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The 1 Tactical Air Wing; Minsk-Mazowiecki, August 21, 2015

The Polish Air Force, part 3; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The 1 Tactical Air Wing is a small self-contained air force within the Polish Air Force. The wing is able to perform all combat tasks and consists of aircraft like the MiG-29 "Fulcrum" which is responsible for the air defense of the Polish airspace and the Su-22 "Fitter" which is used for the offensive tasks of the air force.

The first tactical wing of the Polish Air Force is in Polish referred to as the 1 Skrzydło Lotnictwa Taktycznego (1.SLT). The 1.SLT is a small self-contained air force within the Polish Air Force and is able to perform all military tasks with its fighters. The headquarters of the 1.SLT is stationed on the airbase of Świdwin. The 1.SLT is equipped with the MiG-29 "Fulcrum" which is deployed in the air defense role and Su-22 "Fitter" which is deployed in the offensive role. The 1.SLT is a direct descendant of the third Brandenburg Fighter Division. Later this Fighter Division would be renumbered to the 3rd Fighter Bomber Division. Since 1998 the division has been renumbered to the NATO squadron wing system and received the designation 1.SLT. The main tasks of the 1.SLT are defending the Polish airspace against unwanted intruders, attacking enemy ground targets and institutions, providing reconnaissance information and support of ground forces. The 1.SLT consists of four airfields, namely; Miroslawiec, Świdwin, Malbork and Mińsk Mazowiecki. Miroslawiec air base is the first airbase of the 1.SLT and is referred to as 12 Baza Lotnictwa Taktycznego (12.BLT) Miroslawiec. This airbase has currently no operational units and therefore Miroslawiec is a sleeping air base. However, the site is an alternative airbase for operational units. Until the end of 2010 the 8 Eskadra Lotnictwa Taktycznego (8.elt) was based at Miroslawiec; the unit was moved to Świdwin.

The second airbase of the 1.SLT is 21 Baza Lotnictwa Taktycznego (21.BLT) Świdwin. This air base is the only operational Su-22 'Fitter' air base in Poland. Świdwin is located in the northwest of the country near the coastline. The 21.BLT is built up of two units, namely the 8 Eskadra Lotnictwa Taktycznego (8.elt) and the 40 Eskadra Lotnictwa Taktycznego (40.elt). Both units fly the Su-22M4 and Su-22UM-3K "Fitter". The Su-22 is a Russian aircraft of the third generation and is used exclusively in the ground attack role. The 8.elt is derived from the former 8th Fighter Bomber Regiment

at the time of the Cold War. In the past, the unit flew with the Lim-2 and later, the Su-22. This unit has always been based at Miroslawiec in the past. On December 31, 2010, this airbase which is not far away from Świdwin was officially disbanded as an operational airbase. The 8.elt moved from that moment to Świdwin where it continued the operational service with the Su-22. The second unit at Świdwin is the 40.elt and is a derived unit of the 40th Fighter Bomber Regiment. The 40.elt was in its present form established on August 23, 1999. This unit was in its existence until now always stationed at Świdwin. The Su-22 is an export variant of the Russian Su-17 "Fitter". The Poles consider the Su-22 as an aircraft which is very easy to maintain because it is a very robust aircraft. In total, the Poles had used over 108 Su-22s. There are currently 32 Fitters in operational service at Świdwin. Poland is the only country in Europe which still flies the Su-22 "Fitter".

Malbork is located in the north of Poland near the city of Gdansk and is designated as 22 Baza Lotnictwa Taktycznego (22.BLT) Malbork. This air base is the home base of the 41 Eskadra Lotnictwa Taktycznego (41.elt). This unit flies the MiG-29 "Fulcrum". The 41.elt is flying with three variants of the Fulcrum, namely the MiG-29A, the MiG-29G and MiG-29GT. The MiG-29A aircraft were originally delivered in Poland. Initially Mińsk Mazowiecki was the only MiG-29 airbase in Poland. However, due to the retirement of the MiG-23 "Flogger" in 1999 and the MiG-21 "Fishbed" in 2003, it was decided to purchase a series of ex-German MiG-29s which were phased out in Germany. A total of 18 MiG-29G and four MiG-29GTs were delivered to Poland. The MiG-29G (T) is a variant of the Fulcrum which was modernized in Germany to the NATO standard. This update was performed by the MiG Moscow Aviation Production Association (MiG MKB) and DaimlerChrysler Aerospace from Germany in 1993. In total, 14 of these MiGs are based at Malbork at the 41.elt in Poland since 2004. Since the commissioning of these aircraft, Poland is the largest Fulcrum user within NATO. The MiG-29s replaced the outdated MiG-21 "Fishbed" in Malbork. The MiG-29 is mainly deployed in Poland in the air defense role. The 41.elt is a descendant of the no 306 Squadron which was formed during the Second World War by the Poles which flew at the British RAF. The MiG-29s from Malbork all have the badge of the 41.elt and the former 41 Fighter Regiment on the cockpit.

The fourth and last airbase of the 1.SLT is 23 Baza Lotnictwa Taktycznego (23.BLT) Mińsk Mazowiecki. This air base is located in the east of Poland at a distance of approximately 10km east of the capital, Warsaw. Mińsk is one of two MiG-29 bases of the Polish Air Force and is home to the 1 Eskadra Lotnictwa Taktycznego (1.elt). The 1.elt is a direct descendant of the famous no 303 Squadron of the Polish Air Force in the RAF during the Second World War. This famous unit was named after the Polish and American hero General Tadeusz Kosciuszko. The badge of the 1.elt is largely visible at the MiG-29 on the back of the aircraft. The MiG-29 variants which are used by this unit are the single-seater MiG-29A and MiG-29UB two-seater. The fleet MiG-29s of the 1.elt consists of aircraft which are derived from two different sources. Some of the Fulcrums are from the originally delivered aircraft for the Polish Air Force. These are a total of 12 aircraft of which nine of the MiG-29A variant and three of the MiG-29UB variant. These aircraft were supplied by the Soviet Union to Poland between 1989 and 1990 and were stationed at Mińsk Mazowiecki in the 1 Fighter Regiment. In the period between 1995 and 1996 a total of ten MiG-29s were taken over of the Czech Air Force of which there were nine of the MiG-29A variant and only one of the MiG-29UB variant. These aircraft were all assigned to the unit in Mińsk. The aircraft at Minsk are al updated to the MiG-29AM and MIG 29UBM standard.

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