Five years after cancelling its order, Polish air force offered revamped jet trainer

Poland's PZL-Mielec has resumed flying its I-22 Iryda jet trainer, which was grounded five years ago following a fatal crash during a training flight. Three successive governments have failed to solve problems with the programme since the crash.

Renamed the Iskra 2, the aircraft returned to the air on 22 July and is expected eventually to replace the Polish air force's TS-11 Iskras.

The aircraft on offer to the Polish armed forces has the basic wing without the leading-edge root extensions and high-lift Fowler flaps added to the M-96 version of the aircraft in an effort to improve its handling.

The Isrka 2 has a Thales-supplied avionics suite. The engines are new PZL K-15s, replacing the OS-3W-22s installed in initial I-22s.

Structural modifications include underwing hardpoints enabling modern weaponry to be carried, says Meilec.

The Iskra 2 has been displayed armed with the Saab RBS15anti-ship missile and a Raytheon Sidewinder-class short-range air-to-air missile, but the aircraft lacks the radar needed to make effective use of the proposed weaponry. The missiles were shown mounted on the inner hardpoints while 650-litre (170USgal) external fuel tanks were carried on the outer pair of pylons. A chaff/flare dispenser was mounted under the fuselage.

The original I-22 first flew in 1985 and was followed by two attempts to upgrade the aircraft. The K-15-powered M-93 combat trainer was first flown in 1992, but production was terminated in 1996 after an accident. The extensively modified M-96 first flew in late 1996, but the Polish air force cancelled the contract in 1997.

The likely customer for the 17 existing Irydas appears to be Polish naval aviation, which requires aircraft to replace MiG-21s that will be grounded in the next few years.

The RBS15 has already been selected by the Polish navy to arm its vessels, which explains why Meilec wants to integrate the weapon on the Iryda.

Mielec says several foreign customers are interested in the Iskra 2, but a successful service introduction with the Polish armed forces will be essential if the company is to have any hope of exporting the aircraft.

Source: Flight International