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1 Air Brigade of the Polish Army Aviation; Deblin, August 23, 2015

The Polish Air Force, part 8; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

In addition to the Polish Air Force, also the Polish Army has an airborne unit. The Polish Army Aviation battalions consist exclusively of helicopters and are fully integrated into the Polish Army. The unit is the 1 Brygada Lotnictwa Wojsk Ladowych (1st Army Aviation Brigade) which is operating in the offensive role.

The history of the Polish Army Aviation goes back to the early 60s. In this period many helicopter units emerged throughout Europe on both the NATO side and the Soviet side. In this period, the design of the helicopter was for the first time mature and became operational on a large scale. The flying branch of the Polish Army is referred to as the Lotnictwo Wojsk Ladowych (Army Aviation). The Polish Army has two brigades which are using different types of helicopters. The helicopter units of the Polish Army are fully included in the regiment and brigade structure of the armed forces. The 1 Brygada Lotnictwa Wojsk Ladowych (1.BLWL) (1st Army Aviation Brigade) is one of the two brigades flying helicopters of the Polish Army, which is referred to as Wojska Ladowe (WL). The 1.BLWL was in its current organization founded on March 15, 2011. The 1.BLWL is composed of four regiments. These regiments are the 49th Air Base Pruszcz Gdanski, the 56th Air Base Inowroclaw, the aerial reconnaissance squadron at Miroslawiec and the central group for tactical field control. This last group has no flight equipment but is supportive for the flying units. The headquarters of the 1.BLWL is located at Inowroclaw. The 1.BLWL is an offensive helicopter brigade of the Polish Army. The units are therefore equipped with heavy assault helicopters such as the Mi-24 "Hind" attack helicopter and light helicopters such as the Mi-2 "Hoplite".

The first airbase which is part of the 1.BLWL is 49 Baza Lotnicza (49.BLot) Pruszcz Gdanski. This airbase is located 15 kilometers south of the city of Gdansk in northern Poland. The 49.BLot was founded in its present form after a reorganization of the Polish Army on January 1, 2012. Following this reorganization the 49.BLot became part of the 1.BLWL. The 49.BLot existed in the past as the 49 Pulk Śmigłowców Bojowych (49.pśb) (49 Combat Helicopter Regiment) and was founded at the beginning of the Cold War in 1952. The tasks of the 49.BLot consist of tactical support

of troops on the battlefield, protection of the command, execution of transport tasks, visual diagnostics to chemical-radiological areas, identification and correction of artillery fire, the protection of Special Forces, tactical landings and Combat Search And Rescue (CSAR). The units which are part of the 49.BLot, are; the 1 Eskadra Śmigłowców Szturmowych (1.ESSz) (1 Assault Helicopter Squadron), the 2 Eskadra Śmigłowców Szturmowych (2.ESSz), the 3 Eskadra CSAR and the 4 Eskadra Śmigłowców Wielozadaniowych (4.ESW) (4 Utility Helicopter Squadron). The 1.ESSz and 2.ESSz are both equipped with the Mil Mi-24D "Hind". These units are deployed in the offensive role. The 3 Eskadra CSAR is equipped with both the Mi-24D and the Mi-2RL and has the CSAR task in which the Mi-24D “Hind” is used as a gunship and the Mi-2 “Hoplite” as a rescue helicopter. The 4.ESW has different variants of the Mi-2RL "Hoplite" in use and is mainly used for transport and communication tasks.

The second airbase of the Polish Army, which is part of the 1.BLWL, is the 56 Baza Lotnicza (56.BLot) Inowroclaw. This army air base is located about 10 kilometers northwest of the town Inowroclaw in central Poland. The 56.BLot has its origin from the 56 Pulk Śmigłowców Bojowych (56 Combat Helicopter Regiment) and was in its present form founded after a reform as the 56.BLot on January 1, 2012. The 56.BLot is composed of four units; however, these units fly with other variants of the Mi-2 "Hoplite" and Mi-24 "Hind" than the units of the 49.BLot. The units of 56.BLot, are; the first Eskadra Śmigłowców Szturmowych (1.ESSz) (1 Assault Helicopter Squadron), the 2.ESSz, the 3.ESSz and four Eskadra Śmigłowców (4.ES) (4 Helicopter Squadron) which is a transport unit. The 1.ESSz flies the Mi-24V "Hind". This variant of the Hind is compared with the Mi-24D a modernized variant which is able to carry multiple types of weapons. This variant of the Hind entered operation in the Polish Army at the beginning of the 80s. The 2.ESSz and 3.ESSz are both offensive units which are equipped with the Mi-2URP and Mi-2URP-G variant of the Hoplite. The Mi-2URP is referred to as the Salamandra (Salamander) and is the gunship and anti-tank variant of the Mi-2. The helicopter can be equipped with 23mm NS-23 cannons and an optional in the doors mounted 7.62 mm PK machine gun. The Mi-2URP-G, where the letter G stands for Gniewosz (smooth snake) can be equipped with 9M14M Malutka wire-guided anti-tank missiles or rocket pods and four Strzała-2 missiles.

The third unit of the Polish Army, which is under the command of the 1.BLWL is the Dywizjon Rozpoznania Powietrznego (DRP) (Air Reconnaissance Squadron) at Miroslawiec. Miroslawiec is located in the northwest of Poland and is a sleeping airbase. The unit was initially established under the command of the 49.BLot in Pruszcz Gdanski in the autumn of 2006. The DRP flies with the Aeronautics' Orbiter from Israel. The Orbiter is an unmanned reconnaissance aircraft and is only 1 meter long. This drone can be used for aerial reconnaissance. The squadron performs reconnaissance and gathers intelligence on the battlefield for other military units. The DRP has been deployed several times by the Polish Army to countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Chad. In addition to performing reconnaissance, the Orbiter is also able to operate with aircraft such as the Boeing Scan Eagle and Predator. The Orbiter is an unarmed platform and will be used solely for reconnaissance. In 2010, the DRP was moved to the air base of Miroslawiec where the unit currently still is stationed. Operating the drones on an operational helicopter base is difficult in relation to the dimensions of the drones. After the retirement of the Su-22 at Miroslawiec this location was therefore the best location to fly and train with these drones. In total, the DRP has 18 Orbiters in use. In 2013 decisions were made to purchase another 12 WB Electro- nics FlyEye drones. This drone is a Polish product and is larger than the Orbiter.

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