Poland Finalizes F-35 Purchase

Poland has officially signed a contract covering the $4.6 billion purchase of 32 Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II combat aircraft. The procurement is being made under Poland’s Harpia program, which is intended to modernize the country’s fighter fleet by replacing legacy Warsaw Pact-era combat aircraft with a modern NATO-sourced solution.

The Harpia program forms a key part of Poland’s larger Technical Modernization Plan 2017-2026.

Poland’s Air Force currently operates a mixed fighter fleet of 48 Lockheed Martin F-16C/Ds and older Soviet-designed aircraft, including more than 20 MiG-29 Fulcrum interdiction fighters and over 20 Su-22 Fitters used for air-to-ground missions. The latter pair of fighters have been of pressing concern to Poland’s defense officials for years,  for both age and safety concerns as well as a desire to sever outdated links with Russian-sourced hardware and technologies.

Three MiG-29s crashed between December 2017 and March 2019, resulting in the temporary grounding of the entire fleet and prompting the Defense Ministry to bring the Harpia program forward.

Under the Harpia program,  32 new-generation multirole jet fighters will be acquired  to equip two Polish Air Force squadrons.

Deliveries of the F-35s are to begin in 2024 with handover of the first four units. These, however, will not be based in Poland but at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, where they will be used to train Polish pilots. The first F-35 squadron will become operational by 2026, with the second squadron reaching operational status in 2030.

The Polish F-35 contract does not involve any industrial offset agreements.

A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. Image – U.S. Air Force/MSgt John Nimmo Sr.

About Daniel Darling

Dan Darling is a senior analyst covering both the Europe and Asia-Pacific regions for Forecast International's International Military Markets group.

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