Lockheed Martin to roll out first F-35s for Poland this summer

Lockheed Martin to roll out first F-35s for Poland this summer

WARSAW, Poland — Senior Lockheed Martin officials said they expect the first F-35 warplanes for Poland to leave the production plant in Fort Worth, Texas, in the coming months, a time line unaffected by the company’s problems with a major upgrade for the aircraft known as Technology Refresh 3, or TR-3.

The envisioned timing lines up with Polish pilot training, which is slated to begin in the United States later this year.

“The first F-35 planes for Poland are expected to leave the factory this summer,” Gary North, vice president for customer requirements at Lockheed Martin and a former general in charge of U.S. Pacific Air Forces, told Defense News. “Between late 2024 and 2026, these planes will be used at the Ebbing Air National Guard Base in Fort Smith, Arkansas, as the first trainers for Polish pilots.”

The statements are largely in line with the declarations of officials from the Polish Ministry of National Defence. Last month, a spokesperson for the ministry told Defense News the “implementation of the contract for the purchase of 32 F-35 fighters is proceeding in line with the schedule.”

In the United States, Lockheed Martin has struggled to roll out the TR-3 package, which includes software and hardware upgrades designed to improve the computing performance that underpins the next-generation fighter jet’s operations. Last month, chief executive Jim Taiclet told reporters the first F-35s boasting TR-3 capabilities, already overdue for more than a year, won’t be considered combat-ready until 2025.

In January 2020, Poland signed a deal worth some $4.6 billion under which the nation is to secure 32 fifth-generation jets from the United States. The foreign military sale is to enable the Polish military to replace its outdated Soviet-designed Sukhoi Su-22 and Mikoyan MiG-29 jets, adding the F-35s to its fleet of F-16 C/D Block 52+ jets and FA-50 light attack aircraft.

The F-35s are scheduled to arrive to Poland in 2026, making the country the first user of the Lockheed Martin-made fighter in the region, with the Czech Republic and Romania following suit.

Jaroslaw Adamowski is the Poland correspondent for Defense News.

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