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Defence Policy

Defence24 DAY: A new Approach to the Polish Air Defence

Photo. Defence24.pl

Polish Armed Forces will introduce substantial changes to its Air Defence force structure, along with the new generation air defence systems. It is cruical to ensure that layered, integrated air defence system is in place, and its elements are survivable. At the same time, the capabilities, particularly in the Polish industry, need to be developed continously, and training plays a critical role - as participants of a Defence24 DAY discussion panel highlighted.

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On the first day of Defence24 Day, an interesting discussion panel on the defence of Polish airspace was held. It was attended by Brig. Gen. Kazimierz Dyński , Head of the Air and Missile Defence Department - Deputy Inspector of the Branches of the Armed Forces General Command, Col. Michał Marciniak , Deputy Head of the Armament Agency, Plenipotentiary of the Ministry of National Defence for Integrated Air and Missile Defence , Mirosław Iwaćkowski , Plenipotentiary of the CRW Telesystem Mesko Board, Adrian Monks , Sales Director - Poland, MBDA UK. The panel was moderated by Jakub Palowski, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Defence24.

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All participants spoke about how important and crucial Poland's air defence is, recalling the key programs in this matter, which are being implemented at an accelerated pace due to the outbreak full-scale war in Ukraine that Russia launched back in 2022.

At the beginning, the moderator reminded that air and missile defence is a priority of the modernization of the Polish Armed Forces and was noted in the National Security Strategy of 2020. He also noted that the war in Ukraine showed two things. Firstly, in parallel with the massive use of unmanned aerial vehicles, "conventional air attack systems, such as planes and helicopters, as well as cruise missiles or ballistic missiles, which we already knew from earlier conflicts, at least from the last few decades, not only do not lose their relevance, but are being developed and are becoming more and more dangerous. And the second point is that the combat system is constantly evolving, and on all sides involved in it. This can be seen both on the side of Ukraine - here if we are talking about ground based air defence - but also when it comes to the Russian Federation. Therefore, we must neither lose sight of these conventional threats, nor the new ones or those emerging on a much larger scale than before."

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Zastępca redaktora naczelnego Defence24 Jakub Palowski, moderator panelu
Photo. Defence24

After a short introduction, Jakub Palowski addressed the first question to Brig. Kazimierz Dyński, Head of the Air and Missile Defence Department - Deputy Inspector of Branches of Forces of the Armed Forces General Command. The question was about the general's observations regarding the evolution of the battlefield environment in the case of anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems.

General Dyński noted at the outset that the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war shows the evaluation of areas and activities carried out in the air domain. He pointed out that the war in Ukraine had 5 phases of action, in which control of the air was important, due to the goals that both sides assumed during the hostilities.

As General Dyński said: "Considering the armed conflict as a whole, we refer to the element of armed struggle, which is air defence. We must bear in mind what constitutes the air defence composition. These are not only ground effectors that represent missile defence forces or land-based air defence systems, but above all it is the presence of aviation and the ability of tactical aviation as the most mobile element of air defence, i.e. the use of aviation. We are talking about systems for reconnaissance and transferring information about the air situation of the command system and the entire logistics package, and if we consider the activities carried out in Ukraine, we see evaluation in individual sectors."

gen. bryg. Kazimierz Dyński, Szef Zarządu Obrony Powietrznej i Przeciwrakietowej - Zastępca Inspektora Rodzajów Wojsk Dowództwa Generalnego Rodzajów Sił Zbrojnych
Photo. Defence24

The general went on to give an example of an attack on Kyiv, when the Russian Federation made a massive, saturation attack on the capital of Ukraine using various types of missiles, thus testing the defence of Kyiv by the Patriot system. Thus, as the general said, "this indicates what future actions we should prepare for."

General Dyński also referred to the question of the importance of the mobility of air defence systems in the context of the importance of their survivability. "The mobility of the system and maintaining the survivability of the air defence group are two interconnected elements. That is, the ability to quickly change and deployment in successive firing positions, which will ensure the continuity of the protection of the assigned object or area by the air defence forces. We are dealing here with a situation that probably best describes the capabilities that we get when we buy our Patriot systems and buy the IBCS system."

"That is why I emphasize the importance and advantage of purchasing and acquiring a command system, which is IBCS. The ability to quickly change positions, i.e. maneuverability, and related to the so-called Force Protection, i.e. masking or preparing dummy positions that emit electromagnetic energy, to which the effort of the enemy, who intends to overpower our air defences" - pointed out Gen. Dyński.

Another question was addressed to Col. Michał Marciniak, deputy head of the Armament Agency, plenipotentiary of the Ministry of National Defence for Integrated Air and Missile Defence. The moderator asked about the Wisła program in terms of procuring further elements for the system for the Armed Forces and when we can expect a response from the United States regarding the implementation of the second phase of Wisła and what will be the next steps.

Colonel Marciniak said: "Last May, a request was sent to the American government regarding the acquisition of further elements for the Wisła system. Since then, negotiations with the American side on the configuration of the system have been conducted. Mainly here, the effort is focused on modernization efforts related to the integration of Polish components with the IBCS system. We are talking here about Polish radars or the Polish Narew system. As for several agreements, we have already agreed on their scope, so despite the fact that we are waiting for the approval of the Congress, i.e. the official procedure used in the FMS. Work has been underway since last May, which means that we expect Congressional approval and the conclusion of offset negotiations in the near future".

Continuing further, "after meeting these two conditions, we plan to sign contracts for further elements of the Wisła systems. But you also have to remember that these are just some of the elements, because in accordance with the assumptions of the Wisła program, we purchase from the United States only what is possible (only/mainly - ed.) and what we can purchase (only/mainly - ed.) through FMS, not through commercial purchase, i.e. here the composition of the second phase is slightly different than the composition of the first phase, so work is in progress here - said Colonel Marciniak.

The colonel also pointed out why Romania reached its readiness much earlier, because as the colonel says, "Romania uses a standard Patriot configuration that has been known for several decades. Doctrines and tactical documents related to the use of IBCS do not exist at the moment. They are written both by training institutions in the United States and our soldiers. The system completely changes the philosophy of combat."

The deputy head of the Armament Agency also signaled force structure changes in the Polish air defence system. "We are moving away from the vision of defending the sky of the Land Forces, the sky of the Air Force and the Navy. We defend the sky of the Republic of Poland. (...) there will be no division into whether they are land forces or air forces (...) because, as it was said earlier, anti-aircraft resources are never enough. We have what we have and we have to do certain things."

Colonel Marciniak noted that structural changes in air defense units are planned, so as to create unified tactical units subordinated at the operational level, with capabilities for all air defence layers, including the Wisła systems. And they will defend areas, facilities and troops as needed, without being tightly subordinated to a given Service Branch of Armed Forces. Some low level organic/accompanying (mobile) air defence will remain in the Land Forces.

płk Michał Marciniak, zastępca szefa Agencji Uzbrojenia, pełnomocnik Ministerstwa Obrony Narodowej ds. Zintegrowanej Obrony Powietrznej i Przeciwrakietowej
Photo. Defence24

"I would like to say that the meaning of our integrated anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense is not just a fashionable word that has been appearing everywhere recently, 'integrated' and everything is integrated at the moment, while for us at the moment the names Pilica, Narew, Wisła this is just an item in the technical modernization plan related to financing" - as col. Marciniak said.

The next question was addressed to Mirosław Iwaćkowski, Plenipotentiary of the Management Board of CRW Telesystem Mesko, regarding the directions of modernization of Piorun.

At the beginning, Mirosław Iwaćkowski introduced the history of work on the development of the Grom product and the Loara program (the latter had been cancelled). As the panellist said, at some point in Poland it was decided to join the group of independent producers of MANPADS systems. This resulted in the fact that work on (the guidance system) began, on the development of our own domestic engines, our own domestic warhead". Saying further, "we really joined the elite world club of manufacturers of full-scale MANPADS, i.e. fire and forget shoulder systems, and at that moment in In the Western world, we are the only country that produces this type of weapon."

Mirosław Iwaćkowski also spoke about training ground exercises, which are still conducted and give very good results. Most often, direct hits are recorded on very small imitators of air targets - including ICP-89 imitators, with a diameter of 57 mm and a length of about 1 meter, moving at a speed of over 200 m/s. General Dyński cited an example of an exercise in Croatia, on a range previously unknown to Polish Air Defence soldiers, in different weather conditions and at a target with characteristics different from the one at which shooting is usually conducted here in Poland. Of the four missiles fired, three hit directly, in one case the proximity fuze was successfully activated - so all firings were successful, and three were direct hits.

A representative of Telesystem Mesko said that the Piorun system had been very successful in Ukraine. Piorun managed to shoot down, among others, planes and helicopters such as Su-34, Mi-24, Mi-35, Ka-52. The latter were supposed to have the L370 Vitebsk jamming system, but it did not turn out to be effective. Piorun was also able to intercept the Orłan-10 UAV from a distance of 3 km, with an engine less than horsepower (and therefore with a very small thermal signature). And even such targets are countered with a direct hit.

As Iwaćkowski continued, in the context of the development of Piorun and other similar systems, "Our 30 years of hard work, technological sovereignty, development of construction and technological documentation, continuous product development. Up to that point, we can say, yes, we know what we're doing, why sovereignty and independence are important. I will refer here to the example of the Stinger. And we know that decisions have been made to discontinue production of the Stinger. Now, after the transfer of 1,300 Stingers to Ukraine, the production of the Stinger must be recreated," said Mirosław Iwaniekowski. He noted that the reconstruction and delivery of 1,300 Stingers is expected to cost USD 624 million.

"I want to say that the entire Piorun program cost the Polish state about PLN 100 million, which gives USD 24 million, so at the moment, for the purchase price of 50 missiles, we have our own, independent missiles, which we are constantly working on and developing it for the next standard, which will now be Piorun NG".

Mirosław Iwaćkowski, Pełnomocnik Zarządu CRW Telesystem Mesko
Photo. Defence24

The development of Piorun is still underway. "As every conflict indicates, the weapons that fight in a given theater need to be modernized. We, of course, realizing earlier that there would be a conflict, started work on a new multispectral guidance system, on an optimized proximity sensor over a proportional control block. And these works continue all the time in Telesystem and in Mesko, also if only decisions are made to upgrade the Piorun product to the Piorun NG standard. We are able to jump to the next level very quickly."

In addition to the modernization of Piorun as a portable system, a representative of CRW Telesystem-Mesko said that it is possible to develop a missile with a longer range - about 12 km and a ceiling of 6 km for the Grzmot program. Such a missile would have a multispectral guidance system similar to Piorun, while initial guidance would be carried out in a laser beam. To a large extent, individual technologies are already in Poland, they just need to be worked through.

Adrian Monks, Sales Director - Poland, MBDA UK, talked about cooperation between Poland and Great Britain in the context of the Narew system and CAMM family effectors. He emphasized that these missiles were developed from the start to be launched from land or water surface, which is why the CAMM family is also included in the Miecznik programme. He noted that they are characterized by very high combat capabilities, also when it comes to ensuring the survivability of the anti-aircraft system itself.

Adrian Monks, Sales Director – Poland, MBDA UK
Photo. Defence24

The director of MBDA for Poland emphasized that such a quick integration of the "small Narew" (mała Narew) systems was possible due to the fact that it had already been decided to select the CAMM missile family for the Narew system, and the system itself was to be designed from the beginning not as a turn-key solution provided by the British, but a system configured with a command system selected by the Polish side (national or IBCS) and other elements. In turn, intergovernmental agreements between Poland and Great Britain gave the opportunity to share information on the specifics of the system. This made the work on the industrial side easier.

As Monks said, "integration into the Polish super-system has always been our vision. This became support for the Mała Narew. Because the contacts we had with the Polish industry, understanding its capabilities meant that we could act quickly for what was urgently needed. Thanks to this, even the system purchased as part of an urgent operational need was built using domestic communications, radars and vehicles", said Adrian Monks.

He also spoke about the experience of the conflict in Ukraine on the need for multi-layer integrated air defense systems to protect against various threats. Pilica+ will be such an integrated, layered system. It will include non-kinetic C-UAS systems, anti-aircraft guns and Pioruny as well as CAMM launchers. is obtained on a large scale, which is important not only for Poland but also for other NATO allies. At the same time, it will take industrial cooperation to a new level.

As for the full configuration of the Narew system, it will use the much longer-ranged CAMM-ER missile, which is now mature, having recently been qualified by the Italian armed forces. It also will be integrated with the IBCS system, which will greatly facilitate the use of CAMM missiles as part of a layered air defense system. Each launcher will be adapted to fire both CAMM and CAMM-ER missiles. In the future, thanks to the transfer of Narew technology and its further development, it will be possible to build a new Polish-British missile.

In conclusion, General Dyński pointed out the importance of training anti-aircraft units for new systems. This is already possible, also due to the fact that the "Mała Narew" is being introduced. It is therefore also a preparation for a wider adoption of new system.

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