First F-35 fighter aircraft that Poland is planning to order would be “ready in 2024”, Head of the Polish Ministry of Defence, Mariusz Błaszczak said. He also confirmed the fact that conclusion of a relevant agreement on that matter (actual delivery of the aircraft) is planned to happen next week.
During the “Sygnały Dnia” radio talk show broadcast by the Channel 1 of the Polish Radio, head of the MoD stated that conclusion of the F-35 acquisition agreement is planned to happen next week. The agreement would concern 32 aircraft and the negotiation process has practically come to an end already. Błaszczak emphasized the fact that introduction of the F-35 would provide the Polish Air Force with air superiority, comparing its significance to introduction of the F-16 in the early 2000s. When asked about deliveries, he said that Poland should expect the first aircraft to be ready in 2024.
Błaszczak noted that F-35 also brings in reconnaissance and command capabilities as well. He added that acquisition of the type has been made possible thanks to the fact that Poland and the US remain on very good terms. Head of the Polish MoD also stated that the procurement in question bears significant relevance within the context of replacing the MiG-29.
Poland requested acquisition of 32 F-35A multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA) in May 2019, with consent issued by the Department of State and by the US Congress in the autumn that year. The maximum value of the deal has been set at the level of USD 6.5 billion. The final amount is probably going to be lower than that. The estimates mention 4 billion dollars or a bit more. On the other hand, the primary FMS agreement does not cover the infrastructure or armament purchases. These would be a subject to separate contracts.
As we reported in the past, the MoD decided to skip the offset in its F-35 acquisition. The Ministry says that the above is motivated by savings (amount exceeding 1 billion dollars).
The Polish MoD has also declared Poland’s willingness to join the “Loyal Wingman” UAV programme at the very early stage to secure the potential industrial benefits that this could bring. On the other hand, when it comes to the F-35 programme, it is planned that collaboration agreements would be signed according to the business-to-business formula, by and between the Polish and US-based entrepreneurs, even though those contracts would have no direct ties to the fighter acquisition.
Lockheed Martin representatives said in Kielce last year, during the MSPO exhibition, that the first 4 Polish F-35 could be delivered as early as in 2024. However, these would not be sent to Poland. They would be stationed at the Luke AFB in Arizona instead, for the sake of training. Similar schemes have been adopted by other nations participating in the F-35 program - Norway, the Netherlands or Italy. During the Kielce event it was declared that the first F-35A squadron of the Polish Air Force would become operational by 2026, with the second one reaching the same status by 2030.