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The Polish Air Force is at the threshold of modernisation of its combat air fleet, as a number of legacy, Soviet-era platforms are planned to be phased out in the nearest future. They will gradually be replaced by modern 5th generation multirole fighter aircraft, which will be procured under the “Harpia” programme.

Poland’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) awaits a response from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to the Letter of Request (LoR), which was submitted on May 28, in relation to the planned procurement of 32 F-35A Lightning II multirole fighter jets. The positive reaction from the American government will allow the start of formal negotiations, which will set the terms and conditions of the future deal.

This will include not only the procurement of new fighters, but also the acquisition of necessary weapon systems as well as training and maintenance equipment. The whole transaction will most likely be finalised through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) procedure, which means that the U.S. armed forces will partake in the procurement.

The Polish MoD expects that new fighter jets will be acquired by 2026, when the current Technical Modernisation Plan (TMP), which was announced this February, expires. However, some MoD representatives have already suggested, that the number of new fighters, which will be procured under the Harpia programme, might increase in the future.

Over the past few months the Secretary of State, Wojciech Skurkiewicz, has admitted on numerous occasions that the MoD envisions procurement of another batch of 16 F-35 fighters after 2026. Therefore, the future fleet of Polish 5th generation multirole fighters might increase to 48, which will complement the same number of F-16C/D Block 52+ jets, that already are in Polish Air Force’s inventory.

The planned procurement of 5th generation multirole fighters will speed up the desperately needed modernisation of the Polish Air Force. In result of the acquisition of F-35s Poland will be able to commence a gradual process of phasing out legacy Su-22 bombers/fighters and MiG-29 fighters. These aircraft no longer meet the requirements of the modern battlefield due to their worsening technical condition and obsolescence of onboard equipment, which in the past few years has led to a number of accidents.

Michal Jarocki