The Polish government has reversed course on buying used American-made F-16A/B Fighting Falcons to replace its aging Russian Sukhois and MiGs fighter jets.
In January, Deputy Minister of National Defence Bartosz Kownacki said Poland was considering buying 50 to 100 F-16s made by Lockheed Martin Corp., but he told a parliamentary committee earlier this week that the deal for second-hand jets is off the table.
“We are not going to buy used older versions of the F-16,” Kownacki said.
The minister didn’t give numbers but said the costs of modernizing the used F-16s would be prohibitive. The F-16s had been intended to replace Poland’s Sukhoi Su-22s and Mikoyan MiG-29s.
In January, Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz indicated his country was leaning towards the F-16s for its air force. “We are considering strengthening the capacities of our aircraft fleet and, to be exact, our F-16s,” he said at the time. “This issue is currently under analysis.”
At the same time, Kownacki told the local daily Dziennik Gazeta Prawna, “We are performing analyses whether a purchase of used F-16s would be operationally and economically effective. It is certain that we need new fighter jets.”
A possible alternative would be to buy new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, but Kownacki said in January that he believes the purchase of F-35s is “not economically justified. We will have to make a decision.”
In his statement to parliament this week, Kownacki said, “The analysis of purchasing of F-16A/B aircraft were carried out by the Ministry of National Defence, the general staff of the Polish armed forces and the armament inspectorate, and after that, it was clear that this was not the right direction.”
Gen. Jan Sliwka, deputy commander-in-chief of the Polish armed forces, said officials were surprised by the high costs paid by Romania to buy and upgrade used F-16A/Bs from Portugal, FlightGlobal reported.
“It cost more than the price of the same number of new aircraft,” Sliwka said.
Poland currently has 48 F-16C/Ds, and it will be possible to operate those aircraft for at least another 30 years with upgrades, he said.