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The Polish Air Force; Deblin, August 19, 2015

The Polish Air Force, part 1; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The Polish Air Force would be established as a result of the First World War. Poland has a rich aviation history and great fame was especially during the Second World War gained. During the interwar years, the Polish aviation industry would make great steps in this period. The Polish Air Force became quickly a large force.

The Polish Air Force is referred in Polish to as Sily Powietrzne which literally means air force. The Air Force of Poland is one of the military branches of the Polish armed forces. Until July 2004 the Polish Air Force was officially designated as Wojska Lotnicze i Obrony Powietrznej (Air and Air Defense Forces). Nowadays, the Polish Air Force is fully integrated into the NATO structure. Poland is a member state of the European Union and NATO and is providing assistance in the contribution to the international arena. The Polish Air Force has its origins in the months after the end of First World War in 1918. In 1918, some squadrons of aircraft were created within the Polish units in the allied countries. In Russia, a squadron was formed as part of the Polish Corps of General Józef Dowbór-Muśnicki. This unit, however, was disbanded along with the Corps in May 1918. Five bomber squadrons were created in France in the army of General Józef Haller. The military aviation in Poland had just started when the country regained its independence in November 1918. The fledgling air force originally consisted of German and Austrian aircraft which were conquered or abandoned due to damage. These aircraft were used for the first time in the fight against Ukraine in the area of Lwów in 1918. After 1919, Poland was involved in the war with the Soviet Union and the country began to buy aircraft abroad. As a result, the Polish Air Force consisted of a variety of planes from the First World War era. The most widely used aircraft were of the type SPAD XIII, Fokker D.VII, Oeffag D.III, Ansaldo Balilla, SPAD VII, Albatross D.III, Sopwith Dolphin and Fokker EV (D.VIII).

After the Polish-Soviet War, the aircraft from the period of the First World War were gradually phased out. From 1924 to 1926, the French SPAD 61 entered operation. The standard light bombers of the Poles were also French and were of the type Potez 15, Breguet XIX and Potez 25. The Potez bombers were produced in Poland. The medium bombers were of the type Farman Goliath and later a military variant of the Fokker

F-VII. In 1933 the first monoplanes were introduced. These aircraft were fully made of metal and were designed by Zygmunt Puławski. The first type which entered service was the PZL P.7a. This design was followed by 30 improved PZL P.11a aircraft. The final design of the PZL P.11c was produced in a quantity of 175 pieces in 1935. This aircraft remained the only Polish fighter in the Polish Air Force until 1939. The aircraft was however already outdated compared to foreign aircraft designs in the same period. The PZL P.24 was only designed and built for export and was bought by four countries. The new fighter aircraft of the type PZL 50 Jastrząb (Hawk) were similar to the Seversky P-35 and would be produced too late for participation during the Second World War. In 1938 the Polish factory PZL designed a modern twin-engine medium bomber designated as the PZL 37 Los (Elk). This aircraft was the best bomber in the world in the same year. The Los had a payload of 2580 kg and a speed of 439 km/h.

In 1939, Poland ordered 160 MS-406 in France and 10 Hawker Hurricanes in the United Kingdom. However, these aircraft were not delivered on time before the outbreak of the Second World War. At the beginning of the invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, many Polish fighters were sent to alternative sites to avoid destruction. The German bombers managed to destroy mainly training aircraft at several airfields. The fighters were grouped into 15 squadrons in the area around Warsaw. The Polish PZL P.11a fighters were outdated, but have succeeded to shoot down more than 170 German aircraft. The largest part of the Polish Air Force was destroyed in the campaign and the rest of the aircraft were moved to Romania. A large number of Polish pilots and crews managed to escape to France. After the fall of Poland, the Polish Air Force began to regroup in France. The only unit which was completed before the German attack on France was the GC 1/145 squadron which was equipped with Caudron C.714. The Polish pilots were also deployed at various French units. In France they were at the time of the invasion not able to withstand the German forces. After the surrender of France in 1940, the Polish units were formed in the United Kingdom as part of the Royal Air Force. Here the Polish Air Force (PAF) was established. The first Polish squadrons were the no 300 and no 301 Bomber Squadrons and the no 302 and no 303 Fighter Squadrons.

The units which were equipped with combat aircraft received for their tasks the Hawker Hurricane. The Polish units were immediately deployed in the third phase of the Battle of Britain in August 1940. The Poles used their widely developed combat experiences very well and had good results in dogfights. The Polish pilots were as fearless and sometimes they were considered as reckless. In spite of this behavior the Polish successes were large compared to the British pilots who were still completely inexperienced. The Polish no 303 Squadron was the most efficient RAF squadron at that time. The fame and victories which were achieved by pilots from the no 303 Squadron are today still praised in Poland. In the following years, more Polish squadrons were established. These Polish squadrons were; the no 304 Bomber Squadron, the no 305 Bomber Squadron, the no 306 Fighter Squadron, the no 307 Night Fighter Squadron, the no 308 Fighter Squadron, the no 309 Reconnaissance Squadron, the no 315, 316 & 317 Fighter Squadron, the no 318 Fighter Reconnaissance Squadron and the no 663 Air Observation Squadron. Fighter units flew initially with the Hurricane, the Supermarine Spitfire and ultimately with the P-51 Mustang. The no 307 Night Fighter Squadron used aircraft of the type Boulton Paul Defiant, Bristol Beaufighter and de Havilland Mosquito. The bomber squadrons were equipped with the Fairey Battle, the Vickers Wellington, the Avro Lancaster, the Handley Page Halifax, the Consolidated B-24 Liberator and B-25 Mitchell.

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