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Aircraft of the 3 Tactical Airlift Wing; Radom, August 22, 2015

The Polish Air Force, part 5; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The transport aircraft of the 3 Tactical Airlift Wing is responsible for the logistical connections through the air. The American Lockheed C-130 Hercules is the workhorse of the Polish Air Force. In addition to the Hercules the Spanish CASA C-295 is used as a tactical transport aircraft and the PZL M28 as a light transport aircraft.

The command which is responsible in the Polish Air Force for all logistics services by air is the 3 Skrzydło Lotnictwa Transportowego (3.SLTr) (3 Airlift Wing). The command headquarters of this branch of the Polish Air Force is based on Powidz in central Poland. The main task of the 3.SLTr is to provide air transport capacity for the other units of the Polish Air Force. To perform this task, the Polish Air Force has a fleet of strategic and tactical transport aircraft in its orbat. The American C-130 Hercules is used for strategic transport over long distances and the Spanish CASA C-295M is used for tactical transport over medium distances. Furthermore the 3.SLTr has the PZL M28 in use which is used for tactical transport over short distances. The second important task of a few units within the 3.SLTr is the Search and Rescue (SAR) mission. The units which have the transport task in Poland are based on the 1 Baza Lotnictwa Transportowego (1.BLTr) at Warsaw's international airport, the 8 Baza Lotnictwa Transportowego (8.BLTr) in Krakow and the 33 Baza Lotnictwa Transportowego (33.BLTr) in Powidz. There are in total three SAR units in Poland, namely; the 1 Grupa Poszukiwawczo-Ratownicza (1.GPR) in Świdwin, the 2 Grupa Poszukiwawczo-Ratownicza (2.GPR) in Mińsk Mazowiecki and the 3 Grupa Poszukiwawczo-Ratownicza (3.GPR) in Krakow. The 3.SLTr was founded on April 1, 2007 as the 3 Brygada Lotnictwa Transportowego (3rd Transport Aviation Brigade). As of August 26, 2008, it was reorganized by the brigade command of the commander of the Polish Air Force and the unit was designated as the 3.SLTr.

The first major air base which is part of the 3.SLTr is the 8 Baza Lotnictwa Transportowego (8.BLTr) (8 Air Transport Base). The 8.BLTr which is stationed at Krakow is composed of three units, namely the 12 Eskadra Lotnicza (12.el) (Air Squadron), the 13.el and the 3.GPR. The first unit of the 8.BLTr is 12.el and is equipped with the PZL M28 B/PT. This variant of the M28 is the light transport

version of the M28. The Polish Air Force is using the M28 B/PT version for transport duties, as an air ambulance (Medevac), for the Special Forces and for personnel transport. In the configuration of a cargo aircraft is the M28 able to carry loads of up to 1750kg with a limited maximum of 2000kg. During Medevac missions the M28 is able to carry up to six stretchers or eight seated injuries and two to three doctors. Also there is space for basic medical equipment in the aircraft which is needed to care the wounded during the transport. To fly missions with the Special Forces and other military personnel, the M28 is able to transport 17 fully armed soldiers. During this type of deployment, the troops often are dropped with parachutes over the area in which they will operate. The passenger version of the M28 is the M28 B/P and has 17 to 19 seats for the short-distance transport. For the transportation of VIPs, the M28B TD can also be fitted with eight luxurious armchairs. The 12.el accommodates a total of 13 M28 B/PT aircraft. The unit is flying these aircraft from 2008 as a replacement for the outdated An-2 "Colt".

The second unit of the 8.BLTr which is also stationed at Krakow is the 13 Eskadra Lotnicza (13.el) (Air Squadron). This unit has the tactical transport task and currently flies with the CASA C-295M. The C-295M is a medium range transport aircraft which is able to make tactical landings on unpaved terrain. The 13.el was formally established on October 23, 2000 as the 13 Pulk Lotnictwa Transportowego (13th Air Transport Squadron). The history of this transport squadron goes back to 1918 when the unit was established as the 5th Squadron at Krakow. During the Cold War the 13.el was designated as the 13 Pulku Lotnictwa Transportowego (13th Air Transport Regiment). The unit flew in the period from 1967 to 2000 with the An-2 "Colt" which was used as a light transport aircraft. The An-2 was replaced within the 13.el from 2000 by the Spanish CASA C-295M. The first C-295Ms were delivered to the Polish Air Force from 2003. The Polish Air Force ordered a total of 17 aircraft of this type. One aircraft was lost during a plane crash in Miroslawiec on January 23, 2008. The Poles are until now one of the largest C-295M users in Europe and all the Polish aircraft are assigned to the 13.el. The CASA C-295M is in Poland mainly used for short distance flights in which small loads need to be transported. The aircraft are also deployed to move troops of the army to remote areas.

The second major airbase where units of the 3.SLTr are based is the 33 Baza Lotnictwa Transportowego (33.BLTr) (33 Air Transport Base) Powidz. Powidz is located in the district Słupeckim approximately 35 km southeast of the city of Gniezno and 35 km northwest of Konin. The transport unit which is stationed on Powidz is the 14 Eskadra Lotnicza (14.el) (Air Squadron). This unit is nowadays equipped with the Lockheed Martin C-130E Hercules. The 14.el received a total of five former USAF C-130E Hercules transport aircraft; all these aircraft were drastically modernized. These transport aircraft were all delivered between 2009 and 2012. Eventually, another three C-130E aircraft were leased as a temporary solution between 2009 and 2012. These three planes eventually returned back to the Americans. Two of these aircraft were by the Americans donated to Poland for spare parts. The third plane was flown back to the United States. The Poles use the Hercules aircraft as a strategic transport aircraft; the Hercules is the heaviest transport aircraft of the Polish Air Force. The C-130E Hercules is the third production model of the Hercules family which was introduced. The Hercules of the type C-130E was used for the first time by the USAF at the beginning of the 60s. The Hercules is able to carry heavy loads and is able to deliver it on unpaved roads; the aircraft need only a short runway to take off again. The Hercules has replaced the An-26 in Poland in the role of heavy transport aircraft.

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