Friendly Fire, Polish Style

Memo to US LT General Ricardo Sanchez, occupation ground forces commander in Iraq: Don’t allow the Polish troops to get involved in any air defense, or even any air defense training. He would be wise to draw that lesson from an incident from last month recently uncovered by Zycie Warszawy; today’s update is entitled Su-22 w strefie razenia, or “Su-22 in in the Danger Zone.” (The Su-22 is a Soviet-developed attack aircraft, apparently the export version of what in the Russian Air Force is known as the Su-17. I’ve found a hobby enthusiast’s website about it here, if you’d like to look into this airplane more.)

What basically happened was that a Polish Air Force Su-22 was shot down by friendly forces during a training exercise last August 19, not in Iraq but at the Polish training grounds at Ustka, which is on the Baltic Sea. That airplane was involved in setting up targets for anti-aircraft missiles; unfortunately, it became a target itself of one such missile, which successfully engaged it.

(By the way, you’ll find that armies and air forces love to set up their missile ranges on the coast, since the marine life forms which are all that might be damaged when one misses its target – assuming you also take care to warn away marine traffic – do not vote. The desert will also do in a pinch, though.)

It seems that the missile was fired when it shouldn’t have been, i.e. while the Su-22 was still in the “danger zone.” Fortunately, the pilot (one Wing Commander, or podpulkownik, Andrzej Andrzejewski) bailed out safely and was later fished out of the Baltic by rescue helicopter. Military investigators looking into this incident don’t blame him; he is judged to have acted correctly, and in fact has been promoted to full pulkownik for his performance. (Or “Group Wing Commander” in the West, the equivalent of colonel, so that’s a high rank, just under that of general.)

If some win, it would seem others must lose. But Zycie Warszawy reports that it has yet to uncover who, if anyone, among the missile-firing crew and/or those who were supposed to be supervising this exercise is going to “pay” in some way for this expensive and dangerous negligence. The rescue of Col. Andrzejewski also was not a pretty affair. He’s lucky that he was not wounded in the incident, and that it was August and so the water in the Baltic was warm, for it took far too long to get that rescue helicopter to him. The article speaks of “some tens of minutes’ delay.” (In Polish that’s “kilkudziesieciominutowym op√≥znieniem“. Yes, I know you never asked me for that, but I wanted to quote the Polish for those who know the language to better judge the incident, for I suppose that if the delay was “not too many tens of minutes” – say, one or two “tens” – then that would have been OK, an acceptable delay of the rescue.) Plus, the helicopter received conflicting directions as to where to go from the air force and from the coastal services/administration (hit me again!: that’s “nabrezne sluzby“. I do this when I’m not 100% sure of my translation – not to show off – to let those who know the language get a better idea of what was originally said.).

By the way, those Ukrainian troops also serving in the Polish occupation sector? Also keep them from doing any air defense or even air defense training, please. They have an even worse record on that score, since it was a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile on a training exercise which actually shot down a Russian Tu-154 airliner over the Black Sea in October, 2001, resulting in the deaths of all 78 on board – mostly Israeli citizens, as it turned out.

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