Rybitwa Programme Revisited. Poland To Acquire MPA Jointly with the Allies?

C-295M and M28 Bryza aircraft at the 8th Airlift Base in Kraków-Balice. IMAGE CREDIT: RAFAŁ LESIECKI / DEFENCE24.PL
C-295M and M28 Bryza aircraft at the 8th Airlift Base in Kraków-Balice. IMAGE CREDIT: RAFAŁ LESIECKI / DEFENCE24.PL

Poland has joined a joint allied effort on Thursday, the goal of which is to acquire a multi-role fixed-wing MPA/ASW platform. So far, no information has been made available when it comes to the specific types, as solely requirements they shall meet have been disclosed to the public. The cooperation is well matched, when it comes to the requirements, with the Rybitwa programme, currently pursued by the Armament Inspectorate of the Polish Ministry of Defence.

Poland and Canada got themselves included in a group of signatory states to a letter of intent on Thursday in Brussels, regarding a multinational cooperation pertaining to a fixed-wing ASW/MPA platform. The initiative is known as Maritime Multimission Aircraft (M3A).

M3A is going to, according to the adopted assumptions, serve the individual states, also within the scope of exchange of the experiences and information concerning the national operational requirements. The main objective of the initiative is to ensure compliance between the national systems and the NATO Joint Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (JISR) architecture.

So far, as our NATO source suggests, no specific type of aircraft has been mentioned. The group is working on establishing the requirements that need to be met by the prospective platform.

The Polish diplomats do admit it, the initiative is a good match, when it comes to the planned acquisition of MPA/ASW platform in Poland. Polish naval aviation has been lacking this capability so far. When it comes to the MPA used now, this mission is assigned to the small unarmed M28 Bryza aircraft (7 B1R examples, 1 of which is currently deployed in the Mediterranean region, and one B1RM/BIS platform).

Mi-14PŁ and four Kaman SH-2G helicopters constitute the primary assets of the Polish Navy’s ASW force. All of the aforesaid aircraft belong to the Fleet’s Air Arm (known in Poland as the Navy's Aviation Brigade).

“Rybitwa” programme pursued by the Polish MoD is focused on acquiring fixed-wing MPA/ASW assets. Back in April 2017 the Armament Inspectorate initiated a market analysis concerning the potential acquisition of three aircraft of the type. Then it was assumed that the deliveries would begin in 2019. Now this seems to be unrealistic.

Airbus, offering the C-295MPA platform, was one of the potential bidders back then. The said design is a maritime patrol variant of the C-295M airlifter. 

One of the advantages entailed by such selection would stem from the fact that the Air Force already operates 16 examples of the type, which would diminish the cost pertaining to training activities and logistics. For that reason the former leadership at the MoD was willing to implement such solution. However, we do not know whether the said path is still considered to be viable, with Mariusz Błaszczak taking over the post of the Head of the MoD as a successor of Antoni Macierewicz. It should also be noted that other MPA platforms are also available on the market, offered by Boeing or Saab. 

The information released by the Armament Inspectorate back in June 2017 suggests that 17 entities made their submissions to be included in the market analysis procedure, concerning enhancement of the comprehensive maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine capabilities. The said entities included: Poland-U.S. Operations sp.z o.o., SAAB AB, PGZ S.A. & OBR CTM S.A., Airbus Defence & Space, IAI ELTA Systems Ltd., Elbit Systems Israel, Gdansk University of Technology - Centre of Naval Military Technologies, Elbit Systems of Australia (ELSA) & Kul Technologies (KT) & Amphibian Aerospace Industriwes (AAI), Aerodata AG, PZL Sp. z o.o., Boeing Defence, Space & Security, MAW Telecom Intl. S.A. & L-3 Communications UK Limited, ANTONOV Company, Sierra Nevada Corporation, MBDA Italia S.p.A., Leonardo Aircraft and S.G.D. Engineering.  

Not only are the aforesaid nations expanding the initiative pertaining to MPA. This week, the pool of nations willing to jointly acquire Airbus MRTT aircraft was also expanded. The initiative launched back in 2016 by the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany and Norway was now joined by Belgium, which happened last Wednesday. 

At the moment the programme assumes that eight A330 MRTT aircraft would be ordered, with procurement date set between 2020 and 2024. The A330 MRTT that would be acquired are to be configured for aerial refueling, airlift and MEDEVAC sorties. It is expected that they would be stationed in Eindhoven and at a forward operating base in Germany. The programme is still open, and more participants may join the initiative.