Radom Air Show 2023
Report and photos by Łukasz Lipka
November 14, 2023
Last August, the biggest military airshow in Poland made a triumphant return to Radom after a five-year hiatus. During this time, Radom Airport underwent a comprehensive renovation and modernization effort, which included a significant extension of the runway by an additional 500 meters, bringing the total runway length to 2500 meters. This expansion was primarily driven by investments from the civilian sector of the airport, resulting not only in a new terminal building but also in the development of a new apron and other crucial infrastructure. This year’s edition of the Air Show Radom occurred over the last weekend of August, specifically on the 26th and 27th.
The show attracted a diverse crowd of aviation enthusiasts, hailing not only from Poland but also from various foreign countries. Many among the international attendees were particularly eager to see some Soviet-era aircraft that are still in Siły Powietrzne (Polish Air Force) inventory such as Su-22 Fitters, MiG-29 Fulcrums as well as Polish Navy Mi-14 Haze. Unfortunately, as the time for the retirement of these aircraft is approaching, their performances at Radom were not as elaborate as they had been in the past.
The program of the show featured slight variations between Saturday and Sunday, with the most notable difference being the inclusion of a night show, which exclusively took place on the first day. That was also a significant novelty in Radom, as seeing the growing popularity of night shows in Poland and Europe, the organisers decided to include the night display for the first time in Radom.
Apart from that, both days commenced with a segment dedicated to historical and light aviation, treating the audience to the sight of Polish classics like the RWD-5 and RWD-8, along with iconic aircraft such as the T-6 Harvard and the P-51 Mustang. Each day at noon the Polish Armed Forces showcased most of the aircraft’s types from their inventory in the mass flypast consisting in total of more than 60 planes and helicopters. Among the aircraft participating in the flypast was the Polish Navy Mi-14, providing a unique opportunity to witness this rare helicopter in flight during the show.
The flypast ended with the formation consisting of MiG-29 and the Korean Aerospace Industries FA-50GF, recently acquired by the Polish Air Force. The first two FA-50GF were delivered to Poland just a few weeks before the airshow and even though already with Polish Air Force marking, they were flown by Korean pilots with Polish pilots in the backseats.
Following the parade, similarly to previous editions of Radom Air Show, the Polish Air Force prepared the CAS (Close Air Support) demo that involved a pair of Su-22 Fitters, as well as MiG-29 alongside the FA-50. It is worth noting that all of these aircraft had previously participated in the mass flypast and had operated not from Radom but from an air base in Mińsk Mazowiecki.
The concluding act of this display featured a symbolic formation of the MiG-29 Fulcrum and the FA-50, with the latter slowly replacing the post-soviet jets in the Polish Air Force inventory. This symbolized the ongoing transition and modernization efforts within the Polish Air Force.
MiG-29 Fulcrum breaks away from the formation flight alongside the FA-50GF.
Radom Air Show, the largest military airshow in Poland, would not be complete without Team Orlik, the aerobatic team based in Radom, flying on PZL-130 Orlik TC-II. Notably, the team, that uses Polish turboprop trainer aircraft, celebrated earlier this year their 25th anniversary. Additionally, there were also some novelties in flying displays prepared by the Polish Air Force including a C-295M transport aircraft and an M-346 jet trainer. Although, CASA C-295M was displayed exclusively on Saturday, the routine for this transport aircraft was truly impressive, and it was performed on an aircraft adorned with a special paint scheme called the “Wawel Dragon”. The M-346 Demo Team which was created this year was another great addition to the show and their display showed the remarkable manoeuvrability of this relatively small jet, adding a fresh and exciting dimension to the show.
In addition to Team Orlik, the only other military aerobatic team that displayed in Radom was the Patrouille Suisse from Switzerland, flying their F-5s. This performance held particular significance, as it might well have been their final appearance in Radom. Next year is going to be the final year for the Swiss team, as all F-5s are due to be withdrawn from service in the Swiss Air Force in 2025.
Among helicopters showcased at the airshow were new types that will be soon in the service of the Polish Armed Forces: Leonardo AW101 which will replace Mi-14 in the Navy as well as AW149 destined for the Polish Army. Both helicopters, although in Polish markings, were flown by Leonardo test pilots. The Leonardo demonstrated also the AW109 Trekker that is currently offered to Poland, potentially as a replacement for Mi-2s.
Fans of jet fighters were certainly not disappointed with several F-16s demo teams from Greece, Belgium, Denmark and Poland. The skies also roared with the presence of other European jets, including the Royal Air Force Typhoon, the Czech Gripen and the Finnish F/A-18 Hornet. Notably, most of these display routines included popping flares which provided a fantastic opportunity for photography.
The Royal Danish Airforce F-16 Solo Display in a beautiful paint scheme popping flares over the sky in Radom.
The civilian jets were also presented in Radom in flying display, including two Lim aircraft, the Polish license-manufactured MiG-15s as well as the Polish jet trainer TS-11 Iskra. Furthermore, the Flying Bulls apart from their Bo 105 helicopter, brought to Radom some jets in the form of a pair of Alpha Jets.
As previously mentioned, for the first time spectators could admire the night show, which took place on Saturday. The organisers put a lot of effort into the marketing, especially on this night show and it certainly did not disappoint the public. The night show featured an exciting blend of civilian and military acts, where the civilian part included various light types aircraft, gliders and helicopters trailing sparks or shooting fireworks, such as the AeroSPARX team, which can be seen on various night shows around Poland and Europe. Surprisingly for many visitors, one of the best displays was provided by the Flying Dragons, a Polish team composed of seven paramotors lit by LEDs flashing and pulsating in perfect harmony with the accompanying music which created a delightful and enchanting atmosphere.
The military part of the night show contained only two acts, where the Polish Air Force showcased their C-130E Hercules and Sukhoi Su-22 aircraft. Although the Hercules, popping flares, was seen on other shows in the past, it was still an amazing sight to see this huge flare dump that for the moment lit up the night sky in Radom, also illuminating the transport aircraft itself. However, what was a truly unique experience for everyone gathered in Radom, was the Su-22. During two passes in the dark, this fighter-bomber jet was equipped with a KKR reconnaissance pod mounted on the centreline, which fired out flash flares designed to illuminate an area for the film camera on board. The flares exploded with incredibly bright light illuminating the aircraft and making a loud noise. This was the first time in Poland, and maybe overall, when Su-22 used a KKR pod at the public airshow and it was probably a lifetime experience.
Polish Air Force C-130E Hercules releases a huge amount of flares during its night display
The lineup of static display was not so impressive, especially in the context of foreign guests, as it featured Danish F-16, USAF KC-135 and AH-64E, German Navy P-3 Orion, Croatian UH-60M and OH-58 Kiowa, Hungarian H145M and Lithuanian L-410 Turbolet. However, the Polish Armed Forces showcased most of their inventory, not limited to the aircraft but also showing army equipment including the recently procured from South Korea – K239 Chunmoo, rocket artillery system and K2, main battle tank. Helicopter enthusiasts might have felt disappointed by the absence of the Mi-24 Hind at the static display, especially considering that it had been initially announced by the organizers.
Despite a few organizational issues, especially on Saturday, such as long queues for tickets and restrictions on bringing liquids, the Radom Air Show still managed to draw a substantial crowd. In total during the two days of the show, around 140 000 people gathered in Radom and this number certainly reassured the organizers of the public need for such an event.