US Air Force certifies Polish Air Force M-346 trainer for future F-16 and F-35 pilots

Two Polish M-346s on a training mission. (Photo: Polish Air Force)

The certification certifies that the training of Polish pilots is equivalent to the training carried out in the USA on the T-38C up to the Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals.

Following a week-long evaluation in late 2021, the US Air Force certified the Polish Air Force Training System with the M-346 Bielik at the 41st Air Force Base in Dęblin training as equivalent to training performed on the T-38C Talon in the United States. , many Polish media have reported. Following this certification, Polish pilots will now be able to complete their training at home before joining the operational conversion unit, without the need for additional training abroad.

US personnel conducted a very thorough evaluation of the M-346-centric training system. Among the elements verified are the infrastructure, the theoretical courses, the skills of the instructors, the mission planning, the briefing and debriefing process, the flight simulator training and the live flight training.

“A team of several US Air Force pilots, representing both combat and training aviation, came to see us and carefully checked how we were training,” Major Pil said. Mariusz Fischer, M-346 Bielik instructor pilot. “The Americans also evaluated our infrastructure based on its functionality, the number of aircraft available and simulators. Training documentation and the flight safety system were also analyzed. Each item has been assessed down to the smallest detail.

For a long time, pilots assigned to fly the F-16 Fighting Falcon received initial flight training in Poland on the PZL-130 Orlik at the 42nd Air Training Base in Radom, then moved to the United States for training advanced and an introduction to the basics of hunting. (IFF) on the T-38C Talon, before completing the F-16 Basic Course in Tucson, Arizona. This was a forced choice as the now retired TS-11 Iskra was not sufficiently capable of providing student pilots with the skills required prior to the F-16B course.

M-346
A Polish M-346 Bielik at the top of a loop. (Photo: Polish Air Force)

Following the delivery of the M-346, the Polish Air Force entered a transition phase and now, with this certification, Polish pilots will be able to complete all their advanced training up to the IFF phase in Dęblin. Notably, the training has also been certified for future F-35 pilots. Therefore, like their 4th generation counterparts, they will only travel to the United States when they are ready to complete the F-35B course at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. The evaluation team also found opportunities for improvement, starting with the number of flight simulators.

“We have met the requirements set by the United States for the training of pilots of fourth and fifth generation aircraft. This is a huge success for our staff. Our allies also gave us high marks for training documentation and instructor skills,” added Major Fischer. “The element to improve is the number of simulators. These are very modern aircraft, but their insufficient number compared to the fleet of aircraft acquired under the contract may have an impact on maintaining the planned training pace. The acquisition of an additional simulator seems necessary to achieve the required system throughput”.

Poland currently operates a fleet of 12 M-346s, the first eight of which were ordered in 2014 with the remaining four aircraft optional. Last year, a contract for a new option of four M-346s was announced, which should be delivered by the end of the year and bring the total fleet to 16 aircraft. In addition to the last four aircraft, Poland will benefit from a new support program as well as a upgrade of the entire M-346 fleet to the NATO STANAG 4193 Edition 3 IFF standard developed by Leonardo.

Stefano D’Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in industrial engineering, he is also studying for a master’s degree in aerospace engineering. Electronic warfare, vagrant ammunition and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.

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