Poland’s defense minister has labeled the purchase of fifth-generation fighter jets a “priority task” for the government, leaving local media to speculate that an expensive acquisition of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 could be imminent.
Speaking during a press conference on Poland’s military modernization plan on Thursday, Mariusz Blaszczak said he expected “immediate action” from top military officials to buy 32 fifth-generation multi-role fighter aircraft. He added that the Harpia program would boost the capabilities of its F-16 fleet while removing the need for older Soviet-era warplanes by 2026.
Blaszczak didn’t mention the F-35 by name, though out of the several Western firms to have already put their hat in the ring for the competition, only the F-35 meets Warsaw’s requirement of a fifth-generation jet.
France, Germany, and Spain are also developing their own fifth- (or even sixth-) generation jet, but with at least a decade before it becomes operational, it is already out of the running. The same applies to the UK’s upcoming Tempest fighter, which won’t enter service until 2035. This leaves just the F-35 as the only fifth-gen fighter that meets NATO interoperability requirements currently on the shelves.
However, Warsaw’s desire to buy the latest model fighter over fourth-generation alternatives on offer will come at a cost. The 32 F-35s would cost the Polish taxpayer approximately US$2.5 billion.
In addition to its high price tag, the F-35 has had a troubled development with several design flaws stemming from the trillion-dollar program’s ambition to be an aircraft for several branches of the US military. Along with its experimental design, the jet has had issues with its weapons bay, a deadly ejector seat, refueling tubes, software, and pilot helmets.