The recent information about Sweden joining forces with the United Kingdom in the Tempest program is a crucial moment for the whole endeavor. The Franco-German concept seemed better positioned in the race for future fighter aircraft in Europe with Spain joining forces with the two leaders. It is also not sure if the concept will survive and in the end, France might go alone as it was with the Rafale. It has all the means to do that. It is to be believed that Spain will be a junior partner in this trio.
On the other hand, Sweden which has the Gripen E in its portfolio might put a bit more on the table and become a more mature participant in the Tempest project. This is an early stage and it is unclear how the whole cooperation will unfold in the future. Due to the Leonardo cooperation, Italy might be the next partner in this journey to dominate the future skies. Time will tell if this happens.
Some speculate that two fighter projects for Europe is just too much and at some point, there will only be one left. Due to the fact of the UK leaving the EU, this might not be true. On top of that, the US companies would also like to join as more business opportunities are always good. A nice cocktail is starting to mix, don’t you think?
Where to put Poland in this puzzle? Joining the Franco-German project seems a bit sketchy. Poland’s position in the EU is weak and the main players were never partners for this central European nation. On the other hand the UK’s departure and partial US isolation from European matters might be an opportunity for Poland to tighten the bonds with the US-UK tandem and together with the UK become a balancer for the US.
This could be an opportunity from a broader perspective but let us not forget the here and now. Poland has chosen the F-35, possibly 32 of the A variant will be bought. But… Poland will overpay. The past governments haven’t decided to participate in the JFS and now there won’t be any special pricing or parts production. If Poland would join the F-35 bandwagon earlier it would have the ability to participate in the global supply chain.
That is why Poland should right now try to join one of the future fighter programs. The UK Tempest seems to be more favorable but no matter which will be chosen (if any) it will bring benefits in the long term perspective. The F-35 mistake can not be made again. If properly conducted the cooperation could to some extent jump-start the Polish industry especially in the aviation sector which after the “Iryda” collapse is practically nonexistent if you exclude divisions of foreign defense companies located in Poland.
Photo: BAE Systems