Poland’s defense ministry has signaled the government is closing in on a deal to buy F-35 Joint Strike Fighters from the United States, part of the burgeoning military relationship between Warsaw and Washington. The news comes amid Germany stepping back from an F-35 deal.
During an interview with local television station TVP on Monday, Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said a contract to purchase US F-35 Lightning II stealth aircraft, also called Joint Strike Fighters, was “not far away” from being signed.
The announcement follows a visit to the country by US Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson last week, during which she said a demonstration team would be sent to Poland next month to show off the Lockheed Martin plane’s capabilities, according to Defense News.
It’s unclear which of the F-35’s three models the Polish government seeks to buy, but the most likely candidates are the F-35A, which operates from standard airfields, and the F-35B, which has short takeoff and vertical landing capabilities. There is also the F-35C, which operates from aircraft carriers, but as Poland has no such ships, it likely has no interest in the plane.
In February, Blaszczak said the Eastern European country planned on buying 32 F-35s, part of a larger initiative by Warsaw to spend $48.5 billion on new weapons and equipment for its military by 2026.
Poland is one among several countries to which the US is marketing the expensive, advanced aircraft, including Romania and Greece. While pinning a price down for each jet is difficult, estimates have ranged from $100 million to $200 million per plane.
In February, Poland’s neighbor and fellow NATO member Germany decided to turn down the offer to buy F-35s, choosing another US aircraft, Boeing’s F-18 Hornet, to replace its aging Panavia Tornado fleet.
With the newest models of the F-18, a well-proven aircraft, costing only $70 million, it’s easy to see why the notoriously stingy German Defense Ministry would select it over the F-35, which, despite two decades of development, still struggles to perform some of its most basic wartime functions.
However, Warsaw has bent over backwards to please Washington in recent years, even offering to pay $2 billion for a permanent US military base in the country that it proposed calling “Fort Trump.”