Poland’s government signed a contract with the Republic of Korea on July 27 to buy FA-50 fighter/attack aircraft from Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI). Valued at around $2.5 billion, the contract is part of a wider $14.5 billion arms deal with South Korea that includes the procurement of K9 self-propelled howitzers and K2 main battle tanks. Poland is buying 48 FA-50s to equip three squadrons, with the first 12 due to be delivered by the middle of next year.
It is KAI's ability to deliver the aircraft quickly that has been the decisive factor in Poland chosing the FA-50, said Mariusz Blaszczak, deputy prime minister and minister of defense, in an interview with Polish media. The procurement has become urgent in the light of the Ukraine conflict, and an increasing need to replace the last of the MiG-29 and Su-22 fighters in Polish air force service, and Lockheed Martin would not be able to supply Poland with additional F-16s in the required timeframe. It was noted that Polish F-16s are currently policing the airspace of neighboring Slovakia while that nation awaits deliveries of its own F-16s.
Blaszczak also highlighted the commonality between the FA-50—which was jointly developed with Lockheed Martin—and F-16 in terms of systems, which would allow the new aircraft to be integrated seamlessly into the existing infrastructure. It would also streamline training as conversion between the FA-50 and the F-16 can be accomplished rapidly.
Poland’s FA-50s will be supplied in the Block 20 configuration, which has the ability to fire the AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missile. The Mach 1.5-capable aircraft will be supplied with fully NATO-compatible systems and could be fitted with the APG-83 SABR “e-scan” radar as employed in the latest F-16 versions. The aircraft can carry a wide range of weaponry, and is equipped with an internal 20mm cannon.
Along with the fighter deal is the promise of a high level of cooperation between South Korean and Polish defense industries. KAI is expected to help establish a servicing center for the FA-50 in Poland with a targeted completion date of 2026. Moreover, Blaszczak stated that the ministry is closely monitoring the progress of Korea's KF-21 Boramae 4.5 generation fighter which made its first flight on July 19.
Further Polish fighter procurement is expected in the future, the minister expressing plans for the possible acquisition of additional Lockheed Martin F-35As beyond the 32 that were ordered in January 2020, or of other fighters such as the Boeing F-15 or possibly KF-21.