16. The Polish Aviation Museum

20 Oct

It was suggested to me that I visit the Polish Aviation Museum before I leave Krakow and without many other things to do, I decided to give it a shot.

To be honest, I was expecting to be underwhelmed. Back in the late nineties I visited the Imperial War Museum at the Royal Air Force Base in Duxford England – if you want to see a world class collection of aircraft, go to Duxford. Poland has been really great so far but in my experience, quality aviations museums are traditionally the purview of the “richer”, aircraft-producing countries – the United States, the UK, Russia, and maybe France.

And when I entered the showroom, the first thing I saw was this – and I immediately thought all my fears had been confirmed.

IMG_4847

Three propellors? Five carburetors? What the hell were they thinking?

But then I started exploring the rest of the museum and I was figuratively blown away. The place was massive and they had an incredible variety of military and civilian hardware. But the best part was the music that was playing as I entered the exhibit on the Cold War. Normally I don’t mind travelling by myself, but this time, this one time, I really wanted to high five someone.

Here are some photos of the museum.

They had an amazing collection of different engines.

They had an amazing collection of different engines.

IMG_4858

Team America shot down a bunch of these guys back in 2004.

This is my favourite pic from my visit.

This is my favourite pic from my visit.

One of the more disturbing things I discovered during my visit to the museum was that back in sixties the UK was exporting fighter jet engines to Warsaw Pact countries (specifically Poland for use in their very capable PZL TS-11 Iskra Trainer Jet). When I got home I went on Wikipedia and discovered that the United Kingdom was part of a military alliance called NATO which was in a war with Poland and her allies at the time of the sale of this particular item.

When I read or hear about things like this it always makes me wonder why the people who make these decisions  – providing material support (in the form of jet engines) to our enemies – don’t get arrested for treason. And stuff like this happens a *lot* more than you’d think.

Were you aware that in the Afghanistan war, NATO paid the Taliban to allow their resupply convoys to pass through enemy territory unmolested? It sounds insane but apparently it’s true. Now I’m just a simple engineer obsessed with German toilets, windows, and trains but I fail to see how this meets any tactical or strategic goals.

Also, I really, really, REALLY want to see the paperwork for these transactions. I’m taking about the briefing notes, the requisitions, the description of the line items, a copy of the contract, the relevant policy, a copy of the receipt indicating the services were completed on time, all of it.

These are the sorts of banal documents that get entire countries to withdraw their armies from participating in disastrous, expensive, foreign military adventures – you know, the ones that clearly demonstrate to the taxpayers of that country, the absolute folly of the whole exercise.

And here is a S-75 Dvina high-altitude air defence system (aka – surface to air missile). As I’m writing this I have no idea why I was so surprised to see one of these on display. The Wikipedia page for this weapon says they made 4,600 of them. But with no price tag included, I had to estimate a unit cost of about $500,000 in 2015 USD (based on the cost of a comparable American system from the same era).

IMG_4850

S-75 Dvina

If you do the math that’s $2.3 billion (excluding O&M costs) that various governments have spent over the years on an “investment” that has had a very, very limited ability to help better the lives of their citizens. And the best part is, you know how people complain that nowadays we don’t build things to last or be serviced? Well, in the nineteen fifties that’s exactly how things were built. So today we have these weapon systems all over the world that are still operational. You should check out the list of countries. Makes for interesting reading.

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