In an effort to upgrade its existing, aging stock of TS-11 twin-seat, single-engine jet powered trainers, the Polish Air Force pushed forward a new program in 1976. Once again PZL-Mielec was charged with local design, development, and production of the aircraft to which the requirement was met with the I-22 "Iryda". However, amidst budget issues and the crash of a pre-series example, the program was limited to just seventeen aircraft before formal cancellation ensued.
In the post-World War 2 period, the nation of Poland operated under a communist political system, influenced heavily by the Soviet Union, until the nation regained its complete independence and sovereignty in 1989 with the fall of the Soviet Empire (1922-1991). This meant that the Polish aircraft inventory was made up either of local designs or of Soviet-originated designs - the TS-11 and I-22 being brought along through the former.
A first-flight of an I-22 prototype was had on March 3rd, 1985. The aircraft's form followed tradition of the period - high-mounted wing mainplanes, tandem seating for its crew of two, and a side-by-side turbojet arrangement. The engines were aspirated by half-moon intakes seated at either side of the fuselage, exhausting through individual ports. The cockpits were seated aft of a radar-less nosecone. The tail unit held a single vertical fin with low-mounted horizontal planes. A tricycle undercarriage was used.
As completed, the aircraft exhibited a length of 13.2 meters, a wingspan of 9.6 meters, and a height of 4.3 meters. Empty weight was 10,145lb against a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) of 16,540lb. Power was served through 2 x PZL K-15 series turbojet engines developing 3,307lb of thrust each. Performance specs included a maximum speed of 585 mph, a range out to 745 miles, a service ceiling of 45,000 feet and a rate-of-climb of 8,000 feet per minute. As it stood, the I-22 was a subsonic development capable of speeds just under Mach 1 but offering a good classroom for jet pilot training. It is also conceivable that the base frame would have served in a light attack role at some point as well.
Despite the promising nature of the I-22 program, its fate was sealed with the crash of a pre-production example - the cause blamed on excessive flutter brought about by pushing the aircraft's performance beyond its stated limited. Couple this with mounting budget woes in the post-Soviet era and the I-22 would only see limited service with the Polish Air Force. Its formal introduction arrived on December 22nd, 1992 but its official service life would end as soon as 1996 as the line was completely retired.
Just eight I-22 aircraft managed to operate with the Polish Air Force before the end.