Poland has become the latest nation to go on contract for the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II – the conventional take-off and landing variant of the multirole stealth fighter.
The contract, worth $4.6bn, was inked by Polish Defence Minister, Mariusz Blaszczak, on January 31, in Dêblin – home of 41.Baza Lotnictwa Szkolnego (41st School Aviation Base).
It includes the delivery of 32 F-35A Lightning IIs, 33 Pratt & Whitney F135 afterburning turbofan engines, and specific pilot, ground handling and operational equipment. Deliveries are expected to begin in 2024 and conclude by 2030.
At the ceremony, President of Poland, Andrzej Duda, said: “[This is] an extremely important day for Polish military aviation, for Polish fighter pilots, for the security of the Republic of Poland, but – which I would like to [emphasise] very much – for the safety of our entire part of Europe”.
“It greatly strengthens our position among the armed forces [of] the world. This greatly strengthens our position also generally in the international arena, giving us prestige and showing that Poland is an important partner on the European and global scale," he added.
The agreement also includes eight full mission simulators, the provision of technical and logistical support under the F-35’s Global Support Solution (GSS), along with pilot and support personnel training – which, according to the official site of the President of the Republic of Poland, will include approximately 24 pilots and 100 technicians.
It also includes the F-35’s Automatic Logistics Information System (ALIS) – which has proven troublesome for the platform. The Pentagon announced on January 21 that ALIS will be replaced by the Operational Data Integrated Network (ODIN), with a full operational capability of the new system expected by late 2022.
Poland is undergoing a modernisation process with its armed forces of late, with the F-35A order destined to replace the Siły Powietrzne Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej’s (SPRP/Polish Air Force’s) ageing fleet of Soviet-era Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29A/UB ‘Fulcrum’ multirole fighters and Sukhoi Su-22M4/UM3K ‘Fitter’ variable-sweep wing fighter-bombers. The F-35As will augment Poland’s fleet of Lockheed Martin F-16C/D (Block 52+) Fighting Falcons.