Poland is has been at the forefront of providing lethal aid to and supplies to Ukraine. In recent months thousands of tonnes of arms and ammunition have crossed the border between the states but one type of weapon, in particular, is vital for the Ukrainian troops – MANPADS. “Piorun” are the latest generation of Poland’s domestically developed man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS). Produced by Mesko, “Piorun” began to enter service with the Polish armed forces in 2019 and a small number were recently ordered by the United States. Their use by Ukrainian troops represents their first combat deployment.
Recently, soldiers of Ukraine’s 95th Air Assault Brigade claimed a direct hit on one of Russia’s newest Ka-52 attack helicopters. The aircraft did not survive and crashed in a field, marking kill for the Polish-manufactured anti-aircraft weapon, proving its lethality.
The “Piorun” MANPADS is an anti-air system derived from the ex-Soviet Igla-1 and Strela-2 systems produced in Poland back in the 1970s and 1980s. Its ancestor, “Grom”, adopted in 1995, is still used around the globe and scored its first kills back during the 2008 Russo-Georgian war. Photographs suggest that some of the “Grom” launchers transferred to Ukraine may have been subsequently captured by the Russian forces and have since ended in hands of Eastern Ukrainian separatists.
A number of “Grom” and “Piorun” missiles have been delivered with other Polish arms to Ukraine where they have been pictured in photographs and videos on the frontline and are reportedly successful in shooting down drones and helicopters. According to some reports, “Piorun” was responsible for shooting down a Su-34 strike aircraft in mid-March when the initial Russian offensive was still in a full swing.
With Russian helicopters and aircraft continuing to pose a significant threat to Ukrainian forces, as well as UAVs like the Orlan-10, very short range air defense systems like MANPADS are essential. The Polish missiles are in use alongside other MANPADS including Stingers, Martlet and Starstreak. It is unknown how many of the older “Grom” and “Piorun” MANPADS have been transferred to Ukraine.