Gary Parsons reports from RAF Coltishall
EXERCISE LONE CAT 2004 began on Thursday 12 August with the arrival of five Polish Air Force Su22s from Powidz Airbase, in readiness for a week's flying with 41 Squadron. From 7 Eskadra Lotnictwa Taktycznego (7 ELT), the four Su-22M-4 Fitter-Ks and one SU-22UM twin-seater were joined by three transport aircraft from 13 Eskadra Lotnictwa Transportowego (13 ELTR) based at Kraków-Balice.
It was a return to Coltishall for the Polish Air Force, as on 8 August 1945 the base was handed over to the fledgling Polish Air Force and became RAF Coltishall (Polish) under the command of Group Captain T H Polski. This period was brief, ending in February 1946, but saw the transfer of personnel from 133 Polish Wing HQ, 306, 309 and 315 Squadrons in addition to 6306, 6309, and 6315 (Polish) Servicing Echelons. Equipment was returned to the RAF and many of the ex-RAF crews returned home, but most were barred from joining the new Polish Air Force which was then being assembled around the former Soviet units.
Poland joined NATO on 12 March 1999, but this is the first formal exchange of units between the former Soviet Bloc state and the RAF, although two Fitters did visit Coltishall in June 2000 for the station's sixtieth anniversary celebrations.
The Polish Air Force has 80 Su-22M-4 Fitter-K and 17 Su-22UM-3K Fitter-Gs in its inventory, but a number are due to be retired in the near future with 48 to remain in service until 2010-2012.
ground-attack sorties with the Jaguars of 41 Squadron, the Polish will
return the invitation next month when the RAF will visit Powidz. Poland
has a less restrictive airspace than the UK, and this will enable some
very low-level sortie profiles to be flown. The Jaguars will also operate
from Hardened Aircraft Shelters.
New CASA on the bloc
Making its first visit to the UK was one of the Polish Air Force's brand-new CN-295 transports, destined to replace the ageing An-26 workhorse. The C-295 – and its shorter-fuselage CN-235 derivative – can fulfil a range of mission requirements, including the airlift of cargo and supplies, deployment of troops and vehicles, aeromedical evacuation and liaison flights.
The Polish Air Force signed a contract for eight aircraft worth $212 million on 28 August 2001, the deal being connected with EADS taking a 51 per cent stake in PZL Warszawa Okecie. Deliveries commenced in mid-2003 and will end in 2005.
One of the C-295’s strong points is its passenger/cargo cabin, which is the largest for any medium-sized airlifter. The unobstructed 41 ft long cabin allows for up to 20,392 lbs of payload to be transported, providing the airlift capacity for 75 troops, or 50 fully equipped paratroops, or five 463-L pallets. Other payload possibilities include transporting three Land Rover-type vehicles or three jet engines for combat aircraft. Short-field capabilities enable the aircraft to make tactical take-offs within 2,000 ft. 'Flexible architecture concepts' and the use of dual technology civil/military equipment ensure success on tactical missions, as well as compatibility with the latest civil airspace environment. The Integrated Engine Display System (IEDS) presents engine parameters, fuel system data and aircraft systems warning on two LCD screens. The IEDS monitors and records engine operating parameters for maintenance purposes. The CN-295s operate with 13 ELTR, and will eventually replace the An-26s.
EADS CASA builds the C-295 and CN235 at its Spanish Seville facility and has the capacity to manufacture up to 20 aircraft annually, enabling production output to be boosted when needed for rapid deliveries to customers. To date, the C-295 has been selected by the air forces of Brazil, Jordan, Poland, Spain and Switzerland for military transport and support missions, while the United Arab Emirates Navy has chosen the aircraft for maritime patrol duties.