Poland’s Harpia Fighter Acquisition Program Tops Project Queue

Following the third crash of one of its MiG-29 Fulcrum combat aircraft in a little over a year, Poland intends to fast forward its Harpia procurement program. The grounding of the aging MiG-29 fleet has forced the Polish Air Force to place greater reliance upon its inventory of 48 F-16C/D fighters to meet the air-policing and interdiction role.

The Harpia project calls for the acquisition of 32 new-generation multirole jet fighters intended to replace the last of the Polish Air Force’s Soviet-legacy combat aircraft, which also include aging Sukhoi Su-22 Fitters that are used for air-to-ground missions. Under this plan, deliveries would commence in 2024 and once completed would provide the Air Force with two fighter squadrons. Funding is to be provided under the new Technical Modernization Plan (2017-2026).

The program is a top priority atop a long-list of planned projects under the Technical Modernization Plan.


The push to accelerate Harpia has been building for some time, but  with operational use of the MiG-29 fleet suspended, Polish President Andrzej Duda has called for advancing the Harpia procurement via extraordinary funding derived from the larger government budget.

In turn, Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak has begun an effort to launch the program immediately, which involves selecting an emissary to oversee the process.

The option cited as most likely to fill the Harpia requirement is the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. The F-35 would meet the Polish objective of acquiring a “fifth-generation” fighter.  In fact, the F-35 is the only so-called 5-gen aircraft on the market.

Other potential candidates might include the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet or F-15 (possibly the latest “X” derivative), with a European option or two such as the Saab Gripen E or Eurofighter Typhoon thrown into the mix to provide prima facie claim of a competitive bid. A purchase of additional F-16s of the latest V configuration may also be considered, but is unlikely.

Expect Poland’s close strategic ties with the U.S. to also factor heavily in Warsaw’s decision-making.  But most of all, expect Warsaw to circle the F-35 as its heavily preferred candidate to replace its Soviet-era fighters.

About Daniel Darling

Dan Darling is Forecast International’s director of military and defense markets. In this role, Dan oversees a team of analysts tasked with covering everything from budgeting to weapons systems to defense electronics and military aerospace. Additionally, for over 17 years Dan has, at various times, authored the International Military Markets reports for Europe, Eurasia, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region. Dan's work has been cited in Defense News, Real Clear Defense, Asian Military Review, Al Jazeera, and Financial Express, among others, and he has also contributed commentary to The Diplomat, The National Interest and World Politics Review. He has been quoted in Arabian Business, the Financial Times, Flight International, The New York Times, Bloomberg and National Defense Magazine. In addition, Dan has made guest appearances on the online radio show Midrats and on The Media Line, as well as The Red Line Podcast, plus media appearances on France 24 and World Is One News (WION).

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