PZL TS-11 Iskra: Poland’s Self-Reliance From The Soviet Union

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The TS-11 Iskra has served as the main trainer of the Polish Air Force since its introduction in 1964.

August 22, 2021 saw the final performance of the TS-11 squadron after more than 50 years of service. The TS-11 Iskra has served as the main trainer of the Polish Air Force since its introduction in 1964. Notably it was Poland’s first domestic jet, and has been export to India. A total of 424 were produced from 1963 to 1987.

The TS-11 Iskra was part of an effort to maintain Poland’s ability to independently develop aircraft in an era of political and economic subservience to the neighbouring Soviet Union. On February 5, 1960, the first prototype made its maiden flight, powered by an imported British Armstrong Siddeley Viper jet engine.

The PZL TS-11 Iskra was developed and manufactured by the Polish Aircraft Company PZL-Mielec. It was an all-metal aircraft with a fairly conventional layout, featuring a trapezoidal-shaped mid-wing arrangement. These wings, which only have a gentle angle of sweep along the leading edge, feature air intakes embedded into the wing root. The single turbojet engine is found with the main fuselage, its exhaust is located beneath the boom-mounted tail fin, which provides the aircraft with a fairly unusual silhouette. Both crew are provided with ejector seats for emergency egress.

The new aircraft turned out to be a successful design with good performance, relatively low reliability and low operating costs. Many variants of this aircraft were created in the course of serial production. The single engine WSK SO-3 with 9.81 kN of thrust provides the aircraft with a maximum speed of 720 km/h and a maximum range of 1,250 km.

Some models of the TS-11 can be armed; armaments have consisted of a single nose-mounted cannon with 80 rounds, along with a total of four underwing hardpoints that were compatible with a variety of different weapons, including bombs and rockets. Most TS-11 airframes were not equipped with a radar set. However, the specialised TS-11R reconnaissance variant was provided with such equipment. The TS-11 can also be outfitted with various cameras for the purpose of performing aerial photography missions.

During the 1960s, the Iskra competed to be selected as the standard jet trainer throughout the Warsaw Pact. However, it was not selected to fulfil this significant role, the rival Czechoslovakian Aero L-29 Delfín having been chosen instead, which went on to be built in greater numbers for a wide number of export customers. Production of the TS-11 came to an end during 1987, however the type remained in service with the Polish Air Force and the Indian Air Force into the 21st century.

From 1969 onwards, a handful of TS-11s have been used by the Polish Air Force’s Biało-Czerwone Iskry aerobatics display team, who performed their last display on 22 August 2021. During the aircraft’s later years of service, several examples have been sold onto private owners.

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