This year, Poland marks a centenary of military aviation. The air force and naval aviation elements will be commemorating the occasion, along with their ‘green’ compatriots serving with the Lotnictwa Wojsk Lądowych – Polish Army Aviation. In the forthcoming July issue of AFM, Bartek Bera and Filip Modrzejewski assess its strength.
The Wojska Lądowe’s (Polish Army’s) history of helicopter units dates back to the 1960s. The service’s first rotary-wing assets were assigned to the 56 and 49 Pułk Śmigłowców (56th and 49th Helicopter Regiments, subsequently renamed pułk śmigłowców bojowych, combat helicopter regiments) at Inowrocław-Latkowoand Pruszcz Gdański respectively. Both were equipped with licence-built Mi-2s. In the early 1970s, they were joined by the 37 Pułk Śmigłowców Transportowych (37 pśtr, 37th Transport Helicopter Regiment), equipped with Mi-8s, and based at Leźnica Wielka. All three units later introduced the Mi-24 (Leźnica was the first to receive the Mi-24D, followed by Pruszcz, while Inowrocławtook Mi-24Ws in the mid-1980s).
In the mid-1990s, the 37 pśtr became part of the newly created 25 Brygada Kawalerii Powietrznej (25 BKPow, 25th Air Cavalry Brigade), after earlier plans to create a division-strength unit of 150 helicopters were dropped. Following several organisational changes, the brigade acquired its present structure: 1 Dywizjon Lotniczy (1 DLot, 1st Air Squadron, the former 37 pśtr) equipped with the Mi-8 and Mi-17, 7 DLotoperating W-3s from Nowy Glinnik and the Powietrzna Jednostka Ewakuacji Medycznej (PJEM, Aerial Medical Evacuation Unit), which flies the W-3 and Mi-17, also from Nowy Glinnik.
The combat helicopter units – still flying the Mi-24 – replaced their regiments with a base structure in 2011. The 49 Baza Lotnicza (BLot, air base) at Pruszcz Gdański and the 56 BLot at Inowrocławfall under the common leadership of 1 Brygada Lotnictwa Wojsk Lądowych (1 BLWL, 1st Army Aviation Brigade).
Primarily, 25 BKPow and 1 BLWL are tasked to support troops fighting on the ground, transporting them and their equipment. The 25 BKPow has a principal assault role, while 1 BLWL’s specialised mission is to destroy enemy armour. Meanwhile, 1 BLWL’s 2 Eskadra Śmigłowców (2nd Helicopter Flight) at Inowrocławis also responsible for personnel recovery missions. The unit has long co-operated with equivalent units in NATO, and teams from the squadron are able to form part of a personnel recovery task force (PRTF). Among the more unusual assignments are the electronic intelligence missions conducted by the 3 Eskadra Śmigłowców of 7 DLot, while a dedicated flight at Pruszcz Gdański employs the Mi-2Ch for chemical reconnaissance and laying smokescreens.
Interestingly, the Mi-24s and W-3PLs from 1 BLWL also take part in air policing missions during high-profile sports and political events in Poland. During the World Youth Day and NATO summit, in 2016, these machines, together with F-16s, guarded no-fly zones and protected them from violation by slow-flying aircraft.
The July issue of AFM will be on sale from June 21. Features later this year will focus on the current status of the Polish Air Force and Polish Naval Aviation.