Poland is considering buying Lockheed F-35 fighter jets from the US to replace its ageing Soviet-era planes, in the latest sign of the strengthening ties between Warsaw and the US defence industry.
Poland’s defence minister, Mariusz Blaszczak, said on Tuesday that Poland had sent a letter to the US requesting a quotation in connection with the purchase of 32 F-35As, as well as a logistics and training package. “Fifth-generation fighter jets are already on the horizon,” he wrote on Twitter.
“It’s high time we replaced post-Soviet equipment with the most modern fighters.” Andrew Gollan, a defence analyst at Berenberg, said that the Polish interest was a sign that Lockheed’s F-35 programme was gaining momentum in international markets.
Ten countries have already ordered, or have plans to acquire, the fifth generation fighter jet. “The first development programme was awarded in 2001 but it is only in the last two or three years that production has really begun to ramp up,” he said. “Thirty-two F-35As is not a huge number in the context of the programme overall — the US has plans to buy about 2,600 F-35 models and foreign countries have ordered about 700. But it is another international customer and a sign that the programme is already a great success in the export markets.”
Mr Gollan said that the current price of an F-35A was around $90m, meaning that a purchase of 32 was likely to cost more than $2.5bn. Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, Poland — which is one of only five Nato countries that meets the bloc’s target of spending 2 per cent of national output on defence — has been accelerating its efforts to overhaul its armed forces. Last month, it struck a €380m deal with Italian defence group Leonardo for the delivery of four AW101 helicopters.
And last year it agreed a $4.75bn deal with the US to buy Patriot missile defence systems, in what was the biggest weapons procurement deal in its history.
Poland is also negotiating with the US over an increased American military presence in the country, which is the linchpin of Nato’s eastern flank — a deal could be announced when President Andrzej Duda visits the US next month.
The defence ministry quoted Mr Blaszczak as saying at a defence conference in Warsaw that Poland expected to spend 185bn zloty ($48bn) by 2026 on modernising its armed forces.