Analysis of Polish air defense system, can they intercept Russian missiles and aircrafts?

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According to reports by experts familiar with the polish airspace radar control and air defense control system, the density of radar posts deployed on Polish territory is far greater than that of other NATO countries. Using the combination of powerful modern mobile radar and fixed radar, Poland achieved continuous control of airspace and connected radar reconnaissance data to NATO’s information network. Thus Poland is regarded by nato command as an eastern outpost bordering Kaliningrad Oblast and Belarus. So what kind of anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems does Poland have, and the following will be an in-depth analysis of the air defense and anti-missile systems currently in service in Poland.

First, the Polish air defense system, air force, and anti-missile systems cooperate with each other

After Poland joined NATO, the command of its army largely shifted to the Western air defense model with interceptor fighters as its main role. For Poland, a country with an area of 312679 square kilometers and a population of about 38 million, a fleet of 48 modern F-16C/DBlock52+ fighter jets and 23 modern MiG-29s is sufficient to withstand air strikes, while taking into account the support of other NATO countries, the first fifth-generation F-35A Lightning II fighters are expected to be delivered in 2024, and the Polish Air Force will have a total of 32 such fighters.

However, the presence of modern fighters does not mean that the Polish army does not have other anti-aircraft armed forces such as anti-aircraft missiles and artillery systems. At present, the Polish Army has a total of 30 air-defense divisions, including 22 in the Army, 6 in the Air Force, and 2 in the Coastal Unit of the Navy. In total, these units were equipped with more than 400 artillery and missiles, and anti-aircraft guns of 23 mm and 57 mm calibers.

POPRAD short-range air defense missile system
POPRAD short-range air defense missile system

On most of the 23 mm towing and self-propelled anti-aircraft devices, Poland employs very advanced optoelectronic all-day night sights, combined with laser rangefinders. Its Air Force, Navy, and Army Air Defense Units have more than 1,000 modern Grom and Piorun MANPADS launchers. In order to replace the old Soviet air defense systems “Kub” (20 launchers) and “Osa” (64 units), the Polish army is equipped with the Poprad-made air defense system and is developing an improved Poprad-2 (range of more than 10.5 km), with plans to purchase 32 advanced PGZ-Narew anti-aircraft missile systems (the first phase has a range of 25 km, up to 45 km in the future).

Polish air defense facilities were acquired from the Soviet Union when the country joined the Warsaw Pact. Unlike its neighbor Ukraine, Poland did not acquire the S-300PT/PS and improved Buk air defense systems. But the technical condition of polish air defense system facilities was much better than that of many Warsaw Pact countries and Soviet republics. The Polish Government and the Polish Army Command allocated the necessary financial resources in a timely manner to pay due attention to the timely repair and modernization of existing equipment and weapons.

S-125 system

According to the data, by the end of 2021, Poland has installed a total of 17 Sets of S-125 air defense systems, all of which are subordinate to the 6 anti-aircraft missile divisions of the 3rd Warsaw Air Defense Missile Brigade (subordinate to the Air Force Command). The S-125 Newa-SC is a modernized version of the Soviet S-125 low-altitude air defence system, equipped with 5B27D anti-aircraft missiles. To defend against low-altitude air strikes, the system’s deployment positions were covered by 23 mm anti-aircraft guns and portable air defense systems.

Currently, the S-125 Newa-SC air defense system is largely not performing a continuous combat readiness mission, which reduces maintenance costs and saves resources. For each anti-aircraft missile division, its station has engineering training positions and organizes troops to conduct regular deployment and simulated strike training.

Upgraded S-125 system on T-62 tank chassis
Upgraded S-125 system on T-62 tank chassis

According to experts, Poland’s plan to modernize the Soviet S-125M1A was very successful, not only greatly extending its service life, but also improving combat performance.

In the maintenance and modernization work that began in the late 1990s, the hardware portion of the latest Newa-SC low-altitude air defense missile system replaced the primary electric vacuum element with modern solid-state electronics. The introduction of digital technologies and new working algorithms has improved its anti-interference ability and information processing speed.

The antenna post with surface-to-air guidance equipment was mounted on the four-axle wheeled chassis MAZ-543P (previously used for the OTRP-17 launcher), while the launcher 5P73 with four anti-aircraft missiles was mounted on the tracked chassis of the armored repair vehicle WZT-1. At the same time, the solid fuel was replaced in 5B27D and preventive repairs were carried out on the main components. The transfer of the Newa-SC air defense system to the self-propelled chassis had a positive impact on the overall mobility and passability of the complex, significantly reducing its deployment and recovery time. In this case, the distance and altitude accessibility remain at the level of the original C-125M1A.

The Newa-SC low-altitude air defense missile system is scheduled to be in service for a few more years before being replaced by the new British-Polish air defense system, Narew. However, in view of recent developments in the surrounding war, the polish Defense Ministry leaders decided to strengthen the supply of the Narew anti-aircraft missile system and proposed that the soon-to-be-retired Newa-SC could be transferred to Ukraine free of charge.

In 2012, Poland plans to carry out a major modernization of the national air defense system within the framework of the WIS. A program, enabling it to strike ballistic and tactical missiles. In April 2015, Raytheon, a company with Patriot Air Defense Systems, was selected as a supplier of the new air defence system.

Patriot missile system

According to the plan announced by the representative of the Polish Ministry of Defense, by 2025, it is planned to add 8 Patriot missile systems to combat readiness duty, supplemented by the Narew medium-range air defense system and the Poprad-2 short-range air defense system, which will make it possible to establish a layered national air defense and missile defense system.

But the Polish government was not happy with the cost of Patriot which was $10 billion, and the Polish Defense Ministry has said it is not prepared to pay such a large sum of money and has begun negotiations to seek to cut prices. In the end, Poland decided to purchase four anti-aircraft missile systems with a total value of $4.75 billion. As part of the agreement, Poland signed five contracts with the U.S. government: a major supply contract, two training contracts, a contract for cryptographic equipment and a contract for Link16 system components.

MIM-104 Patriot Missile
MIM-104 Patriot Missile

The contract provided for the transfer of C4ISR technology based on the ICBS command post to Poland and the production of the components of these command posts in local enterprises, the establishment of a certified national administrative center to manage the production, commissioning, maintenance and repair of the WISA system. The Polish contractor will also manufacture and maintain components for missile launchers, produce individual components for the RAS-3 MSE missile, and will build control and test laboratories for anti-aircraft missiles. In the long run, this will not only meet Poland’s own needs, but also serve other foreign customers.

According to military experts, Warsaw succeeded in establishing a special relationship with Washington, making Poland one of the few countries to acquire the key technologies of the most advanced tactical air defense and anti-missile systems. In the past, Turkey has been trying to achieve this goal, but has been rejected.

It is understood that in the first phase, the Polish army will receive the Patriot system configured with PAC3+, equipped with the PAC-3MSE air defense missile system, the new IBCS integrated combat control system and the upgraded AN/MPQ-65A radar.

The ammunition of the Polish Patriot system consisted of an improved PAC-3MSE anti-aircraft missile (improved MIM-104F) produced by Lockheed Martin. These surface-to-air missiles are mainly used against tactical ballistic missiles, which are conducted against air defenses through the direct strike method of kinetic warheads. To intercept aerodynamic targets, the missile is also equipped with a directional action fragment warhead.

After 2024, Poland plans to purchase six more patriot systems, which will be improved by a series of improvements. The most striking of these is the LTAMDS omnidirectional radar. The LTAMDS radar, developed by Raytheon, is designed to improve the combat effectiveness of the Patriot PAC3+ air defense system. Designed to counter hypersonic speeds, the LTAMDS radar has three antenna arrays working together (one in front and two in the back) simultaneously detecting and eliminating multiple threats from any direction. The new LTAMDS radar will replace the AN/MPQ-65 radar used by the U.S. Army in the Patriot air defense system and will operate in an integrated air defense and missile defense network. The batch of Patriot systems will also integrate two systems from the Polish company PIT-RADWAR: the new P-18PL coordinate radar and the PET/PCL passive detection station.

The 36th Anti-Aircraft Missile Division was equipped with the S-200C “Vega” anti-aircraft missile system, which was a modernization of the Soviet S-200VE “Vega” long-range air defense system by Polish experts, which was officially put into use in 2002. During major repairs and renovations, some of the electronic equipment was transferred to the modern component base at that time, and the control system was digitized. According to reports, the communication between the main working components of the modernized system is carried out by radio, which makes it possible to abandon the K9M cabin and cable lines.

The main deployment location of the S-200C air defense system has not changed and is still located on the Baltic Sea coast, 8 km from the town of Mrgězyno. Meanwhile, satellite imagery shows that there are no launchers carrying combat missiles on standard firing positions of the S-200B anti-aircraft missile system equipped in the area. Long-range liquid-fueled surface-to-air missiles are scarce in Poland, so it is possible that most of the missiles will be stored in reinforced bunkers in an unfilled form.

S-200 air defence system

In 2018, Polish sources wrote that the Air Command launched another program to repair and update the S-200C air defense system. The only S-200C air defense system still in service will allegedly receive an upgraded target-illuminated radar, a revamped 5P72VE launcher, and “many other elements of the system.”

S-200 Wega launcher in Polish service
S-200 Wega launcher in Polish service

It is not possible to find a report confirming that the next improvement of the Polish S-200 Vega” is underway. But it can be assumed that the leadership of the Polish Ministry of Defense, weighing all the pros and cons, decided not to modernize an outdated, expensive and difficult-to-operate air defense system. Although the S-200C long-range air defense system is still in service, it is clear that this legacy of the Cold War era will be retired in the near future.

 Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System in Poland
Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System in Poland

Until now, the U.S. Navy has deployed two land-based Aegis anti-missile systems in Europe, one in Deviselu, Romania, and the other in Ryzykovo, Poland.

At present, the U.S. missile defense base, which is in the final stages of commissioning, is located 17 kilometers off the Baltic coast near the town of Ryzikovo, which was once a military airfield with a concrete runway. Initially, Poland’s ABMD will be deployed in 2018, but due to technical problems, the deployment time has been postponed to 2023.

The basis of the ABMD anti-missile system is the AN/SPY-1D(V) radar, as well as the Block IB/IIB interceptor missile. The main elements of the system’s structure are modular and can be transported in containers, and the total weight of the four-storey metal ground-floor building with radar elements, computer systems and communication equipment exceeds 900 tons.

Poland plans to modernize the system deployed in Europe in 2022. In addition to replacing the new computer system and improving some of the software, the ammunition side also includes the equipping of additional SM-6 anti-aircraft missiles, which will effectively deal with cruise missiles and fighters.

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