RYSZARD JAXA-MALACHOWSKI / WARSAW
Acquisition of 48 fighters will lead to closure of two air bases as pilot numbers are reduced by one-third
Poland's selection of the Lockheed Martin F-16 to meet its multirole fighter requirement is providing the catalyst for reorganisation of the Polish air force and air defence.
At present the service has two brigades, with two air corps controlling a total of 10 frontline squadrons, air defence brigades, and command and control units. It also has support units, airfield battalions and the Deblin aviation academy.
By 2008the air force will consist of 1 Brigade at Swidwin, 2 Brigade at Poznan, and 3 Brigade at Bydgoszcz. The former two will both have three tactical squadrons while3 Brigade will have two. The number of operational bases will be reduced to seven. Four other bases will add a civilian role.
The service will disband two frontline squadrons and close two secondary airbases. The two air corps will be eliminated. Manpower will also be slashed, with pilot numbers cut by one-third to just over 500.
The Swidwin brigade will be equipped with Sukhoi Su-22 Fitters providing ground forces support. It will also carry out reconnaissance. The F-16-equipped brigade at Poznan will be a multirole unit operating air defence and ground support missions. The RSK MiG-29 Fulcrums equipping 3 Brigade will be tasked with air defence.
As well as the 48 new F-16s, Poland hopes to buy 23 MiG-29s from the German air force. Poland's MiG-29s and Su-22s will need overhauls and upgrades to extend their service lives and for NATO interoperability. Poland also has orders for eight EADS Casa 295 and 10 Polskie Zaklady Lotnicze (PZL)M28 Bryza transports, and 48 PZL-SwidnikSW-4 training helicopters. Further Bryzas may be added.
Transport aircraft will be allocated to 13 Transport Squadron at Krakow as a subordinate unit to 2 Brigade. In addition, the unit will have a rotorcraft element.
PZL-Swidnik W-3 Sokols will also be operated by search and rescue units, which are being created.
The Deblin aviation academy is to be reorganised to train 25 pilots a year and other specialists. The school will continue to use PZL-Okecie PZL-130 Orliks, PZLTS-11 Isrkas as well as the SW-4. A programme to upgrade the Isrkas is on hold.