32nd TACTICAL AIR BASE, Łask, Poland — The Polish military is in discussions with the United States about a new logistics agreement for its F-16 fighter fleet, with a military official arguing here that Warsaw should look to boost its F-16 fleet come 2025.
The Polish military also has had preliminary talks about a major upgrade package that would install active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars on at least some of its 48 F-16 C/D models.
Lt. Col. Robert Gurzeda, commander of the 32nd Tactical Air Base, told reporters during a visit that the Polish government made a “mistake” in 2003 when it signed a contract for 48 of the Lockheed Martin-produced fighters, because it did not involve a complete spare-parts replacement program.
Gurzeda, a logistician by trade, expressed concern over the haphazard way that parts are replaced for the F-16 fleet as a result of the existing contract.
“With the purchase package that we got, the Americans, they promised to send us parts. But the contract doesn’t say exactly how often we are to get them,” Gurzeda explained through a translator. “So it doesn’t say at every beck and call we’re going to get the parts we want. The deal we have is we have to send them our broken parts to be fixed, and that can last, it can take as long as 18 months.”
Asked what could be done to fix that, he noted that the Polish government is in discussions with the US about a new sustainment agreement, saying “we are talking about this with the Americans but I don’t know when we will see a new [agreement].”
John Losinger, a spokesman for Lockheed Martin, said the company has “participated in preliminary discussions with the Polish air force regarding their F-16 fleet support needs.”
Those discussions, which Losinger described as “early-stage,” are “focused on better understanding the Polish Air Force’s unique F-16 support requirements.”
Defense News visited Poland as part of a government-organized trip for journalists. The Polish government paid for accommodations and transportation.
Gurzeda also expressed support for Poland to procure more F-16s come 2025, when the country’s Mig-29s are scheduled to retire from service.
“I think for us, it is the best to buy the F-16,” Gurzeda said. “I think F-35 is too expensive for us and we don’t have logistics to service it. I think if you are thinking about the next plane, this is F-16.”
That would mean Poland goes from a dual-sourced fleet down to just one plane, something Gurzeda said he was not concerned about. As a point of comparison, he pointed to Norway and The Netherlands, similar nations militarily that have one fighter type.
Łask is home to one squadron of 16 F-16 C/D models, which fly three to four times a week, according to Lt. Marcin Kawecki, one of the pilots at the base.
F-16 pilots fly between 120 and 200 hours a year, he said, while MiG pilots fly only 60 to 80 hours annually — a necessity to keep wear and tear down on the older jets, which are also responsible for the NATO air-policing missions that Poland takes part in.
While the F-16s are not currently equipped with AESA radars, Kawecki said that upgrade is “planned.”
Losinger confirmed that the Polish government has been “briefed” on the F-16V upgrade package, which is built around the radar modernization. However, Losinger noted “any such deal would be subject to a government-to-government agreement between the US and Poland.”