One of our team members decided to visit Rzeszów–Jasionka Airport, a Polish airport that became the world’s link to Ukraine with flights from around the world landing there to unload supplies for the embattled country.

Rzeszów is the largest city in southeast Poland, historically serving as a crossroads connecting Eastern Europe to Asia and beyond.

In the 15th century, the city developed trade links with the Ottoman Empire and the Baltic, facilitating the movement of both people and goods. These links allowed Rzeszów to grow and develop, becoming the seat for local nobility. Rzeszów sits on ground that remains soaked in the blood of centuries of war. The town was destroyed by Tatar forces in 1458 and 1502. During the Great Northern War, several armies sacked the town, in the First World War, the area served as a bloody frontline between Russian and Austro-Hungarian forces.

At the outset of the Second World War, Nazi forces moved into the area, imprisoning and executing a number of citizens in the first few weeks of occupation. The first Gestapo post was established sometime in September of 1939. Rzeszów then became home to a large Jewish ghetto, with a population of over 12,000. Between 1942 and 1943, the ghetto was liquidated, with most residents sent to the Belzec and Szebnie concentration camps. Rzeszów also became the focal point of local resistance groups, the Polish Underground Home Army utilized the city as a regional center of operations. In 1944, the city was taken by Home Army fighters during Operation Tempest, but after disagreements with the advancing Soviet forces, the NKVD purged local resistance groups.

After the war, the city grew quickly, accelerating after Poland joined the EU in 2004. The city has served as an incubator for tech startups, as I arrived in Rzeszow, it became very clear that G2A calls the city home, as an arena bearing that namesake is located near the airport.

A mix of soviet-style apartment blocks and newer, glass-clad towers accent the skyline. The city center is populated with a number of 16th and 17th century structures, including the Town Hall, which was renovated into its modern form in 1730. At the same time, there are signs of 2022, sharable scooters litter the sidewalk, and electronic parking meters dot the side of the road.

Today, the city has renewed its status as a crossroads. Lying on the Krakow to Lviv highway and rail lines, the city is the last major stop in Poland before the Ukrainian border, and the first city after crossing the border into Poland.

As Russia moved into Ukraine on the 24th of February, tens of thousands of Ukrainians fled through the city. Most have continued on further into Europe, but some still occupy donated hotel rooms and apartments.

The city continues with its normal hustle and bustle. Near the airport, a discount shopping center was filled on Saturday morning with a mix of locals and US personnel staying in the area.

The airport, which hosts a 3,200m runway, received a new terminal in 2012.

I flew into Warsaw, so in order to get to Rzeszów, I had to drive a few hours to the southeast. Rzeszów–Jasionka Airport (IATA: RZE, ICAO: EPRZ) is located about 10km north of the city of Rzeszów, 70km west of the Ukrainian border, and roughly 1000km away from the heaviest fighting in Eastern Ukraine.

In early March, the US positioned 2 Patriot SAM batteries at the airport as a precautionary defensive deployment.

After dodging various Polish military convoys while driving from Warsaw to Lublin, I was able to make it onto the shiny, new S19 motorway. Pulling off of the somewhat finished S-19, which runs from Lublin to Rzeszów, I was met with a low rise.

Cresting this rise, I came face to face with an OD green MIM-104C PAC-2 M901 Launching Station. In front of it, a vehicle depot was growing next to the ILS localizer array.

As I pulled into the parking lot of a nearby discount supermarket, a USAF C-130 roared overhead, carrying a load of supplies into the increasingly busy airfield.

As I entered the supermarket, I quickly realized that it had become a go-to location for American soldiers deployed to the airport. Areas around the airport seem to be a popular break from the monotony of work for those soldiers, and a perimeter walking path has become a popular jogging track. In general, the troops seemed to be relatively unbothered by the deployment to the edge of Ukraine. The local Poles also seemed to be unbothered, if anything, a little bit interested in the visitors. As various aircraft arrived, it would invariably draw a crowd of locals towards the glideslope, smartphones and cameras in hand.

Off in the distance, the gaping maw of a Ukrainian Antonov Airlines AN-124 could be seen on the ramp.

The terminal area also seems to have been taken over by military activity, the large tails of a contracted Silk Way West Airlines 747 and USAF C-17 could be seen peeking over the security fence. The cargo terminals are also packed, multiple large cargo aircraft sit on the ramp, and a long train of trucks wait to take cargo over the Ukrainian border.

As I was informed by NATO Joint Support and Enabling Command (JSEC), the deployment of US forces to Poland was organized between the US and Poland, “Both respective deployments were conducted on bilateral basis between the involved NATO nations.”

The Patriot deployment to the airport also sends a message. Of the 13+ quad box launchers I could see at the airport, most were pointed east, towards Ukraine, and by extension, Russia. Ukrainian sites near the Polish border have been targeted in Russian strikes, and Russian leadership has repeatedly (verbally) threatened the routes used to transport arms and materials into Ukraine. It doesn’t take much imagination to put Rzeszów–Jasionka Airport on that list.

The weapons also tell a story about the expected threats. Most launchers have a couple of tan boxes loaded next to the standard PAC-2 missiles. These are PAC-3 MSE SAMs. These enhanced interceptors serve to defend against ballistic missiles, ones like the Iskander, which Russia has used in large numbers against Ukrainian targets.

Additionally, the short, squat AN/MPQ-65 radar can be seen, surveilling the skies over eastern Poland and western Ukraine.

Sentinel C band SAR images captured this radar system lighting up and scanning the area in mid-March. This may have been a calibration test as the system was deployed around that time.

This deployment also fits doctrine outlined in a 2014 Army forecast, where Patriot batteries utilize “A mix of PAC-3 hit-to-kill missiles and PAC-2 blast fragmentation warhead missiles for negating missile and aircraft threats”

The mix of PAC 2s and 3s indicates that US forces are prepared to counter potential ballistic missile, aircraft, and cruise missile threats. The directionality of the launchers and radar systems also sends a very directional message, one aimed to the east.

For more on this and other experiences from @OSINTTechnical, I recommend visiting his website here. I also recommend following him on Twitter by clicking here.

OSINTtechnical is a defence open source intelligence analyst and a student at the University of South Carolina studying political science. He has also studied the Arab-Israeli conflict at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He currently hosts ‘The Osint Bunker‘ podcast, a popular production focusing on global events.
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Alabama Boy
Alabama Boy
1 day ago

I think his article is totally unnecessary and given the political situation in Europe provides the Russians with easy intelligence particularly the disposition of missile defences etc. I accept they probably have most of the information from informants and satellite photography but why make it easy and confirm what they they believe is happening? And what has it told its readers – anyone with any knowledge of military logistic would know this is going on to supply the military material to Ukraine. A far more useful and more newsworthy report would have been from Russia and its bases involved in… Read more »

JohninMK
JohninMK
1 day ago
Reply to  Alabama Boy

“News for the sake of News!” Yes, this is a news site!

Interesting background article revealing nothing that the Russians wouldn’t already know, as you say.

Martin
Martin
1 day ago
Reply to  JohninMK

I’m not sure, as we have seen Russian “intelligence” seems to be staffed by donkeys. This may be useful info for them.

Airborne
Airborne
1 day ago
Reply to  JohninMK

The Russians are still trying to confirm Polands location pal, they know feck all.

David Barry
David Barry
1 day ago
Reply to  Airborne

Did you mention Katyn Forest?

Should I be Ukr Mil not sure I would surrender to the Russians.

Airborne
Airborne
18 hours ago
Reply to  David Barry

Agreed!!!!

nonsense
nonsense
1 day ago
Reply to  Alabama Boy

Even if it’s not the spooky Cold War era spy warfare, in inverse proportion to the poor military capabilities of Russia and China, what they are capable of and always carry out on a global scale are hacking and military intelligence efforts.

I don’t think UKDG will tell Russia of Polish secrets that Russia doesn’t know.

George Allison
7 hours ago
Reply to  Alabama Boy

… we are a news website and with respect, this has been cleared by folk that could be concerned about security.

Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker
1 day ago

I don’t think Russia would hit Poland. They are over a 1000 miles away getting smashed to pieces.
Russia is already 10 miles up sh*t creek losing the paddle weeks ago. They tried using there hands but now they all have pink eye.
It’s a tough call on what to report as it’s does give info out but it’s a journalists job to report what’s happening and if there isn’t a ban on reporting certain issues then everything is fair game

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
1 day ago
Reply to  Monkey spanker

Agreed, and lots happening elsewhere it appears.

The US has successfully tested a hypersonic weapon, according to the US Air Force.

“The test was conducted on Saturday in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California, but it was confirmed in the early hours of Tuesday.
The US Air Force said that the air-launched rapid response weapon (ARRW) was released by a B-52 bomber.”

https://news.sky.com/story/us-tests-hypersonic-weapon-with-speeds-five-times-greater-than-the-speed-of-sound-12614962

John Hartley
John Hartley
1 day ago

You should have flown to Krakow & then headed East down the A4/E40 motorway I am told there is a fabulous old palace, well worth a visit in Lancut, just to the East of Rzeszow.

David Barry
David Barry
1 day ago

Interesting take away from this is the length of the runway.

Sliac AFB in Slovakia is similar and was built, replacing Tri Dubni – SOE strip in WW11, so Soviets had bomber capable runway (surrounded by hills/mountains) near the IGB.

Chris
Chris
17 hours ago

Excuse my poor memory, didn’t we deploy a battery of land sceptor to Poland or was it somewhere else?

Jon
Jon
14 minutes ago
Reply to  Chris

Yes. Definitely Poland, but I don’t know where in Poland.

We sold CAMM to them at the end of last year, and there’s to be a Polish version of Sky Sabre with Land Ceptor in it. They originally were expecting delivery of the purchased system in 2027, but they signed an accelerated contract after the war started in Ukraine and should be getting the first batch in September this year.

Last edited 11 minutes ago by Jon
Chris
Chris
21 seconds ago
Reply to  Jon

Thank you, couldn’t find it anywhere.

Quentin D63
Quentin D63
5 hours ago

Those mixed Patriot SAM launchers show that this concept is already fielded. Just wonder if the UK will ever look at CAMM/CAMM-ER or Aster/CAMM or just Aster for a GBAD? As suggested before there’s the possibility of shared missile inventory between all three UK forces – what a bargain!?