MiG-29 and Su-22 Jets of the Polish Air Force - Selection of the Successors To Be Launched By 2022

7 kwietnia 2016, 15:01
Image Credit: senior staff chor. Adam Roik/CC DO SZ
Image Credit: WZL-2

Polish Ministry of Defence plans to initiate the selection process pertaining the multi-role jets that could become the successors of the Soviet-made Su-22 and MiG-29 aircraft. Operational requirements pertaining the new airframes have already been defined. Not only will the potential acquisition be connected to the planned decommissioning of the former jets, in the light of the fact that they are coming to an end of their operational lifetimes, but they are also dependent, within a significant scope, on the economic conditions.

According to the information obtained by Defence24, the Polish Ministry of Defence has already begun the analytical work pertaining to the replacement of the MiG-29 and, primarily, the Su-22M4/UM3K aircraft used by the Air Force, with a modern, multi-role jet, capable of acting against airborne, ground and surface threats, in any weather conditions, in full cooperation with the relevant systems used by the NATO forces.

Within the framework of the regular Reviews of the Needs for Operational Capability carried out in the Polish Armed Forces, operational requirements pertaining to the acquisition of modern combat aircraft that are going to be, in a consecutive manner, replacing the Su-22 and MiG-29 airframes, expected to be withdrawn from the active use, were defined. Initially, it is planned that a procedure making it possible to acquire modern multi-role combat aircraft within the current planning term, i.e. until 2022.

Spokesman for the Polish Ministry of Defence, Bartłomiej Misiewicz.

Despite the fact that a decision has been taken by the former leadership of the Ministry of Defence, to carry out overhauls and prolong the lifetime of the Su-22 jets by yet another 10 years, there is a burning need to replace those airframes, since their value on the contemporary battlefield is significantly limited. Complex works that are being carried out by the WZL-2 [Military Aviation Works No. 2] facility allow for further use of those jets in the NATO airspace, however, the modernization will not provide the Su-22 with the required combat capabilities. In case of the 10 years younger and NATO-compliant MiG-29 aircraft, the issue is not so burning, however the capabilities offered by these airframes, e.g. in comparison with the Polish F-16 C/D Block 52+ jets, are very limited. 

MiG-29 and Su-22 jets may only be used now to maintain the skills and habits of the pilots and the ground crews. Su-22 aircraft are obsolete. MiG-29 is only capable of gaining air superiority in a specific point. It has no proper range, no modern avionics and it does not use any modern armament. It is not a multi-role jet. Both of the aforementioned types shall be replaced. I think that, in total, 80 multi-role aircraft could replace the aforementioned designs, should they be implemented in their latest variant, with full equipment and armament packages.

General, Pilot Jerzy Stefan Gotowała, ex-commander of the Polish Air Force and Air Defence components.

As it was duly noted by General Jerzy Gotowała, in his interview for Defence24.pl, the tasks that are to be executed by the Polish Air Force would require procurement of two squadron-sized multi-role jet packages, so that the total quantity of such airframes reaches the number of at least 80 examples. However, not only tactical or technical requirements will have a decisive value here, since economy or complex concept of operational use are also very significant. It would be a positive course of events, should the decisions be made timely, in advance, allowing the air force to introduce the new aircraft before their predecessors reach the ends of their operational lifetimes, also in case of the airframes that have been modernized, and that are being used operationally at the moment.

The most burning issue is related to replacement of the Su-22 jets which, at the moment, are only used to maintain a proper skill level of the pilots serving in the air force. Should this role remain unchanged, maybe it could be considered to replace the Fitter with advanced jet trainers, or combat-capable trainer aircraft. The M-346 Master AJT platform is one of the considered options. Other manufacturers propose that solutions with a larger combat potential are taken into account, including the 5th Generation F-35 Lightning II fighters, or Eurofighter Typhoon jets. Latest version of the F-16 is also being considererd within the aforementioned scope.

Final decisions will be made on the basis of the operational plans, and with proper consideration given to the available funds. However, it is important to make a decision which would be informed and which, to the largest possible extent, would take the tactical and technological conditions into account, along with the urgent need to replace the obsolete aircraft which are harder and harder to maintain, in the light of the fact that they are slowly heading towards the end of their operational lifetimes. It is also going to be required to secure significant funds, and the accumulation process shall be started soon. This would be a critical issue, also due to the investment needs related not only to the new type of aircraft, but also to the operational and training infrastructure, which altogether would diminish the costs of operation in the future, e.g. related to realization of the pilots training outside the territory of Poland. We cannot rule out a situation, in which it would be required to increase the defence spending level above the value of 2% of GDP, in order to purchase the multi-role aircraft and other armament (e.g. new infantry fighting vehicles).

 

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