As Poland is getting closer to upgrading it’s fighter aircraft fleet and retiring the MiG-29 and Su-22 aircraft I have decided to have a chat with Eurofighter and Lockheed Martin representatives at this years Radom Air Show.
Both companies are offering Poland the best of their products which have their pros and cons. Here’s a summary of my findings from Radom with a comment in italics.
Let’s start with Eurofighter:
– Eurofighter thinks that his aircraft is an ideal replacement for the MiG-29 but thanks to the ongoing efforts in the air – to – ground sphere it can efficiently perform all of the tasks currently assigned to the Su-22
Using the Eurofighter in the air-to-air role could free up the F-16 to air-to-ground tasks and strike missions as they are already capable in this area with possible future upgrades – for instance, Northrop Grumman is offering Poland the AARGM missile.
– thanks to performance, capabilities and very good reliability and scheduled maintenance tasks that are currently extended, Poland will probably need less Eurofighter aircraft compared to other platforms to still fulfill all of the required tasks and decrease the overall cost
Considering the recent problems in Germany, it might be questionable to go with a lower number of aircraft. On the other hand, most of the Luftwaffe problems were due to terrible bureaucracy and not connected with aircraft flaws.
– Eurofighter has a tradition of being a cooperation program which means that the Polish industry will be involved in the whole program. If the industry is willing and capable of doing so, selected Polish companies could be active in controlling various elements of the airplane
Pushing the offset within the military industry might be a key factor as when looking from a broader perspective Polish defense sector isn’t well developed and in great shape. It has a constant need for new technologies, especially in the aviation sector, which after closing the Iryda program is practically dead.
– thanks to being a NATO platform the aircraft can be interoperable with weapons currently used on the Polish aircraft
This might lower the overall costs of using two different platforms which will be one of the key factors if Poland will decide to sustain two types of modern aircraft.
– From Polish perspective there is a high level of synergy between the Eurofighter and the M-346 which could be beneficial for the service, the M-346 in FA configuration would be an ideal supplement to the Eurofighter in scenarios where using a highly advanced aircraft like Eurofighter wouldn’t be needed. Both jets were developed with the same logic, so regarding training and logistics support there would be many synergies
Poland currently has eight M-346 aircraft with four additional ordered and four as an option. According to Leonardo representatives which I met at Radom Air Show a transition from a trainer to FA version is not a difficult, time consuming or expensive task.
– Eurofighter would like to propose Poland the latest standard of Eurofighter with Captor-E (the same as Kuwait), but the specification depends on the Polish requirements. The aircraft would have no “black boxes” onboard, and Poland would have full access to the software which means availability to transfer Polish intelligence data into the cartridge mission of the aircraft.
The ability to access the aircraft software and have control over it is a crucial element of today’s modern war machines. Without it, the user is for the next 40 years fully dependent on the producer and the nation which is standing behind it.
– the Eurofighter will be the test bed for new programs, and joining the program now will allow Poland to participate in future programs like the Tempest
It is hard to believe that at some point there will be no cooperation between Great Britain, France and Germany as the key players and the rest of the European countries currently tied with the Eurofighter program. Pushing two advanced projects like the Tempest and the Franco-German aircraft is not economically efficient and with close ties between European economies going the Tornado and Typhoon way sounds logical. Poland, thanks to participating in the Eurofighter program, might gain some benefits in the future concepts but we are talking about a 20-30 years perspective, so this will be a political decision.
– Lockheed is opened to sell Poland both the F-16 and F-35, but everything will depend on the capabilities that are needed by the Polish Air Force, and the available budget
At the time of finalizing the contract for Poland, the F-35 will be a mature platform with a steady future upgrade path. The sensor fusion concept is very interesting and allows for better situational awareness on the battlefield. In 5-10 years, time frame the costs of buying those aircraft should be significantly lower.
– If Poland were be looking for future upgrades to its 10-year-old F-16 fleet, the V standard would be a good solution to consider. The Block 70/72 besides other capabilities has a prolonged service life of 12000 flight hours.
If Poland would decide to chose the F-16V as the MiG-29, and Su-22 replacement and go with the F-16V upgrade for the currently used F-16C/D Block 52+ it would allow for a fleet unification and significantly lower the operational costs for the Air Force which would have to sustain only one platform. Having a single type fleet would allow more flexibility and interchangeability not to mention the training cost. Thanks to a 10-year experience with the F-16 introducing the V standard would not be a complicated task.
– if Poland decides to choose the F-35, the F-16V upgrade for its legacy Falcons will also be a perfect solution
As with the Eurofighter Poland might order a smaller number of aircraft considering the F-35 capabilities. They could be used for more advanced tasks and fully cooperate with the possibly upgraded F-16’s.
Boeing is talking with Polish companies during MSPO Kielce, so that we can expect the Super Hornet as a next serious contender. Winning the “Harpia” program would allow for prolonging the Super Hornet production line which would be great for Boeing so we might expect some good proposals coming from Seattle.
At the point of writing this article, I’m not in any way compensated by Eurofighter or Lockheed Martin and don’t own stocks of any of those companies. The views presented above are my own.