Things are definitively speeding up in Poland.
The series of MiG-29 crashes with the last one on the 4th of March has pushed the current Polish government to more swift actions. According to the latest statement made by the Polish president Andrzej Duda during an interview given at 20 years of Poland in NATO celebrations in Szczecin, there are already ongoing talks with the US side. Earlier minister of national defense Mariusz Błaszczak has highlighted that Poland wants to buy fifth-generation fighters. He didn’t mention the type, but the number of choices is small. Obviously, Poland won’t buy Chinese equipment which leaves us with the JSF. President Duda was more explicit in his interview, and he especially emphasized that we are speaking about the F-35.
The new modernization program for the Polish Armed Forces has the Harpia (code name for the fighter procurement) program right at the top with 32 aircraft to be bought. That’s not much looking and Polish needs. The actually usable force consists of 48 F-16 aircraft, but when we slash that number down with readiness around 75%, this leaves Poland with 36 machines. The last missions in Kuwait had to put some pressure on the airframes so we might be even lower. If we add Baltic Policing to the mix, the numbers get very tiny. The same will happen with the F-35.
On top of buying the aircraft, Poland will have to prepare the infrastructure to host the new type which will cost a ton of money. It will also have to close one of the currently used bases as there will be not enough aircraft to fill them. Świdwin, the home for the Su-22 is one of them. There are also two bases for MiG-29. One is located in Malbork and the second one in Mińsk Mazowiecki. There are no hard statements which base will host the new aircraft, but the preparations for them should start soon as it’s not easy to build the whole ecosystem for such an advanced platform as the F-35.
All in all the f-35 seems like a done deal. If the US agrees for it that is. If everything goes, smooth Poland will probably buy the jets the same way as with the F-16. This was an outside the defense budget program which allowed for securing more money and not harming other defense projects.
Let’s see how it goes.
Photo: Piotr Łysakowski, piotrlysakowksi.pl