WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department has OK’d Poland to buy the F-35, America’s most advanced fighter, setting up the country as the newest customer for the fifth-generation jet.
The proposed order covers 32 of the conventional-takeoff-and-landing F-35A variants, with an estimated price tag of $6.5 billion, according to a Wednesday announcement on the website of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. As with all DSCA notifications, quantities and dollar figures can change during negotiations.
While Congress can still act to block the sale, it’s expected to run smoothly through Capitol Hill.
“This proposed sale of F-35s will provide Poland with a credible defense capability to deter aggression in the region and ensure interoperability with U.S. forces,” the DSCA announcement reads. “The proposed sale will augment Poland’s operational aircraft inventory and enhance its air-to-air and air-to-ground self-defense capability.”
Poland formally sent its request for the F-35 in May with the goal of replacing its legacy MiG-29 and Su-22 fleets. Procuring the F-35 is part of a broader defense modernization effort from Warsaw, which will see the country spend $47 billion by 2026 on new equipment.
Along with the fighters, the proposed package includes 33 F135 engines, electronic warfare and C4 systems, access to the fighter’s Autonomic Logistics Information System, a full mission trainer, and other support capabilities.
Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor on the plane, and Pratt & Whitney is the engine manufacturer. The deal will include some form of industrial offset, to be negotiated between the companies and Warsaw at a later date.
Lockheed executives said Poland will get planes with the Block 4 package installed. Greg Ulmer, Lockheed’s vice president and general manager for the program, has expressed an interest in having Poland take part in the industrial base for the planes.
“Once Polish companies are approved as our supplier partners, they could make parts not only for the Polish aircraft but also for those supplied to other countries, such as the U.S. or Japan,” Ulmer said.
However, Poland shouldn’t get its hopes up about becoming a full-on partner with the F-35 Joint Strike Figher program, as the Pentagon has been adamant that the broad industrial participation program is locked in place.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.