|Systems Center Helps Poland Participate in NATO|
Systems Center Helps Poland Participate in NATO
By Chuck Paone, Electronic Systems Center Public Affairs.
Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts -- (AFPN) March 18, 2002 -- For countries, such as Poland, that were part of the former Soviet Bloc, entering NATO has marked a new beginning of sorts; however, it has also created a need for new infrastructure.
When Poland entered NATO three years, the Polish defense ministry’s most pressing need was acquiring NATO-compatible air navigation systems. That is where Electronic Systems Center’s global air traffic operations mobility command and control system program office here stepped in.
ESC officials first set out to determine the exact needs, said Guy Larrimer, a contractor with the program office who serves as the acquisition project officer for foreign military sales to Poland. Then project officials had to budget and plan an approach.
"ESC started working on this several years ago," Larrimer said. "An awful lot of work and coordination went into getting to this point."
Because of the successful installation of several pieces of navigation and landing equipment, Poland was able to participate in the NATO exercise Strong Resolve, which ended March 15.
"That’s a goal we were determined to meet," said Stanley Mitchell, a program manager for the program office’s foreign military sales integrated product team.
The program office acquired, delivered and managed the installation of two specific types of equipment, Larrimer said. Working with the selected contractors, the program office installed four instrumentation landing systems and two tactical air navigation systems at four Polish air force bases.
The landing systems allow pilots to determine proximity to the centerline, their position relative to the charted glide slope and their distance from the runway.
The tactical air navigation systems are ground units with send-and-receive capabilities that provide pilots with bearing and distance information. They are designed to get the pilot to the point where the instrumentation landing systems can take over.
"These units, which fit in one shelter, are truly tactical in the sense that they can be packed up and delivered on the back of a pickup truck," Larrimer said.
The Polish operators had to learn to operate the western-style systems after using Soviet systems for so long. To help speed the transition, the Air Force Security Assistance Training Center provided on-site training.
"Still, this is new equipment and these are newly trained people, so there have been a few problems," Larrimer said. "However, there are some young officers over there working their butts off to make the switchover. By the time they become field-grade officers, all of this will be fully ingrained. Poland will be a full partner in Europe."
Overall, Larrimer said, the Polish defense officials were very enthusiastic and cooperative, but cultural differences did pose some challenges. He credited the office of defense cooperation at the U.S. Embassy in Poland with smoothing potential wrinkles.
"There’s always a challenge involved with foreign military sales, but one can easily imagine that there’s a little extra challenge when working with the former Soviet Block countries," Mitchell said. "It requires more than just technical and program management proficiency, persistence and diplomacy are equally important."
The coordination requirements are also a challenge. Besides all of the normal acquisition elements -- cost estimators, buyers, engineers and program managers -- ESC’s intelligence office, the international operations program office and many others had significant roles to play. Program managers also had to maintain cooperative relationships with the Polish defense ministry, the U.S. State Department and the embassy each step of the way.
Besides navigation and landing equipment, the program office also provided radios for the air traffic control towers, and it is likely there will be many more purchases in the future, depending on funding availability and other factors, officials said.
"They’re very proud to be in NATO, and they’re doing everything possible to meet all their NATO obligations," Larrimer said. "We’re doing what we can to make their money go as far as possible."