Skylark drone
A miniature drone, the Skylark. Photo by IDF Spokesman
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Chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland, Wikimedia Commons
General Waldemar Skrzypczak, Polish deputy minister of defense, responsible for armament and modernization. Photo by Chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland, Wikimedia Commons
Haaretz
Drones in the Israel Air Force. Photo by Haaretz

Poland's Deputy Defense Minister General Waldemar Skrzypczak has been stripped of his security clearance over suspicions that he gave preferential treatment for acquiring Israeli military equipment and over his close personal ties with Yedidia Yaari, the head of Israeli armaments maker Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.

The Polish Military Counterintelligence Service leveled the accusations at General Skrzypczak as the ministry planned to add a unit of unmanned aerial vehicles, based partly on Israeli-made aircraft, to the Polish Air Force.

The Polish secret services have asked the military prosecutor to open an investigation against Skrzypczak, pending which he will be prohibited from viewing top-secret Polish army documents.

Without that security clearance, Skrzypczak cannot be involved in procurement for the army, which is his area of responsibility. For now, Skrzypczak is working with a temporary permit issued to him by the defense minister.

While General Skrzypczak has not denied his close acquaintance with heads of Israel Military Industries, he claims he had never lobbied on behalf of the arms industry of Israel or of any other country, “as some retired high-ranking officers do," according to a recent report in the Rzeczpospolita newspaper,

In a conversation with reporters, Skrzypczak blamed the embarrassing affair on political tensions between parties that have stirred an uproar in Poland. Official sources in Warsaw refused to comment on the matter.

General Skrzypczak is considered the strongest figure in the Polish army. A former commander of the Polish Land Forces, he also studied the management and use of strategic materials at Air Force bases in Texas and California, and is deemed an expert in that field. He has accused opponents of his strategic thinking as basing their sole knowledge of warfare on what they have seen in movies.

His opinion and influence was set to play a decisive role in the proposal to replace the obsolete Soviet Su-22 bombers and 48 American F-16 fighter jets that make up most of the Polish Air Force with squadrons of unmanned strike aircraft.

Proponents of the idea call it a “leap of civilization," backed by the Polish military contingent's experience in Afghanistan, and point out that in ordinary fighter jets the pilot is the costliest and least stable factor. The idea of acquiring the newest generation of unmanned aircraft equipped with weapons and the ability to bombard targets is gaining supporters, General Skrzypczak among them.

According to foreign reports, Israel is manufacturing two unmanned aircraft of this type: the Eitan (also known as Heron TP), which has a flight range of 4,500 kilometers and can carry weapons, and the Hermes 450, which is equipped with air-to-ground missiles. But the Poles have their eye on the American-made Global Hawk UAV, a Northrop Grumman product, and the Predator, made by General Atomics, as well as on Boeing’s X-45, which will soon be in production. Supporters of the idea call it a “leap of generations,” while opponents call it “the madness of the mad.” Officials of the Polish Ministry of National Defense are to present the ministry’s finalized plan by year’s end as long as the matter of the accusations against Skrzypczak causes no delay.