Polish Naval

Helicopter Force
in crisis
Alex Mladenov examines the consequences
of the termination of the negotiations for
the Airbus Helicopters H225 purchase by the
Polish government together and as the type
enters into the final years of its service, an
analysis on the current state and operations
of the Polish Navy’s tiny Mi-14 ‘Haze’ fleet.


On 5 October 2016, Poland officially announced the end of negotiations with
Airbus Helicopters, which began in September 2015, on procurement of as many as
50, H225M Caracal helicopters for the Air Force and Navy. The official explanation
of this move by the Polish government was that it eventually proved impossible
to get into agreement on the industrial offset because the the Polish economic
development ministry would not approve the proposals put on the table by the
The Polish government selected the Caracal in April 2015 and the helicopter was
reported to have subsequently passed in-country qualification tests. The main part
of offset proposal of Airbus Helicopters and its engine supplier, Safran Helicopter
Engines was centered on setting up a final assembly line for the H225M at the WZL-1
aviation repair plant in Lodz and the engagement of the Polish airspace industry in
its global supply chain.
The 5 October 2016 decision however provided another window of opportunity
for the other two contenders in the original Polish competition that was run in 2013-
2015; Leonardo Helicopters and Sikorsky. Both companies have long-time presences
in Poland through their local subsidiaries PZL Swidnik and PZL Mielec respectively
will be able to re-enter the game and fight to get the order.
During the original tender, Italian manufacturer Leonardo Helicopters offered
the AgustaWestland AW149 in tactical transport, SAR and anti-submarine warfare
(ASW) version while US helicopter maker, Sikorsky offered two different models –
the S-70i Black Hawk, to be produced at PZL Mielec plant, and the S-70B Seahawk
for ASW and SAR to be manufactured in the USA.
In the event that the Polish requirement for new rotorcraft still exists, that
requirement is now especially pressing for the naval SAR and Air Force special
operations forces (SOF) support. Soon after the end of the negotiations with
Airbus Helicopter, the Polish defense minister Antoni Macierewicz announced in
mid-October the government intention to go for a no-bid solution by ordering the
Polish-made S-70i Black Hawk for the SOF support. In late November, however, the
government backtracked, as deputy defense minister Bartosz Kownacki reported
to the Parliament that no formal procurement procedure for the S-70i had been
Instead, it was also revealed by the Polish press that MoD is considering pursuing
an accelerated procurement for its new helicopters, set to be formally launched
in January 2017 at the earliest. Polish sources hint that the armed sub-version of
the S-70i is still being regarded as the front-runner for the SOF requirement as a
replacement of the upgraded Mi-17, while the naval ASW and ASW requirements for
replacing the aging Mi-14 (eight for ASW and six for combat SAR) are likely to see
head-to-head competition between the H225M and AW101.

For take-offs, the minimum visibility
is set at 1,640ft (500m), but when
scrambled to perform a real-world
SAR operation there are no visibility
limits set for take-off, and the wind
speed limit is set at 39kt (72km/h).

The M-14PL/R has a
battery of searchlights,
useful for night landings ‘HAZE SOLDIERS ON
and winching operations, The Polish Naval Aviation’s aged anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and Search and
including two on Rescue (SAR) rotorcraft fleets are represented by two Mi-14 ‘Haze’ versions, slated
front fuselage, two in
for eventual retirement by about 2018. The ‘Haze-A’ is a large amphibious machine
sponsons and one on
the tailboom.
based on the Mi-8 design with a boat hull, optimized for naval operations and able
to operate from sea surface. The Polish hard-working Mi-14PL fleet has been subject
of a comprehensive service life extension program (SLEP) undertaken at the local
WZL-1 military aviation maintenance facility in Lodz in the previous decade, with the
first example, serialed ‘1002’, re-delivered to Darlowo in 2007. Provided with seven
years of service and 1,000 flight hours at the SLEP completion, this aircraft was
finally grounded in 2014 and used as a spare parts donor for the flying ‘Haze’ fleet.
As Polish naval aviators claimed, despite its age, the 13-tonne Mi-14 is still a
pretty capable aircraft for Baltic Sea operations in both the ASW and SAR roles,
thanks to its flight performance, combined with the reliable and effective mission
equipment. “No submarine can hide from our highly-upgraded ‘Hazes’”, proudly
noted one of the Mi-14 pilots at Darlowo, citing the result from Baltops-series of
multinational annual exercises held in the Baltic Sea. In Baltops, NATO practices for
two-weeks all the major warfare areas and in one of the recent exercise editions
the Darlowo-based ‘Haze-A’ crews have reported detection and tracking of two
French Navy and one German Navy submarines. He also added that the Mi-14PL/R
is currently being regarded as the most capable SAR helicopters in the Baltics Sea.
The upgraded ASW fleet originally included eight upgraded Mi-14PLs, used for
ASW and maritime reconnaissance missions (with serial numbers ‘1001’, ‘1002’,
‘1003’, ‘1005’, ‘1007’, ‘1008’, ‘1010’, ‘1011’) plus two more Mi-14PL/Rs converted for
the SAR role (‘1009’ and ‘1012’). The Polish Mi-14PLs underwent the first upgrades
of their mission suites in the second half of the 1990s. Tests have shown that the
upgraded ASW suite, employing newly added digital processors, is well capable
of detecting not only moving submarines but also sunken ships resting on the
sea floor. The first upgraded ‘Haze-A’ was commissioned in service in November
2000. In the early 2000s, the Mi-14PL’s armament was further enhanced with the
integration of the modern MU90 anti-submarine guided torpedo, manufactured by
the French-Italian consortium Eurotorp.

When they fly over the
sea, Mi-14 aircrews use the
orange Polish-made MUP-1
survival immersion suites.

A Mi-14PL is seen while loaded with PT-50
practice bombs on bomb racks inside the
cavernous bomb bay.

ABOVE; The Mi-14 era in
the Polish Naval Aviation
is set to end in 2018
when the service life of
the type will expire.

RIGHT: A scan into the
Mi-14PL/R cockpit.

Presently, the active Mi-14PL fleet of the Polish Naval Aviation has been reduced
to three examples out of eight upgraded between 2007 and 2014, as ‘1002’, ‘1001’
and ‘1005’ were grounded due to the expired service life, with ‘1003’ and ‘1005’
slated to follow suit until the end of 2016. One more M-14PL is expected to be retired
in 2017, another will follow in 2018 while the last machine, ‘1008’ (life-extended and
overhauled as late as in 2014), will be good for use, (at least in theory), until 2021 but
most likely it will be also retired in 2018.

The Polish heavyweight/long-range SAR fleet of three Mi-14PS’ run out of useful life
in 2010, with the last two aircraft reaching their service life limit of 3,000 flight hours
and 27 years, as assigned by the type’s design authority, Russian company Mil MHP. In
an effort to retain the much-needed long-range overwater SAR capability, the Polish
Navy eventually decided to upgrade two of the existing Mi-14PLs for the SAR mission.

The Mi-14PL crew
consists of five
members – pilot,
co-pilot, two ASW suite
operators and a flight

There are no plans for a further service life
extension of the Mi-14PL fleet so far and instead the
replacement option will be pursued.

Capt Marcin Hope
is an experienced
SAR pilot but has no
idea what will come
to Darlowo after the
Both Mi-14PL/Rs seen
at their quick reaction
alert duty ramp.
These rotorcraft were converted in 2010 to the Mi-14PL/R SAR standard at the
WZL-1 at Lodz, with technical assistance provided by the Ukrainian Alfa company
of Sevastopol. The conversion works included stripping of all ASW equipment and
the installation of a wider cabin door, an externally-mounted SPG-350 electrical
hoist (rated at 661lb [300kg]) and fitted with a rescue basket, in addition to an all-
new communication and navigation avionics suite. It included the Ukrainian-made
Buran-A weather/navigation radar in the nose in addition to the Rockwell Collins
DF-430 multi-mission direction finder used to provide homing on emergency
locator beacons; it is capable of receiving and interrogating all current international
distress frequencies including 121.5MHz, 243MHz, 406MHz in addition to ARGOS
and COSPAS-SARSAT encoded beacon signals.
The Mi-14PL/R’s communications suite includes two Unimor RS-6113 VHF/UHF
radios, one Bendix King KHF950 HF radio and one RT 4822 VHF DSC simplex/
semiduplex VHF radiotelephone for maritime communications.
The first of the upgraded ‘Haze-As’, serial ‘1012’, re-designated as Mi-14PL/R (R
denoting rescue) was introduced in service in December 2010, and the second one
(‘1009’) followed suite in April 2011. Together with the upgrade, the helicopters were
overhauled and life extended in order to be good for seven more years of service
and 1,000 flight hours, whichever reached the first. This means that Mi-14PL/R
‘1009’ is slated for retirement in December 2017, while ‘1012’ is good to continue
soldiering on until April 2018.

According to Capt. Marcin Hope, a Mi-14PL/R instructor pilot, each of the
two flying groups at Darlowo has its own complement of pilots, with no cross
qualification between the SAR and ASW aircrews. He began his officer career at
Darlowo, converting to the Mi-14PS used for sea and land SAR, immediately after
graduation from the Polish Air Force Academy at Deblin where he has trained on

Some of the Polish
Haza-As wear striking
sharkmouth artwork.

the PZL Swidnik Mi-2 helicopter. “In general, it takes too long time here to qualify
for each individual mission on the ‘Haze’. As a consequence, I spent no less than five
years as co-pilot and only then upgraded to crew commander while after five more
years I got my flight instructor rating.”

The Mi-14PL/R has an SPG-350 electric winch
in the enlarged door, equipped with a large
basket for sea rescue missions.

Capt. Hope graduated with 200 flight hours under his belt, all logged on the
3.4-tonne Mi-2. The conversion to the 13-tonne Mi-14PS was a big step for him at the
time. During his officer career he amassed some 1,100 flight-hours on the
Mi-14 while his total flight time is about 1,500 flight hours. Asked to comment the
‘Haze’ performance as a SAR platform, Capt. Hope gladly and proudly shared
that the heavyweight helicopter has a lot of power and carries a lot of fuel,
making it able to stay in the air for five a half hours while the spacious cabin can
accommodate up to 20 survivors during mass evacuations. The two Klimov TV3-
117MT turboshafts are rated at 2,200shp (1,641kW) each in one engine inoperative
(OEI) conditions, sufficient to retain horizontal flight), while the take-off rating is
1,950 shp (1,456 kW).
“Today we have only one equivalent in the world in the terms of size and payload
– the EH101 (AW101) Merlin”, he claimed. Ironically, Capt. Hope was a member
of the Polish MoD evaluation team which downselected in April 2015 the Airbus
Helicopters H225M Caracal as a Mi-14PS/PL successor in the ill-fated tender, which
has reportedly failed to materialize into a purchase contract in October 2016.
The Baltic Sea may be relatively small compared to other water basins but it
accounts for a 15% of the global transport of goods by sea. Each day, 2,500 to
3,000 vessels of various sizes pass through. Up to 120 accidents of various types
occur each year, all needing the prompt intervention of SAR assets. The Polish area
of responsibility for providing sea SAR service covers over 30,000km2. The Polish
Navy performs the mission by working closely with the nation’s Maritime Search and
Rescue Service, which is responsible for the sea SAR management and coordination
of rescue operations at sea, and provides surface and air assets to perform the
operations. As Capt. Hope noted, the SAR Group at Darlowo is tasked to cover the
entire southern part of the Baltic Sea, some 92nm (170km) from the coastline, in the
worst seas. The area of responsibility also includes up to 54nm (100km) onshore,
covering all northern regions of the country bordering with the Baltic Sea.

The Mi-14 is a 13-tone rugged rotorcraft designed by using the Mi-8
airframe modified with a boat-style bottom of the hull.

Capt. Hope explained that Polish pilots have nicknamed the Mi-14 as ‘Space Shuttle Columbia’ due to its
high angle of attack maintained during final approach for rolling landing, touching down first with the main
undercarriage units.
As he noted, the Mi-14 proved itself as a very reliable and well-maintained platform, with only one or
two mechanical problems experienced by the Darlowo-based fleet in the last ten years, while most of
the problems are of electrical nature. He also mentioned that water landings were practiced by the Mi-14
crews on regular basis until 2007, but after the SLEP this practice has been abandoned in order to reduce
the structural loads on the aging ‘Haze’ airframes associated with the on-water operations.
Weather minima for landing in visual flight rules (VFR) conditions for the Mi-14 fleet is set at 4,920ft
(1,500m) horizontal visibility and 394ft (120m) cloud base. When operating on instrumental flight rules
(IFR), performing ILS approach, the minima visibility is set at 2,624ft (800m) horizontal visibility and 197ft
(60m) cloud base. For take-offs, the minimum visibility is set at 1,640ft (500m), but when scrambled to
perform a real-world SAR operation there are no visibility limits set for take-off, and the wind speed limit is
set at 39kt (72km/h).
The Buran-A radar added during the Mi-14PL/R upgrade has both weather and surface search modes,
while the original Inistiativa-2 search radar has been removed. The search modes enable detection of
the coastline and ships on the sea surface. According to Capt Hope, a small fishing boat can be typically
detected by the radar at 13.5 to 16.1nm (25 to 30km) with the helicopter maintaining 330ft (100m) altitude.

Mi-14PL ‘Haze-A’ – facts and figures


Main Rotor diameter 69ft 10in (21.294m)
Maximum length, rotors turning 83ft 1in (25.315m)
Fuselage length 60ft 3in (18.376m)
Maximum height 22ft 9in (6.936m)
Empty weight 19,620lb (8,902kg)
Normal take-off weight 28,660lb (13,000kg)
Maximum take-off weight 30,865lb (14,000kg)
Payload 6,614lb (3,000kg)
Maximum speed at sea level 124kt (230km/h)
Cruise speed 116kt (215km/h)
Service ceiling 13,125ft (4,000m)
Normal range 432nm (800km)
Maximum range 613nm (1,135km)
Maximum endurance 5 hours 56 minutes

The Mi-14PL/R crew during a typical mission includes pilot, co-pilot, flight
engineer (who also acts as a winch operator), rescue swimmer and doctor. When
performing rescue missions in bad weather the Mi-14 would usually go to the airport
which is closest to the appropriate hospital while in good weather the helicopter is
required to land as close as possible to the hospital. SAR crews on quick reaction
alert (QRA) at Darlowo work a 24 hour-long shift pattern, but in fact their working
time is 25 hours due to the need to kit out, perform pre-flight checks, hover-test the
helicopter and other preparatory activities. Each QRA shift begins at 8 o’clock in the
morning. Time from the scramble order to take-off during day missions is within 20
minutes, extended to 30 minutes in case of night-time take-off. During the winter,
the daylight reaction time is also set at 30 minutes because of the need to warm up
some equipment onboard. The number of duty shifts is between three and seven
per month. Mi-14 aircrews use the Polish-made MUP-1 survival immersion suites
all the time when they fly over the sea. The suite is flame-resistant and provides
thermal protection in water.

Normal VFR cruise altitude over the sea is set at 661ft (200m), while at night it
increases to 1,320ft (400m). When flying IFR, the minimum cruise altitude is set at
1,970ft (600m) over the sea; the same minimum altitude, but in reference to the
highest terrain point in the area, is required to be maintained when flying over land.
Capt. Hope says that the night SAR mission over the rough sea in bad weather
is a completely different world from anything else than can be experienced on
helicopters. No sea-state limits are set for SAR operations, while training can be

carried out in sea states up to eight due to the limitations imposed onto the ship
involved in the training winching operations. The ‘Haze’ cabin is usually equipped
with a set of four stretchers, but when necessary can be configured with up to ten,
together with liferafts and other rescue and medical equipment. Capt. Hope claims
that the ‘Haze’ has the distinction to be equipped with the best anti-icing system
in the world. “In one particular mission in the winter we had ice build up so thick
on the fuselage that after landing it proved next to impossible to open the cabin
door, but the helicopter remained flyable”, he recalled. The Mi-14’s rotor blades are
provided with electrical heating, while the intakes and the windshield are heated
by bleed air taken from engine compressors. The anti-icing system is switched on
when the outside air temperature is below 100C and is required to work all the time.
In fact, pilots are advised to avoid as much a possible prolonged flying in zones
with known icing conditions. The Mi-14 is cleared for operating with no restrictions
imposed in the temperature ranging from -50 to +45 0C.
According to Capt. Hope, when hovering for winching operations, the Mi-14PL/
R’s altitude depends on the size of the boat. For instance, over fishing boats, 20 to
13ft (6 to 7m) long, the helicopter has to be low, as the pilot has to get a reference
point, usually a part of the boat, in order to maintain stable hover, usually at 50ft
(15m) altitude. No autopilot is used and the pilot and co-pilot have to fly by hand
to maintain hover and adjust the helicopter position in relation to the boat. “After
five to ten minutes in hover over small boats, I have to hand over helicopter control
to my co-pilot and take some rest as it is a very high workload and I get exhausted
very rapidly. My longest non-stop time hands-on hover during winching operations
is 15 minutes, while during training total time is 45 to 50 minutes.”
Each pilot and co-pilot in the SAR group racks up about 120 flight hours a year.
Before 2010, when the SAR ‘Haze’ fleet had serviceability issues, the annual flight
time was limited to between 50 and 60 hours.
When asked to comment about the mission capabilities of the converted
Mi-14PL/R, Capt. Hope replies that it is not so good as the original Mi-14PS, which
he flew between 2003 and 2010. “The Mi-14PL/R has a new attitude indicator,
which is not so good, and the winch installation is also inferior due to its external
mounting. The flight control system of the converted ‘Haze-A’ also features
different settings, resulting in notably inferior controllability and lacking some of the
stabilization performance available on the original Mi-14PS. In addition, the position
center of gravity has shifted due to the installation of the new mission equipment
and this has resulted in a different hovering attitude, with more nose-up, providing
somewhat reduced visibility for the pilot when involved in low-level winching
operations, especially if hovering over small boats”, he said. Furthermore, the large

‘pimple’ radome of the Buran-A radar adds some discomfort at the night as it tends
to reflect the light rays coming from the front search lights thus creating unwanted
glares, worsening the visibility for the pilots.

The new computerized Kryl-lot mission suite of the upgraded Mi-14PL
incorporates the new MAD, upgraded sonar and the new hydro acoustic system to
process information derived from deployed sonobuoys. It comes integrated with
the newly-added LS-10 Leba command, control and communication subsystem.
The new mission suite for the ‘Haze-A’ was developed by the Gdansk University
of Technology and the Gdansk subsidiary of the Telecommunications Research
Institute. The Western-standard navigation aids integrated on the Mi-14PLs in the
early 2000s include a Bendix King KTU709TACAN (TACtical Aid to Navigation),
Bendix King KNR634A VOR/ILS and Garmin 155XL GPS. The enhanced
communication suite comprises two Unimor RS-6113-2 UHF/VHF radios, one Bendix
King KHF950 HF radio and one Raytheon ARC-232 Starblazer multi-band UHF/
VFH radio. The helicopter also features a Polish-made Radwar SC-10Ds military
The first upgrade of the components of the ‘Haze-A’s’ obsolete analogue ASW
suite was undertaken in the mid-1990s by the Gdansk University of Technology. Its
first project was to develop new sonobuoys and an acoustic analyzer using digital
signal processing for conducting spectral analysis of the received acoustic signals.
Then the work on the mission suite continued with upgrading the Oka-2M dipping
sonar to the new Oka-2MZ standard. The original sonar operated in the active and
passive mode, with operating frequency for both the active and passive mode of
15kHz and ultrasonic beam width of 15˚. A narrow-band sounding pulse was used in
the active mode with duration of 50ms and 1kW power.
The upgraded Oka-2M/Z sonar retained the original ultrasonic transducers and
mechanical systems for deployment and stabilization and added an array of newly-
developed electronic sub-systems such as transmitters, receivers, signal processing
and displays. The newly-introduced broadband sounding signal reduces the level of
reverberation, which is particularly important for operations in shallow waters, such
as the Baltic Sea, with an average depth of 330ft (100m), which offers very difficult

Some of the upgraded Mi-14PLs also feature two workstations in the
cabin – the first one for the navigator-operator (almost the same as
that of the original in the front part of he cabin) and another, newly-
added, to be occupied by a sensor operator, who works with the
sonar, magnetic anomaly detector and the hydro-acoustic system.

As Capt Hope claimed,
the 6.4-tonne W-3WR is
not considered as able to conditions for submarine search by using hydro acoustic sensors. As a result, the
perform the full spectrum
upgraded ‘Haze-A’ sonar got significantly improved detection performance with
of SAR missions currently
doubled range for detecting and tracking submarines. While the original Oka-
assigned to the Mi-14.
“The W-3WR is a good 2M has a range of up to 3nm (5.6km) when working in the active mode against
helicopter in general but conventional submarines, the upgraded Oka-2M/Z is said to be capable of detecting
not for this style of SAR similar targets at a maximum range of some 6.5nm (12km).
operations. Its endurance The Mi-14’s auto hover system provides stabilization in roll, pitch and yaw, and
is up to three hours
keeps the helicopter motionless in relation to the dipping sonar transducer. Once
without reserves and it
is limited to taking up to
a contact has been established and confirmed, the new digital mission computer
five survivors onboard. is used to guide the helicopter to a weapon release point in automatic or semi-
So, the W-3WR is a totally automatic mode. The APM-60 towed magnetic anomaly detector (MAD) was
different helicopter when replaced by the Polish-made Mniszka device. It retained the ‘bird’ (bomb-shaped
compared to the Mi-14
body) of the original Russian device towed on a 119ft (36m) cable but has an all-new
and cannon replace it
electronics for increased sensitivity and therefore boasting a considerably longer
in the heavy-duty/long-
range SAR work in the detection range.
Baltic Sea”. The new Krab sonobuoy system uses the original Soviet-era RGB-1 passive buoys
but added digital processing of the received signals for increased detection range in
the complex environmental conditions offered by the Baltic Sea.
The upgraded ‘Haze-A’ retained the original Initziativa-2M centimeter-wavelength
360-degree search radar. It is used for long-range maritime surveillance and offshore
navigation. The powerful radar is a rather obsolete piece of kit but is still highly useful
as it had been claimed to possess a 136nm (220km) detection range against large
surface ships, while submarine periscope or life raft can be detected at up to 9nm
(15km). The radar can also provide useful coastline picture in several display scales – a
feature highly priced for bad weather navigation in proximity to the seashore.
The ASW tactics requires the Mi-14PL to be employed in pairs or sections of four
machines. When engaged in pairs, one helicopter acts as the ‘hunter’ and the other
as the ‘killer’ but they can swap the roles at any given moment.
The first upgraded ‘Haze-A’, serialled ‘1007’ was handed over in November 2001
to the Polish Navy after the completion of a testing program intended to verify
the operability of the new mission suite. In the event, the upgrade is believed to
has been was implemented on six Mi-14PLs. The upgraded Mi-14PLs retained
the depth charge ordinance selection of the original ‘Haze-A’, including the 276lb
(125kg) PLAB-125-120 and 110lb (50kg) PLAB-50-64. For training missions, the
‘Haze’ uses the P-50 practice bomb without explosive charge, 12 of which can be
accommodated in the spacious weapons bay. Bomb drops are usually preformed
from 820ft (250m) altitude. v