Poland has grounded its two Lockheed Martin C-130Es following an accident in Afghanistan on 5 February.
Sources say aircraft "1506" suffered structural damage after its crew performed a 4g manoeuvre to avoid a collision with a mountain and struck tree tops. The incident is believed to have followed false indications from flight instruments, they claim.
On loan to Poland since last November, the centre fuselage, wing root area and one underwing fuel tank of the US Air Force-owned aircraft were damaged, while almost its entire elevator was separated.
Both images © HerkyBirds.com
The crew escaped serious injury and made an emergency landing at Mazar-e-Sharif air base, in the course of which the structure next to the main landing gear area was also damaged.
Warsaw had been due to return aircraft 1506 in October, but had been discussing the possibility of eventually operating the transport on a permanent basis.
The surplus USAF aircraft is on loan as a result of delays to Poland's $110 million deal for five secondhand C-130Es. Its first refurbished example was delivered in March 2009, but has not flown this year due to ongoing work. Three more aircraft should be delivered between March and June, with the last expected to arrive in December 2011.
Poland's two C-130Es flew around 220h last year, including a first combat deployment to Afghanistan in December.
Additional reporting by Grzegorz Sobczak