Orzysz training range, located in the Masuria and Ełk Lake District areas, has been established back in the times of Prussia, in order to to accommodate artillery training and testing of newly developed artillery armament. It was decided that the range has to be established in this area due to its natural environmental features guaranteeing safety of live fire and the fact that the region is not densely populated.
As the years went passing by, the area of the range was expanded, barracks and summer garrison were added. It was also used to imprison the Russian POWs. Throughout the period between 1921 and 1926 the area constituted a location which could be used to test and verify new firearms and artillery assets.
However, the information suggesting that the range was used by Wehrmacht, to test anti-tank assets and tactics employed in combat against the Russian armour, remains unconfirmed. Most probably, during that period, assembly halls for V1 and V2 missiles and a single concrete launch facility were established. Never were the said missiles being launched there though.
Around 200 shelters and shooting range target runners survived the war. They have been used continuously until the early 1970s.
After the war the range was taken over by the People’s Republic of Poland, and an artillery training facility was established within its area. Throughout the years, the name of the range was changed several times, it was also subordinated to a variety of entities. However, its purpose remained largely the same, or it was expanded, from an artillery range to a range of general purpose. We could also have witnessed continuous modernization, with new training facilities being established. In the late 1980s the Wierzbiny camp could have accommodated up to 5000 soldiers. In 1996 a PCO area (Plac Ćwiczen Ogniowych - Fire Training Square) was established. Later on, in 2002, the most modern Bemowo-Piskie shooting range was handed off for use. At the time it was the most modern facility of this kind in Poland.
Purpose of the OSPWL Orzysz Training Range
At the moment the Centre covers 17000 hectares (20 km of width and 15 km of average depth). The remote and well prepared terrain area is used for the purpose of carrying out tactical training with the military, live fire operations (in training, combat and situational contexts), integration and skills enhancement training for the military units, fire directing exercises, as well as for the purpose of testing the selected armament by the R&D facilities.
The modern facilities embedded within the range make it possible to utilize a wide range of firearms, artillery, rockets or aircraft armament (against ground targets). The range allows for carrying out airstrikes and operations against land targets.
Training facilities in Orzysz include Bemowo Piskie and Gaudynek infantry shooting ranges, firing ranges for tanks and combat vehicles, tactical training area, fire training square, live grenade range, Wyręby engineering/bomb disposal training centre, Ruda water obstacle crossing point, Klusy recon elements training area or Rostki austere landing strip.
The infantry shooting ranges are used to conduct firearms operation training and live fire operations, also allowing a number of combat vehicles to fire their weaponry. Dimensions of the ranges and the equipment available there allow for conducting training for battalion-sized units.
Meanwhile, Wierzbiny range for main battle tanks and fighting vehicles may be used to conduct normal and live fire training. The said range includes a command post, 4 shooting lanes or a field vehicle parking space. The facility allows the vehicles to shoot their guns at distances of up to 2700 metres against 206 light targets and 129 targets suitable for heavy cannons.
The fire training square allows the crews to train their skills before they are involved in the main portion of shooting. Similarly as the firing ranges it includes a command post, three 900 m lanes, three 100 metres lanes, two heavy machine gun positions and a firing range for small arms. The shooting may take place at distances of up to 900 metres, against 80 targets that emerge in specified locations and three moving targets.
Tactical operations area is used to conduct tactical exercises with live ammunition by a variety of elements of the land component, including attack helicopters or reinforced battalion-sized task forces.
The engineering units utilize the Wyręby sapper/engineering units training facility, where it is possible to carry out training activities with involvement of explosives. The facility makes it possible to carry out a single detonation of up to 300 kilograms of explosives.
The specific environment of the area where the recon units conduct their training activities makes it possible to conduct a realistic mission by a reconnaissance company for instance.
Assault crossing of the water obstacles is still one of the priorities for the Polish military. A special location for such training has been prepared within the Orzysz range. The width of the channel used for that purpose varies, which makes it possible to conduct training for a variety of fighting vehicles, both in amphibious setting, as well as in a scenario where the vehicle crosses the obstacle being driven on the bottom.
A field landing strip and reserve airfields are yet another advantage of the Orzysz range, facilitating the operations of air-mobile, special operations or army aviation elements. The field strip features two field runways, 2 kilometres each. This makes it possible to drop up to 30 paratroopers in one pass.
OSPWL Orzysz is still undergoing development and modernization. At the moment 13 investments are underway, the majority of which are in their final stages. The most important investments include provision of electricity in the tactical training area, with modernization of the exercise supervision tower to follow. Furthermore, two campsites for 800 and 700 soldiers respectively have been created, with all of the required facilities. Urban combat training area including 20 buildings from 1 to 4 storey high is another important element to mention. One of the buildings in the aforesaid zone features a helipad for a medium helicopter on top. Further plans include preparation of infrastructure which would accommodate laser shooting simulators, expansion of the technical inventory, or creation of a canteen for 2000 soldiers.
Specialist Equipment in Orzysz
The capabilities of each and every training range are defined by the landscape, means of support and proper technical facilities (training hardware), that may be utilized to carry out military exercises. The technical side of the Orzysz range is also worth mentioning.
The fire and tactical activities are, above all, supported by the WSB-03 and WSB-04 systems, as well as by the Agat/Szmaragd solutions. The said systems make it possible to configure the ranges, lanes, target layouts, depending on the requirements defined by the units involved in training. This applies both to our forces (in a national setting – eds.), as well as the forces that are currently stationed in Bemowo Piskie, here I am referring to the Battalion Battle Group.
The main features of the WSB-04/M system include a high quantity of controlled targets (up to 32000), and long control range (up to 4000 metres). The system may also record multiple hits in case of continuously exposed targets. The targets may be heated up to facilitate FLIR-based training. The whole training suite makes it possible for the user to get information on technical status of the controlled targets. Finally, WSB-03M or other WSB-04M transmitters may be used for the sake of providing a higher level of safety within the range. The aforesaid systems have been delivered by the Szczecin-based Autocomp-Management Sp. z o. o. company.
The solution in question is usually utilized in case of large ranges, within the tactical training areas, vehicular firing ranges, infantry shooting ranges, and so on. Agat/Szmaragd system delivered by the Warsaw-based Optimum company is used to carry out low intensity training activities.
SWSB Śnieżnik system complements the field training activities. It is being delivered by a consortium formed by the Stettin based Autocomp Management Sp. z o.o. company and the Zielonka-based Military Institute of Armament Technology.
Lt. Col. Jarosław Wyszecki noted that the whole infrastructure is compliant with Polish and allied (US, British, Romanian or Croatian units of the battalion battle group) requirements. The US soldiers have operationally certified their squads, platoons and companies, with the use of the Orzysz infrastructure.
OSPWL Orzysz will soon (in March) be used to carry out an approval for a full-sized US infantry battalion. The US military need to adopt Polish safety and monitoring requirements applicable to tactical and fire activities within the tactical training area and our shooting ranges using the wireless target control systems mentioned above.
The representatives of the US military have been stressing the fact that limitations imposed within the German ranges made it impossible for them to conduct tactical exercises involving elements that used support provided by other services, with full scope of engineering operations undertaken in the AOR. Currently the above remains possible in Bemowo Piskie.
We’re expecting a certification of a US battalion during the 1st quarter of 2018. After analysing the requirements I have told Col. Ellis, the regiment commander, that we’re able to comply with their requirements with the use of the said systems.
The requirements defined by the allies may be conformed with thanks to a wide range of modern target control systems delivered by the Polish manufacturers, good facilities and with support provided by very experienced personnel.
Numbers speak for themselves, when it comes to Orzysz’s range capabilities. Back in 2016 around 100 thousand soldiers utilized the area for training purposes. In 2017 the 100 thousand level was exceeded, with further growth expected this year. The above stems from the higher number of training events involving both the allies, as well as the newly formed Polish Territorial Defence Branch. Furthermore, paramilitary organizations also utilize the range, with up to 2 thousand troops involved in training last year.
Obviously, each and every training range, including Orzysz, must meet the existing legal norms and regulations. This also applies to the environmental impact. The intensive use of the training facilities requires fauna and flora to be restored in a regular manner. The range is an area where protected species of animals and birds have their habitats located. Thus, nature lovers or researchers also visit the range quite often.
Well-founded cooperation with the Drygały Forest Authorities supervising the area makes it possible to carry out military training without any problems, which has been appreciated by the Americans, experienced in using similar facilities located in Germany.
The range staff also carries out explosive ordnance disposal operations within the training area, or repairs and renovates the facilities.
OSPWL Orzysz is a fully universal training facility for a variety of land forces’ units. The location and landscape make the range safe for the soldiers involved in training and for the surrounding area. Furthermore, no excessive environmental impact has been recorded in case of the Orzysz Centre. However, the main advantages result from the availability of high quantity of support equipment, coupled with good support and experienced personnel.
The hardware and facilities supporting the training operations remain highly reliable and they conform with standards adopted by other countries, which was confirmed by the NATO Battalion Battle Group.
The training system though differs between the US Army and the Polish Military. The American scheme is more dynamic and flexible. Any external observer would say, witnessing the exercise, that no specific scenario had been adopted when it was prepared. This means that training is way more realistic. Not only is this a result of the cycle involving the US units in preparation for certification of the individual elements, as it may be associated with rich deployments and warfare-related experience in a variety of locations around the world.
The US units begin their training from theoretical stage, then they go to the systematic training related to the individual battlefield procedures. The next stage involves weapons training, and the whole process is finalized with live-fire operations. The scheme mentioned above makes it possible to maintain a high degree of safety for the soldiers involved, without closing the whole process into a rigid procedural framework of organization. Maybe it could be considered to use the US experience in Bemowo Piskie, and incorporate the knowledge in the Polish training procedures.