US approves $389m Poland F-16 fighter support deal

Poland is investing in its air capabilities and is working to modernise its 48-strong F-16 fleet, while also buying new F-35 stealth fighters.

Richard Thomas September 15 2023

The US State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to the Government of Poland of F-16 fighter aircraft sustainment and related equipment for an estimated cost of $389m, which includes electronic warfare (EW) database reprogramming support.

The Polish request to buy additional non-major defence equipment (MDE) articles and services will be added to a previously implemented FMS case, those value, at $82m, was under the congressional notification threshold.

According to a US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) statement on 13 September, the updated notification is for the combined non-MDE sustainment articles and services, which includes EW support, classified and unclassified software delivery and support, among other equipment.

The DSCA stated that the principal contractor will be US defence prime Lockheed Martin, which manufactures the F-16 fighter, with the proposed sale helping to “improve Poland’s ability to meet current and future threats by increasing the reliability of [sic] their F-16 fleet”.

Poland’s fighter fleet: a complex mix

According to GlobalData’s analysis of Poland’s equipment inventory, the country has embarked on a significant defence modernisation programme across the land, sea, and air domains. In the air, this has entailed the acquisition of new rotary and fixed-wing aircraft, while overall defence spending from 2042-2028 is predicted to total $138.5bn, (601bn zlotys) at a compound annual growth rate of 10.8%.

The biggest single year-on-year increase came from 2022-2023, where spending increased by $7.2bn, or 55.7%.

Poland has 48 F-16 fighters in its inventory (36 F-16C Block 52 and 12 F-16D Block 52), although their fate was uncertain amid suggestions that it could be seeking to donate them to Ukraine in exchange for new build Block 70 aircraft, or modernised legacy platforms from US inventories. This recent announcement, along with the indication that Denmark and the Netherlands will be the countries providing F-16 to Ukraine, indicate that the Polish F-16 will remain in service for some time to come.

Poland is also a manufacturing hub of the new Block 70/72 F-16 fighters through Lockheed Martin’s subsidiary PZL Mielec, with the production of the first rear fuselage structure completed earlier this month.

In April this year manufacture of Poland’s order of 32 F-35A fifth-generation stealth fighters got underway, which will be delivered from 2024, and expected to conclude in 2030. The fighters will be equipped to Technology Refresh 3 and Block 4 level.

Poland also operates 25 MiG-29A and seven MiG-29-UB aircraft, acquired from Russia between 2003-04.

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