Polish Minister of Defence Antoni Macierewicz has confirmed plans to deploy four F-16 fighters for Middle East reconaissance missions, supporting coalition against so-called ISIS. The MoD decision still needs to be accepted by Polish prime minister and president, but according to MoD Chief, planning is already finished and crews are ready.
The contingent of four fighter aircraft and up to 150 personnel should be based in Kuwait. Further Polish support of coalition effort would be 60 special forces operators, deployed to Iraq. Their tasks would cover advising and training of iraqi special forces personnel.
Aircraft should be present in the operations area before Warsaw’s NATO Summit, beginning on 8th of July. Jastrzabs, as they are known in Polish AF, would be tasked with reconaissance missions only. Polish Air Force flies 48 F-16 block 52+, which are equipped with Goodrich DB-110 reconaissanse pods.
The same recce tasks are now fulfilled in the ISIS’ conflict area by Luftwaffe Tornados. Six German fighter-bombers and Airbus A310 MRTT tanker are now based in Incirlik in Turkey.
A knowing smile. During multinational military exercise Frisian Flag at Leeuwarden airbase, that’s all US Air National Guard general Eric Vollmecke has to offer about this week’s surprise deployment of US F-22 Raptors to the UK. This year’s edition of Frisian Flag will have to make do with the Raptor’s predecessor, the F-15C Eagle.
Last year’s participation left US Eagle drivers wanting more. No surprise for the exercise that has earned it’s credits in the world of military air combat. It’s something to be proud of, says airbase commander Denny Traas. And yes, he doesn’t mind playing host to some Raptors at some time in the future.
Whereas terms like coalition, leadership and multinational cooperation are usually the talk of the town during Frisian Flag, this Tuesday it’s Raptors what it’s all about. Sure, Leeuwarden is filled to the brim with advanced warplanes, but none quite so advanced as the F-22s currently in the UK, merely 30 minutes flying time away. Traas: “We are always looking for new aircraft types to bring to Frisian Flag, each with its own capabilities and its own limitations.”
The goal of Frisian Flag is to make participating air crews aware of each aircraft type’s characteristics. That knowledge enables pilots to put together large and mixed formations of military aircraft in an effective way. It turns pilots into leaders and single nations into a partner in today’s multinational military coalitions.
At Leeuwarden, that coalition consists of the Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium, the US, the UK, Finland and Poland, each sending warplanes to Leeuwarden. Their jet noise shakes the airbase twice each day for two weeks. It’s when the aircraft take off and head to the training areas over the North Sea. The impressive stream of fighter aircraft easily attracts hundreds of aviation enthusiasts – plus as many noise complaints from the neighbouring town.
Once in the training areas, the participants engage threats in the air and on the ground. It offers a welcome change to refresh skills that perhaps are dormant in current live operations over Syria and Iraq, where air-to-air combat is non-exsistent. Base commander Traas: “Frisian Flag fills that gap and results in pilots that are ready for any scenario at any time, with no lead times needed. We train any scenario here at Leeuwarden, not just those modeled after current campaigns.” Given recent events, has a scenario featuring a large scale conflict involving Russia maybe been taking out of the drawer after resting there for two decades? Another knowing but silent smile, from Traas this time.
Both Finland and Poland would benefit from such a scenario. At the same time, neither country has taken part in recent ops over the Middle East, although Poland ponders to do so. “This is one of the most imporant exercises for us each year, along with the Tiger Meet”, says a Polish Air Force F-16 pilot. Despite not having actual combat experience, the Polish Air Force – celebrating ten years of F-16 operations later this year – bring something valuable to Leeuwarden. Traas: “They are the only ones bringing advanced F-16Cs, just like the Finnish are the only ones bringing F-18 Hornets. Again, the more aircraft types, the better.”
As far as US Air National Guard pilot David ‘Moon’ Halasi-Kun is concerned, there’s still not much better than the F-15C Eagle behind him. “It is still the most highly capable and proven air superiority fighter in existence. The F-15 with its active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar brings very unique capabilities, just as the F-22 with its stealthiness brings unique capabilities.” Combined, the two deliver air dominance, says ‘Moon’.
Together with 40 or so other Eagle pilots from the Massachusetts and California Air National Guards, ‘Moon’ for the next six months augments US firepower over Europe. Frisian Flag marks the start of the deployment, which should see the aircraft and crew head further into Europe.
According to Leeuwarden base commander Denny Traas, there is a ‘fair chance’ that Frisian Flag will hosts another non-European air force in the future. Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) observers are closely watching the current exercise. Raptors or Australian F-18 Super Hornets in the future? Well, why not have both? Because yes, the more, the better in the air combat household name that now is Frisian Flag.
The first Polish Air Force pilot flew his first flight on the Finmeccanica M-346 in Lecce, Italy, last week. The flight marks the beginning of many more flight hours on the M-346 in Polish service. First deliveries of the type to Poland are scheduled for November.
Polish personnel started ground school in Lecce last November, first using Finmeccanica’s elaborated ground based training system associated with the M-346, which is called T-346 in Italian service.
The Polish will use the jet trainer all the way until phase 4 training, also known as Lead In Fighter Training (LIFT), the last step until converting to high performance jets like the F-16 and F-35
Lecce currently offers flight training to student pilots from Italy, Austria, Greece, Kuwait, the Netherlands and Poland. Click here for a full report on training at this airbase in southern Italy.
The first two M-346 Masters for Poland, ordered in 2014 as the result of the Polish Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) tender, recently entered final assembly at Finmeccanica’s Venegono facility. They are the first of at least eight Italian made jet trainers for Poland, with more likely on the way. The first six pilots currently undergo training at the Italian Air Force’s 61 Wing at Lecce airbase.
To commemorate the progress made on the first two jets, general commander of the Polish Army Miroslaw Rozanski this week signed the fuselage of first Polish M-346 Master. The text on fuselage reads “from Italian to Polish land”, paraphrasing the Polish national anthem word and anticipating the actual delivery of the aircraft in November.
Four of the eight ordered M-346 Masters are already in various stages of final assembly. More pics showing M-346 production are here. Roll out and first flight of the first Polish Air Force M-346 are planned for May. With two expected in November, a further six should arrive in Dęblin airbase in 2017 in three batches of two.
The cockpits of Polish M-346s are optimised for F-16 training, with three MFDs arranged similarly to the F-16’s cockpit. Specific Polish features include a drag chute and a sliding cockpit curtain for IFR training. The jets will also be the first featuring an airframe-integrated P5 datalink pod.
Since eight aircraft look to be insufficient to support proper training in Dęblin, exercising an option for a further four is a strong possibility. If the whole training system works as expected, even twelve M-346s may not be enough. The Polish Air Force Academy says it is receiving many requests from foreign air forces about training fast jet pilots.
The new Masters are a massive leap forward from the 1960s-era and much-loved TS-11 Iskras. Full Mission Simulators and datalink capabilities should allow to significantly reduce costs of Lead-In Fighter Training (LIFT) and allow to move most of current Polish training in the US back to Poland.
Poland is ready to send four F-16s to join the war in Syria in a recconaisance role, sources in Warsaw said on Monday 15 February. It is not sure if or when the fighter jets will actually depart to the area and if so, where they will be based.
The head of the Polish National Security Bureau said Poland is considering sending montoring and recce assets to the Syrian conflict area. Most likely it concerns four F-16s with DB110 Raptor recce pods, plus personnel. A formal decision is expected in few a weeks.
The Polish announcement comes as a surprise and may have been sparked by Polish concerns over the refugee crisis that is the result of the war in Syria. Another argument could be the Russian involvement in Syria. Poland has been eyeing east towards Russia with some unease for a number of years now. By sending or at least threatening to send F-16s to Syria, Poland signals to Moscow it is prepared to act military when necessary.
Poland operates 48 reasonably advanced F-16s, all delivered over the last decade or so. Their involvement over Syria would mark the first time Polish F-16s are used in anger, albeit in a recce role.
The presence of the Poles would also mean the situation in Syria gets even more volatile, with aircraft from close to a dozen nations now in the area or preparing to go there. Saudi Arabia is said to have send F-15s to Turkey for operations over Syria, but it remains unclear if that movement actually took place.