Polish Air Force a new dawn.

ON MARCH 12, Poland, together with the Czech Republic and Hungary, finally joined NATO’s ranks. This ended a long journey for Poland which had begun on September 1, 1939, with the Nazi invasion. Fifty-five years after D-Day and the creation of the 2nd Allied Tactical Air Force, Polish Air Force squadrons are returning to a structure which owes its origins to the famous 2nd Allied Tactical Air Force (ATAF). Although the 2nd ATAF no longer exists, its command structure — with the Interim Combined Air Operations Centre 2 at Kalkar in western Germany — will become the Command Post for Polish Air Force and Air Defence (PAFAD) units as part of the NATO reaction forces. In fact only a few people in Poland actually realise that for the first time in the history of the Polish Air Force its units are to be supervised by a German General, the officer in charge of Kalkar’s command posts.

The main responsibility for Poland’s future participation with the Air Reaction Forces lies with the Wojska Lotnicze i Obrony Powierznej (WLOP — Air Force and Air Defence) headed by Polish CinC, gen, dyw, pil (Major General) Kazimierz Dziok.

Its present structure was created in 1990 after merging the Air Force proper (Wojska Lotnicze), which was responsible for tactical aviation, with the National Air Defence Forces (Wojska Obrony Powietrznej Kraju). The latter comprised units equipped with fighters, surface-to-air missiles and mainly Polish-built radars, dedicated to the air defence of Poland and, up until 1989, the Warsaw Pact facilities of that alliance’s members.

Today WLOP is preparing for the future with at least five key modernisation programmes. The key project is the purchase of at least 156 modern multi-role fighters up to the year 2012, however, this is being delayed by a lack of funds.

The heart.

Poland accepted 65 of NATO’s Target Force Goals to bring the Polish Armed Forces up to

Western standards by 2003. One of the primary objectives is to modernise the command and control system.

The newly-established Air Sovereignty Operation Centre (ASOC) was opened on February 12, 1999, at the Centralne Stanowisko Dowodzenia (Polish Air Defence Command and Control Centre or C-in-C Main Command Post). It is located underground in the southern suburbs of Warsaw and was developed following President Clinton’s 1994 initiative to prepare Central Europe for the adoption of Western aviation standards and to improve air safety. It was designed by the USAF Electronic Systems Center and was equipped by Lockheed Martin Tactical Defence Systems (acting as sub-contractor). An ASOC has also been opened at Veszprem in Hungary, Stara Boleslav in the Czech Republic and in Romania. The system is understood to form the core of the NATO-interoperable air defence command and control structure, which, via the ICAOC at Kalkar, will integrate air defence into the NATINADS (NATO Integrated Air Defence

System). Poland considers the NAEWF organisation and its AWACS aircraft to be vital to her security.

Flying Shield.

On July 1, 1998, the WLOP had 272 combat aircraft — 22 MiG-29/MiG-29UBs, 27 MiG-23MF/UBs, 36 MiG-2 Ibis/UMs, 88 older MiG-21 M/MF/R/US/UM variants and 99 Su-22M4/UM3Ks. Last year the WLOP only flew 65,343 hours. Three TS-11 Iskra jet trainers and five pilots were lost.

Most of the recent combat aircraft have been equipped with elements of the new Thomson-CSF IFF Mk XII system, licence-built by Warsaw’s CNPEP Radwar company. The system, both transponders and interrogators, have been installed on most of the air defence and air traffic control radars. Up to now the transponders equip all MiG-293, Su-22s, selected helicopters and certain light jet aircraft (TS-11 Iskra trainers). By the end of 1998 transponders had also been installed on 18 MiG-21bis aircraft although they were not initially intended to be upgraded with the system. These aircraft were sent to Malbork AB, home of the 41st PLM, the unit closest to the Kaliningrad Zone, which will probably be the first to re-equip with a new multi-role fighter some time after 2000. In 1998 some 80 technicians and pilots were sent to the Olesnica-based Centrum Sluzby Inzynieryjno-Lotniczej (Aeronautical Engineering Training Centre) for professional English language and NATO procedures training. The move was made in anticipation of a decision to lease 18 US fighters under a programme which is to be resolved this spring. Next year the WLOP will have only 77 Su-22M4/UM3s, 32 MiG-21 bis, 18 MiG-21MFs, two MiG-23s and 22 MiG-29s in service. The delay in acquiring new multi-role fighters will now result in a capability shortfall.Changes, Changes

During 1998, the WLOP began its reorganisation. The last two fighter-bomber divisions were disbanded and all combat flying units have since been reporting directly to the 2nd (northern) and 3rd (southern) Air Defence Corps — the 2nd KOP and 3rd KOR Simultaneously, the headquarters for two out of a planned three Brygada Lotnictwa Taktycznego (BLT — tactical aviation brigades) have been established. These are 2nd BLT at Poznan (part of 3rd KOP) and 1st BLT at Swidwin (part of 2nd KOP). The 3rd BLT, purely a fighter component, will be created some time around 2000 at Malbork. The first two brigades (the traditional Polish designation for a Wing-level unit) consists of both strike (fighter-bomber) and fighter regiments. All regiments are to be reorganised in 2000 into Eskadry Lotnictwa Taktycznego (ELTs), which again is the traditional Polish name for a squadron-level unit. A Polish squadron, or ELT, will have 16 combat aircraft plus a number of trainers. Additionally, each BLT is to have its own Eskadra Lotnictwa Lacznikowo-Transportowego (ELL-T — liaison and transport squadron) equipped with a few transport aircraft. Initially, these will primarily be PZL An-2TD biplanes. Twenty-three of them still serve in WLOP squadrons and the final three are to be retired in 2002. Their tasks are to be taken over by the specially developed PZL An-28TD Bryza-IT transport aircraft, two of which have been on the strength of the 13th Transport Aviation Regiment in Krakow since 1995.

After further modifications (including a new five-bladed propeller), the aircraft will probably be designated M-28TD. It is planned that 18 An-28TD/M-28TD aircraft should be in service after 2000, with three of these to be delivered in 1999. Some reports suggest that Poland requires around 40 examples but the 1999 budget makes it clear that there are no resources for such a procurement.

Located in western Poland, at Poznan, the 2nd BLT will comprise two Su-22M4 squadrons. The 6th ELT is to be reorganised along with the 7th ELT, a successor to the current 7th PLBR at Powidz. The 7th Regiment is now the only WLOP unit equipped for tactical reconnaissance. After retirement in 1997 of the Su-20 aircraft, two Su-22M4s from Powidz were modified by WZL-2 to carry the Su-20’s KKR-1 reconnaissance pod. Some other units are equipped with the indigenous Polish photo recce pod Saturn, externally resembling a UB-16-57 launcher and normally installed on the underwing pylons of MiG-21 aircraft.

It is believed that the system will be phased out soon.

Operational training on the Su-22M4 is also to be conducted at Powidz, formerly a very important WarPac base. At the end of 1998, the Warsaw-based ETC-PZL Aerospace Industries company began final trials of a full motion Su-22 mission simulator. This is the first such combat aircraft simulator in Poland.

The 2nd BLT will also have two MiG-21 units — the 3rd ELT, ‘Poznan’, at Poznan-Krzesiny, currently flying the oldest Polish MiG-2 lMF/Rs, and a MiG-2 IMF regiment, the 10th PLM at Lask in central Poland. The last MiG-2 IRs taken over from the disbanded 32 PLRT in August 1997 (.Farewell Sochaczew, Nov 97, p6) no longer have any recce capability and are now used primarily for pilot-training. Retirement of the MiG-21R is being planned for this summer.

The headquarters of the 1st BLT is located at Swidwin in the north west of Poland. It will have three Su-22M4 squadrons. Two of them — the 40th at Swidwin and the 8th at Miroslawiec — already exist as regiments. The third unit, the 39th, is to be established at Swidwin some time after 2000. The Brigade will also have a single MiG-2 Ibis squadron, the current 9th PLM at Zegrze Pomorskie. The last eight MiG-2 Ibis, 72 of which were delivered in 1980 and 1981, are to be retired in 2002.

As mentioned earlier, the 3rd BLT will be formed later, since its component fighter units, the 1st and 41st PLMs, are key elements in the Polish air defence system and it is impossible to reorganise all the flying assets simultaneously. One of the most surprising moves was the decision to disband the 45th Aviation Squadron at Modlin, the unit responsible for testing aircraft, armaments and other air force related equipment. The unit mainly supported the Instytut Techniczny Wojsk Lotniczych (ITWL — Air Force Institute of Technology), which is a large military R&D unit. Although the tasks and aircraft were moved to the Deblin-based 23rd Special Aviation Squadron, it is likely that it will prove difficult to conduct testing alongside training!

Reaction Forces.

The WLOP will have to prepare and train three units to operate within the NATO framework by 2001. By April 1999, four MiG-29s and six pilots from the 1st PLM ‘Warszawa’ were ready to be assigned to NATO’s Immediate Reaction Forces (IRF). By the end of 1999 the complete 7th PLBR, comprising 16 Su-22s, should be operational within the Rapid Reaction Forces, while the full 1st Regiment should reach IRF status by the end of 2000.Finally, by the end of 2001, the 40th PLMB (which will become the 40th ELT) based at Swidwin with its Su-22s, will be assigned as a NATO RRF unit.

Each previously mentioned unit is expected to assign 12 aircraft and 16 pilots. A further four aircraft are to be kept in reserve. Pilots have been trained during various exchanges, including a most valuable visit to Denmark. In accordance with the agreement signed in 1997 between WLOP and the Danish Flyvertaktisk Kommando at Karup, several groups of Polish pilots spent a couple of weeks learning NATO procedures with Danish units.

No true upgrade.

Poland is currently overhauling its MiG-29s at the Wojskowe Zaklady Lotnicze Nr 2 (WZL-2 — Military Aviation Depot No 2) in Bydgoszcz. During 1998, five of the 22 MiG-29s (including four ex-Czech examples) were cannibalised and only seven aircraft are currently operational. The overhaul process began in 1997 and to date three have been overhauled with the minor participation of Ukrainian and Belorussian partners. A further five aircraft are now at WZL-2. Additionally, in February, the first MiG-29UB ,’15’, took to the air after a major overhaul. The depot is also responsible for independent installation of commercial GPS receiver, new Polish-developed continuous frequency selections panels for VHF radios and red anti-collision lights. Poland has promised NATO that it will install a TACAN system on between four and eight MiG-29s and 32 Su-22M4s.

The WLOP has bought five (plus taken an option on a further five) Rockwell Collins AN/ARN-153(V) digital TACAN receivers for the MiG-29. These were originally to be installed with support from ANPK MiG, acting as subcontractor for WZL-2. Although the contract with the Russians was signed last July (and included support for GPS implementation), it was suspended during February after the US Government opposed the idea. Poland subsequently signed an MoU on February 8 with DASA for this with a possible option for future ILS and even glass cockpit implementation which was unofficially rejected on March 1 because it was acknowledged to be five to eight times more expensive than the equally doubtful Russian proposal.

The solution suggested by WZL-2 was to engage Rockwell-Collins to assist Polish engineers in their TACAN implementation. Even more important is the anticipated cooperation with the Hungarian Danubian Aircraft Works at Budapest-Tokol, since it is also interested in MiG-29 upgrade work. Talks between Polish and Hungarian companies were to be conducted during March.

Last November three European companies, BAe, DASA and SAAB, submitted a comprehensive joint Polish Air Force and aerospace industry modernisation proposal. Initially it included the modernisation of 22 MiG-29s by DASA and its MAPS subsidiary. This would include installing Rockwell Collins GPS and radios, navigation systems (TACAN, VOR/ILS), support for the integration of an IFF interrogator and maintenance improvements, as well as installation of an MIL-STD 1553B databus, which would also facilitate future integration of ‘smart weapons’ and more advanced Western equipment with Polish aircraft (DASA wins Polish MiG-29 upgrade, April, p7). All modifications on the Polish MiG-295 would be carried out at PZL Mielec, which is desperately looking for new work in anticipation of privatisation. The proposal, which was ultimately aimed at the sale to Poland of SAAB Gripens or even Eurofighter Typhoons together with Hawk LIFT aircraft. Hawk purchases seem to be the one preferred by WLOP HQ and the Polish MoD.

On the road again.

Poland has a total of some 55 military airfields of varying status. During the last few years 21 of them have been closed down. In the future the WLOP will operate 27 airfields, 14 of which are to have primary air base status. Basically, every squadron will have its own base (although Swidwin and Miroslawiec are the exception to this rule.) Six of those bases, Minsk Mazowiecki, Powidz, Swidwin, Miroslawiec, Malbork and Poznan-Krzesiny, are to be extensively modernised to achieve NATO standards. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are to be invested in the controversial construction of several dozen new HAS, as well as fuel pipelines. Powidz base will also be modernised and upgraded to act as the Central European gateway for US airlift operations with the ability to reload three C-5s simultaneously.

The Polish Air Force is one of only a few in the world — and currently the only force in NATO — which uses public roads as emergency dispersed air bases. Although it is far less sophisticated than the Swedish concept, it is still a unique element of Polish Air Force training. Moreover, the use of such roads will form part of Poland’s military infrastructure in the future.

Each year, in June or July, pilots from every Polish jet-equipped aviation unit, both from the WLOP and the LMW, participate in two to three day long exercises called simply DOL (Drogowy Odcinek Lotniskowy or Highway Landing Strip). This is one of the highlights of the annual training cycle and to minimise costs and to create a more realistic scenario for the exercise, the DOL is not simply used to practise landing and taking-off from an airstrip surrounded by trees. Several of the Polish Air Force’s more experienced pilots are also tasked during the DOL exercises with routine tactical flights from the highway strips and conduct combat flights out to the ranges with live ordnance. Since 1993 Polish pilots have also conducted night operations from highway strips and in 1997 they conducted landings just after sunset.

The Polish Air Force HQ has even used Antonov An-26 Curl transport aircraft from 13th PLT at Krakow to deliver armaments and personnel for the DOLs, although the An-28TD transport aircraft would be much more suitable. The first Curl, which has a wing span greater than the width of the DOL, landed at the Kliniska highway strip (north of Szczecin) in 1993.

According to pilots who have had the opportunity to operate from the DOLs, it is relatively easy to land on a road flying the Iskra jet-trainer and maritime recce aircraft or the Iryda advanced trainer. The MiG-21 is difficult because of its high landing speed, whilst the Su-22M-4 and MiG-23MF are less demanding, although the pilot still cannot see much from the cockpit. The easiest is the MiG-29 with its excellent visibility from the cockpit and good landing characteristics. Probably the most difficult aircraft to land on a DOL however, remains the An-26 as there is no clearance on either side of the strip. Any malfunction, such as a burst tyre, and the pilot must eject. Fortunately, since 1966, when the first Polish Lim-5 from the Goleniow-based 4th PLM (Fighter Regiment, later known as 2nd PLM ‘Krakow’) landed on a DOL, there have been no accidents during the exercises. However, to prevent any problems occurring during operations from the DOL, each assigned aircraft is fitted with brand-new tyres.

In the past there were many more DOLs in use in Poland — 21 were built, which on average was one per flying regiment. Until 1991 the most spectacular DOL exercises were organised at DOL Wrzesnia, some 50 miles (80km) east of Poznan and south of Powidz AB. This is a wide DOL (some 90ft/28m), with no trees on either side, but it is also part of an important East-West road and such exercises proved too expensive for the Polish WLOP. Each year since then Polish pilots have used DOL Kliniska, several miles northeast of Szczecin. The Polish Air Force will in future operate nine DOLs, including two to be built after 2002 in the eastern part of Poland on newly planned highways.

Up to the present time, DOL Kliniska has been used twice by foreign aircraft. In 1996 four Saab AJ37 Viggens from F7 Skaraborgs Flygflottilj of Satenas landed here, together with two Su-22UM3s from 7th PLBR of Powidz. They were followed in 1998 by two Mirage 20000s from EC 1/5 Vendee on deployment to Minsk Mazowiecki. The landings, which took place on July 1, probably marked the first time that Armee de I’Air Mirage 2000s had put down on a public road.

Flying trucks and limos.

The WLOP is currently looking for an An-26 replacement. Ten of these aircraft, all operating out of Krakow are now being overhauled, (which includes the SLEP process), at the Antonov plant at Kiev and will remain operational until 2003. In 2001 the WLOP should receive the first of a planned total of 12 new transport aircraft of the same category. In 1994 it almost bought the CASA CN-235M — widely regarded as the Air Force’s favourite choice — while Lockheed Martin and Alenia are also offering the C-27J Spartan.

Dassault Aviation has for several months been concentrating on the sale of four to six Falcon 900 VIP aircraft to replace the WLOP’s Yak-40s between 2001-2004 {Poland to buy new VIP transports, March, p10). Private bids are now being studied -the Bombardier CL-601/604 Challenger and Gulfstream IV-SP are in competition, as well as larger aircraft such as the Boeing BBJ and the Airbus 319CJ. The last two types are being considered as replacements for the two existing Tu-154M VIP aircraft.

WLOP’S Choppers.

The final element of the WLOP’s NATO challenge is the creation of an entirely new command — the Lotnicza Grupa Poszukiwawczo-Ratownicza (LGPR — SAR Air Group) in Bydgoszcz. Originally it was supposed to be a Polish CSAR group, but initially this will not now be the case. It is to be equipped with a single PZL An-28TD transport aircraft, a single Mi-8RL SAR helicopter plus two PZL Sokol helicopters. All are to be modified to participate in SAR missions and equipped with Rockwell Collins radios, TACAN, GPS and Lucas winches. According to sources in the WLOP, there is no plan and no requirement to install any armour plating or weapons. Nor will an air force commando unit be created to work with this new organisation.

The LGPR will essentially be another much better equipped SAR element of the Polish search and rescue system. Since the late 1960s it was an air force-wide responsibility to manage all SAR activity. The Rescue Coordination Centre is located at the CSD and co-operates with the naval centre at Gdansk. The Polish Navy has four SAR bases and there are three maintained by land force aviation units. The remainder, basically with responsibility for SAR support of all combat aviation activity, are maintained by WLOP units. Unfortunately they have to operate the obsolete PZL Mi-2RL land-based SAR helicopters. This variant of Hoplite can be equipped with primary medical kits and litters but it has no real capability for night operations. According to one of the reorganisation concepts for Polish SAR services, the land-based operation may need between 12 and 20 better equipped and more powerful helicopters. Although the land-based variant of the PZL W-3RM Anakonda naval SAR helicopter has been widely acclaimed as the most cost-effective solution, there is still no decision on a Mi-2 replacement. The problem is even more acute as the last 22 PZL Mi-2 helicopters still in service with the WLOP are to be retired by 2002. At least eight of these are now assigned to SAR out stations. The Mi-2 is also used by the WLOP on liaison duties and by the Air Force College for training.

Eaglet’s nest.

The Deblin-based Wyzsza Szkola Oficerska Sil Powietrznych (WSOSP — Air Force College/Academy) dates back to 1926. Today it is one of the key elements of the Polish military aviation training process as all flying personnel graduate from here. It consists of four individual regiments. The Radom-based 60th LPSz is responsible for screening and primary training as well as housing the two aerobatic teams, the ‘Iskry’ and the ‘Orliki’. Except for the Iskry aerobatic team, there have been no Iskras at Radom since 1997. All flying training activity has now been concentrated on the Polish turboprop PZL-130TC-1 Orlik.Although 27 are in service (the first deliveries having been made in 1994), these aircraft are not considered to be ideal for the unit’s tasks. The Orlik has been widely criticised, because its handling characteristics are too difficult for a basic trainer — it is also quite expensive. Although the PZL M-26 Iskierka piston-engined aircraft is considered to be ideal for basic screening, there are no plans to purchase yet another trainer for WSOSR.

After some 50 hours on the Orlik, pilots are then sent to Deblin or Biala Podlaska (for further flying on Iskras) or to Nowe Miasto nad Pilica, home of the sole Polish helicopter training regiment. The latter is being equipped with some 16 PZL Mi-2s and 14 PZL W-3T/W-3W/W-3WA Sokol medium helicopters. The unit is also responsible for secondary medevac and liaison activity. Two of the unit’s Sokols wear Red Cross insignia and have provision for EMS equipment. They are frequently used for VIP visits and especially when Pope John Paul II visits Poland. Instructor-pilots from the unit are also often involved in emergencies, like the huge rescue operations during the floods in south-western Poland in 1997.

The training course at WSOSP lasts for four years, but actual flying is generally organised between spring and autumn, while the rest of the school year is used for theoretical studies. Pilots will spend some 250 hours in the air, but in recent years some student’s have not even managed to achieve 150 hours.

The WSOSP is to be reorganised in the year 2000. All the regiments are to be reorganised at three new training centres, located at Radom (Centrum Szkolenia Podstawowego — Basic Training Centre), Deblin (Centrum Szkolenia Zaawansowanego — Advanced Training Centre) and Biala Podlaska, responsible primarily for helicopter pilot training.

By 2002 only 40 Iskras will be airworthy, and still useful, as the MiG-29 and Su-22 will also still be in service. Poland will need some 40 advanced trainers beyond the year 2000. Today no one believes that the PZL I-22 Iryda advanced trainer, even in the new M-96 upgraded variant, will satisfy requirements, especially as problems persist between PZL Mielec and the Polish MoD. The 17 Irydas which have already been produced may finally go to naval aviation units, leaving WSOSP with no new advanced training aircraft. As an interim solution, a TS-11 re-engining and avionics upgrade programme has recently been implemented. The PZL K-15 engine, developed for the Iryda by PZL-Rzeszow, Bendix/King avionics and SLEP procedures, are key points of interest. The programme is being carried out by WZL-2 together with the civilian Instytut Lotnictwa at Warsaw.

Boeing, meanwhile, is supporting Aero Vodochody in marketing the L-159 ALCA in Poland, both in the single and two-seat versions. A Polish delegation visited Aero in January and both military and civilian specialists received a comprehensive cooperation proposal. This covers deliveries of L-159 and L-139 aircraft and the participation of the main Polish aircraft factories in manufacturing and development of the ALCA aircraft.

Deblin could be turned into an advanced training centre for the entire Visegrad group of countries (Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary plus Slovakia), as well as other potential European L-159 users, principally Lithuania. However, this could only happen if the L-159 was chosen as the future Polish advanced trainer and neither Slovakia or Hungary are interested in purchasing the L-159. A similar proposal was submitted in 1997 by BAe. The British company said it would support the development of a facility at Deblin, regarded as a European branch of the NFTC, if Poland acquired Hawks. The aircraft is very highly regarded by air force personnel and because of the strategic partnership between BAe and PZL Mielec it is considered to be the favoured choice. Furthermore, since most F/A-18 Hornet operators train their pilots on Hawks this makes it an even more logical choice. Helicopter training will also be restructured. There are great expectations for the new, light-weight Squirrel-like Polish PZL SW-4 helicopter. The WLOP is to buy at least 46 of these for training and liaison, with the first two expected to be delivered to Nowe Miasto this year, following state certification.

The challenge of the new era.

The new multi-role fighter (Nowy Wielozadaniowy Samolot Mysliwski -NWSM), was originally planned to enter service this year, with 24 aircraft operational before 2002. A short-term target was to buy 54 aircraft for three squadrons before 2004. By 2012 the Polish Air Force should have at least 156 aircraft deployed across nine fighter squadrons of 16 aircraft. A tenth squadron was expected to continue flying the MiG-29, but according to present plans, the Fulcrums are to be retired in 2007. This may then bring the total number of NWSMs required to 170.

The Polish Government is now preparing to submit formal requests for proposals, with a decision expected by late-March. A final choice, however, will not be made foranother two-three years because of the lack of funds and any deal will have to ensure 100% offsets for the Polish economy. This may finally kill off all US attempts to set up a payment-free lease for between seven and 24 (Poland wants to opt for 18) secondhand F-16A/B or F/A-18A/B aircraft, with an option for providing 36 new aircraft after a five-year period. The F-16A/B variant has been widely rejected, as Poland considers that it has little to offer. The F/A-18A/B proposal has fared better, although this would also be something of a false upgrade.

During January, Dassault Aviation submitted a new co-operation package to the Polish government with a surprising proposal to supply 12-24 (a full squadron) Mirage 2000-5 Mk 2 aircraft. Poland could operate these aircraft with both variants of the Mica missile, free-fall bombs and a full self-defence package, with Exocet missiles, precision guided weapons and a helmet-mounted cueing system as options. Although the first Mirage 2000 offers were made to Poland almost ten years ago and several Polish pilots have flown the aircraft during exchanges between Dijon and Minsk Mazowiecki, the aircraft is widely regarded to be too expensive.

The European option, based on the Hawk and Gripen, has many more supporters among industrial officials and experts than among its military colleagues. The Gripen is described as an extremely interesting aircraft, but has no operational use within NATO and lacks operational experience in Sweden. On the other hand the Gripen is believed to be better adapted for Polish operating conditions (on DOLs) and to be the most cost-effective solution.

People — the core.

Today the entire WLOP consists of some 49,000 personnel, which is to be reduced by 2003 to a total of 38,000. At the moment the force is probably going through the worst crisis in the history of Polish military aviation. It has drawn up an emergency programme, which may help to maintain some degree of combat readiness and allow Poland to meet its new NATO responsibilities. However, it is also seen by the majority of the 700 WLOP pilots as a threat to their social wel-being, since it is linked to MoD retirement reforms. In the future, the WLOP will only need some 250 pilots in front line units, compared with the 350+ serving today. Last year, 136 pilots left the air force, most of whom were instructors. This has created serious manpower problems as although they were mainly in the 35-37 age bracket, they should have been encouraged to serve for at least another five years in order to train a new generation of younger pilots as their replacements.

Most Polish aircrew would not meet NATO readiness criteria, primarily because they only fly on average for 55 hours per year (compared with the NATO standard of 180 hours). The WLOP intends that selected NATO-assigned pilots will be able to fly for 120 hours. There is no major problem with the language. Most of the young pilots have learned English already in high school — now all they need is practice. A key problem seems to be lack of motivation — as it stands at present, after retirement from service, the Polish military pilot finds it virtually impossible to continue his flying career with a civilian operator unless he has flown VIP or transport aircraft and has full civilian qualifications. Nor are pilots paid that well, even by Polish standards.

During May a large-scale exercise, Ocelot 99, will be held in the northwestern region of Poland. The Polish Air Force contingent will be joined by aircraft and SAM batteries from the Netherlands, Germany, France, Hungary and the Czech Republic (including the L-159 prototype, which may conduct weapon trials). This will be the first international exercise organised by the WLOP following accession to NATO and the first time that the co-operative skills of the new Allies can be tested in realistic surroundings.

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