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Rybitwa - patrol and reconnaissance aircraft

Currently, Polish naval aviation does not have maritime reconnaissance (MPA - Morski samolot patrolowy) and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability. The Naval Aviation Brigade has been suffering from a shortage of new aircraft for years. Its equipment has remained unchanged for years, and the only type of aircraft is the M28 Bryza, operated in three variants: transport, ecological monitoring and patrol and reconnaissance. The latter is represented by seven machines equipped with the ARS-400 radar, the Leba command system, rescue radio finder, lighting bombs and automatic life rafts. The eighth aircraft was modernized by: the use of a folding landing gear and a new version of the radar, designated ARS-800; installation of the AN / AQQ-22 Star Saphire II optoelectronic head, MAG-10 magnetometer, an ejector with 10 Ultraelectronic hydroacoustic radios along with the on-board receiver of the passive electronic recognition system ESM-10 Lemur-10 and phantom target launcher.

One of the candidates for a contract in the Rybitwa program seemed to be Airbus with the C-295MPA plane, i.e. the maritime patrol version of the C-295M transport. The advantage of this solution is the fact that the Air Force has 16 machines of this type in stock, which, compared to another platform, means lower training and logistics costs. The idea of rebuilding two CASA C-295M light transport aircraft for the first time gave hope for a significant increase in BLMW's potential. Unfortunately, subsequent discussions on whether to rebuild the remaining machines (the Air Force has 16 copies) or buy new ones effectively suspended the project.

The Operational Requirements of the 2012 edition include the redefined Operational Requirement of the 2008 edition no. 2.3 / 1 / III (2.2.4 / II). Ability to perform comprehensive aerial reconnaissance and combat of PLOMYKÓWKA submarines. Taking into account the experience from the implementation of the maritime reconnaissance aircraft and ZOP M-28 Bryza 1RM / BIS (effect of development work):

  • the plane is adapted to perform tasks in the field of reconnaissance, patrolling and detection of submarines (a radio launcher, a magnetic anomaly detector, a passive electronic reconnaissance system and an infrared observation system);
  • the inability to combat submarines;
  • implementation of SAR tasks to a limited extent,

as well as unacceptable expenditure needed to secure the offer presented by the manufacturer regarding the purchase of further M-28 Bryza 1RM / BIS aircraft or modernization of the M-28 Bryza 1 RM operated by the Navy, the modernization of subsequent M-28 Bryza 1RM aircraft to the M version was abandoned -28 Bryza 1RM / BIS.

On March 21, 2013, the Minister of National Defense approved the "Concept of achieving capabilities in the field of reconnaissance, patrol of sea areas as well as detection and combat of submarines with the use of C-295MPA / ASW airplanes". The amount identified at that stage for the total cost of implementing the C-295MPA / ASW system to the Polish Armed Forces (including infrastructure expenditure) was set from PLN 1 to PLN 1.4 billion.

The "Concept" indicated that the procedure of acquiring three C-295MPA / ASW aircraft could be conducted in a single-source procedure, in accordance with the provisions of the Act of January 29, 2004, Public Procurement Law (Journal of Laws of 2013, item 907 as amended), pursuant to art. 131 h of paragraph 1. 6 point 4, according to which the contracting authority may award a contract in the field of defense and security by single source, if the contract concerns additional supplies performed by the current contractor, the purpose of which is to increase supplies, if a change of contractor would oblige the contracting authority to purchase materials with different technical properties which would result in incompatibility or disproportionate technical difficulties in use and maintenance.

In the opinion of the team that prepared this document, the platform of the sea patrol plane should be the C-295 aircraft, which has already been purchased and successfully used in the Polish Armed Forces. The naval version of the C-295MPA / ASW aircraft was to differ from the transport version of the C-295 only in specialized equipment (the basic elements and systems of the aircraft were the same for both versions).

As indicated, having one type of aircraft, despite their different versions, allows, among others, to use the uniform implemented in the Polish Armed Forces:

  • a logistic system for securing the operation of aircraft,
  • a system for the maintenance and management of spare parts and disposable materials, including a war stock warehouse
  • IT support system for aircraft operation,
  • a package of technical documentation provided and updated by the airplane manufacturer, including flight operation and maintenance documentation (with the exception of specialized documentation related to "marine" equipment). In addition, a greater number of aircraft of the same type makes it possible to modernize or modify them while maintaining high operational readiness rates.

In summary, it was concluded that the acquisition of three MPA / ASW aircraft, on a platform other than the C-295, would require the Polish Armed Forces to bear relatively high costs of their implementation and further operation in a situation when the Polish Armed Forces already have a full C-295 aircraft developed logistics, IT and training system. The condition for the implementation of the "Concept" was its sanctioning by an appropriate decision of the Minister of National Defense. It was not agreed within the ministry, so the "Concept" never came into force.

On March 21, 2013, the then Minister of National Defense approved the Concept of achieving capabilities in the field of reconnaissance, patrol of sea areas as well as detection and combat of submarines with the use of C-295MPA / ASW (Maritime Patrol Aircraft / Anti-Submarine Warfare) aircraft. The cost of their purchase, including infrastructure expenses, was then estimated at PLN 1-1.4 billion. It was suggested then that the C-295M plane should be the platform of the sea patrol plane, as it was purchased and used by the Polish Armed Forces. Its sea version was supposed to differ from the transport version only with specialist equipment.

In 2015, it was reported that the Concept was not agreed by the Ministry of National Defense and never entered into force. In 2015, it was also decided to divide the Operational Requirement of the Barn Owl into two separate ones. The first - Plomykówka - included three electronic (SIGINT), imaging (IMINT) and radar (RADINT) reconnaissance aircraft, the second - Rybitwa [Tern] - maritime reconnaissance (MPA) and anti-submarine warfare (ASW).

On 05 April 2016, the Armament Inspectorate of the Polish Ministry of National Defense launched an analytical and conceptual phase in terms of increasing the capacity for comprehensive maritime reconnaissance and combating submarines and surface ships under the code name "Rybitwa", which provided for the purchase of three maritime patrol planes for the Polish Navy in the years 2023-2030.

On April 28, 2017, the Armament Inspectorate of the Polish Ministry of National Defense started the analytical and conceptual phase related to  increasing the capabilities for comprehensive maritime reconnaissance and fighting submarines and surface ships. The program is codenamed  Rybitwa and provides for the purchase of three sea patrol planes for the Polish Navy in the years 2023-2030. However, according to the Ministry of National Defense, the signing of the letter of intent by Poland on the NATO M3A program does not affect the national program of acquiring sea planes.

According to the document published on the website of the Armament Inspectorate of the Ministry of National Defense, the implementation of the analytical and conceptual phase in the field of "increasing the capacity for comprehensive maritime reconnaissance and combating submarines and surface ships" was started on the basis of the provisions of Decision No. 72 / MON of the Minister of National Defense of March 25, 2013. on the procurement of military equipment and services for the Armed Forces of the Republic of Poland (Journal of Laws of the Minister of National Defense, item 78, as amended).

The commencement of the analytical and conceptual phase is an opportunity for potential bidders to participate in the market research procedure. Potential bidders may submit their willingness to participate in the procedure by May 31, 2017. The authority of the Ministry of National Defense stated that this deadline may be extended in the event of failure to achieve the goals specified in the announcement.

A total of 17 entities submitted their applications to the market research on the ability to increase the capabilities for comprehensive maritime reconnaissance and combating surface ships and submarines. These were Poland-US Operations sp.z oo, SAAB AB, Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa SA & Osrodek Badawczo-Rozwojowy Centrum Techniki Morskiej SA, Airbus Defense & Space, IAI ELTA Systems Ltd., Elbit Systems Israel, Gdansk University of Technology Center of Maritime Military Technologies, Elbit System of Australia (ELSA) & Kul Technologies (KT) & Amphibian Aerospace Industriwes (AAI), Aerodata AG, Polskie Zaklady Lotnicze Sp. z o. o., Boeing Defense, Space & Security, MAW Telecom Intl. SA & L-3 Communications UK Limited, ANTONOV Company, Sierra Nevada Corporation and SGD Engineering.

Almost all manufacturers of MPA class aircraft in the Western world showed interest in the Polish program. From the fairly short list, the only thing missing was the Japanese Kawasaki concern, which has the P-1 aircraft in its offer. It is worth adding that participation in the market research does not have to translate into participation in the procedure or obtaining an invitation to participate in it. Often the talks do not involve the suppliers of the aircraft sought after, but the producers of specialized electronic and other systems. According to the plans, the Armament Inspectorate plans to purchase at least three aircraft of this class. Interestingly, contrary to previous declarations, the new structure is to be able to combat surface and underwater targets. In addition, in some unofficial declarations, there is a desire to acquire a jet-propelled airframe in place of the previously favored turboprop drive.

WIth jet propulsion is no longer ruled out, this greatly expands the selection field. And when adding the requirement to combat surface ships added this year, a machine the size of an Airbus A319MPA or a Boeing P-8A Poseidon may be a candidate. Smaller planes, such as: Embraer EMB-145MP, Dassault Falcon-900MPA or ELI-3360MPA from Elta Group based on Global 5000 from Bombardier Aerospace, also have a chance in the future competition for the Polish order. Of course, everything will depend on the tactical and technical parameters assumed in the Terms of Reference, and most of all the flight duration (air refueling or not), or the weight of the weapons being taken.

The Polish Army is waiting for a huge modernization. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki wants the Polish army to be perfectly armed, and the modernization process is to be carried out as quickly as possible. In February 2019, when the head of the Ministry of National Defense, Mariusz Blaszczak, signed the Technical Modernization Plan (PMT) until 2026. Its value is PLN 185 billion. The said amount is to be allocated to 15 costly programs to be implemented by 2026. The minister emphasized that the programs included in the document reflect the challenges faced by the Polish Army and the Ministry of National Defense.

The Republic of Poland plans the acquisition of three reconnaissance aircraft under the "Plomykówka" [Barn Owl] operational program. In 2015, it was also decided to divide the Operational Requirement of the Barn Owl into two separate ones. The first - Plomykówka - included three electronic (SIGINT), imaging (IMINT) and radar (RADINT) reconnaissance aircraft, the second - Rybitwa [Tern] - maritime reconnaissance (MPA) and anti-submarine warfare (ASW).

On 06 April 2017, the Armament Inspectorate launched a market study on the subject of "Comprehensive aerial reconnaissance", ie 3 planes codenamed "Plomykówka". The purchase is to be completed by 2023. In April, an analysis of 3 maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine aircraft codenamed "Tern" is also to start. In both programs, the position of the Airbus C-295M aircraft is quite strong, but other possibilities should not be rejected as well.

Entities interested in participating in the "Plomykówka" program have until April 20 this year to submit their applications. The provided data will allow for the development of a Feasibility Study, Initial Tactical and Technical Feasibility Assumptions and Tactical and Technical Preliminary Assumptions for the planned purchase of three reconnaissance machines. They are to provide both image recognition (IMINT), electronic (SIGINT) and radar recognition (RADINT).

Among the options under consideration, the concept of an adequately equipped Airbus C-295M aircraft is quite strong, which is already used in the transport version by Polish aviation. However, this does not exclude other possibilities, which may include, for example, special variants of the Gulfstream G550, which in the VIP version will go to service at the 1st Transport Aviation Base in summer 2017. Such an aircraft is offered, for example, by the Gulfstream Special Missions Department in cooperation with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) under the designation G550 "Shavit" SEMA (Special Electronic Missions Aircraft). Market analysis in the "Plomykówka" program is to be completed in the middle of this year, and the purchase of 3 planes is planned for the period until 2023.

Obtaining the ability to conduct aerial reconnaissance will be provided on the basis of Airplanes for electronic reconnaissance (SIGINT), image reconnaissance (IMINT) and radiolocation (RADINT) from the air and anti-submarine warfare (ZOP) aircraft according to the PLOMYKÓWKA Operational Requirements and unmanned aerial vehicles planned to be acquired.

As part of the analytical and conceptual phase, the assessment of the degree of compliance with the operational requirements by the C-295 MPA / ASW aircraft, but no public procurement procedure was carried out in this respect. Currently, the Ministry of National Defense is in the process of achieving this capability by satisfying prospective needs. The operational requirements of the PLOMYKÓWKA are divided into two separate ones:

  • comprehensive aerial reconnaissance;
  • maritime reconnaissance (MPA) and anti-submarine warfare (ZOP).

The Operational Requirements, upon agreement, will be immediately submitted for approval to the Chief of General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces and sent for further processing (in order to continue the analytical and conceptual phase by the Armament Inspectorate), and then included in the document entitled "2016 Edition Operational Requirements". In the current Construction Investment Plan for 2015-2022, the implementation of the task regarding the preparation of technical infrastructure facilities for the needs of maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine aircraft is planned for 2017-2020. The plans for technical modernization until 2022 plan to secure the acquisition of comprehensive air reconnaissance aircraft in the first place, while the purchase of three maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine aircraft will be acquired at a later date (after 2022).

The data obtained will allow for the development of initial tactical and technical assumptions of the program and determining when the desired planes will go to the army. If nothing stands in the way, three reconnaissance planes will be obtained by 2023 at the latest.



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Page last modified: 30-06-2021 12:04:16 ZULU