WARSAW, Poland — With fears of slipping F-35 delivery schedules plaguing some European customers of the Lockheed Martin-made warplanes, defense officials in Poland and Italy said they don’t expect their fleets to be affected by the vendor’s technical problems in rolling out a key upgrade for the jets.

In January 2020, Poland signed a contract worth $4.6 billion under which the country is to receive 32 F-35A Lightning II jets from the United States. Warsaw aims to replace the Polish Air Force’s outdated Soviet-designed Sukhoi Su-22 and Mikoyan MiG-29 jets with new fifth-generation jets, adding the aircraft to its fleet of F-16 C/D Block 52+ fighters and FA-50 light attack aircraft.

The nation is poised to become the first user of the Lockheed Martin-made jet in the region, with Romania and the Czech Republic following suit. Deliveries of the F-35s for Poland are scheduled to begin in 2024. The Polish Ministry of National Defence says that the deal is on track.

“The implementation of the contract for the purchase of 32 F-35 fighters is proceeding in line with the schedule. The first six of the ordered F-35A aircraft will be delivered to a U.S. air base in the years 2024 to 2025, and they will be used to train Polish pilots,” a spokesperson for the ministry told Defense News.

“The new fighters will arrive to Poland in 2026, and they will continue to be delivered until 2030 in batches of between four and six units per year,” according to the spokesperson.

Meanwhile, as Poland is awaiting the first of its ordered F-35 jets, Warsaw is considering to further expand its combat aircraft fleet with a purchase of 32 additional fighters of a yet undetermined type, as suggested by local defense decision-makers.

Polish Air Force officials have expressed interest in securing air superiority aircraft that could counter Russian Sukhoi Su-34 fighter bombers and Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets. This suggests that the front runners for a potential order would include the Eurofighter Typhoon, produced by a European consortium jointly operated by Airbus, BAE Systems UK, and Italy’s Leonardo, and the F-15EX Eagle II, manufactured by Boeing.

However, a third option could consist of expanding Poland’s F-35 order and purchasing more jets from Lockheed Martin. Recent statements by local government officials indicate that all options are on the table, but budget constraints will affect the final decision.

“We want to modernize the Polish military, this is our program,” Polish Deputy Defence Minister Paweł Zalewski told local broadcaster Radio Poland in a Feb. 13 interview, vowing to continue the previous government’s thrust.

Asked whether the defense ministry was considering to increase its F-35 order, Zalewski replied that “we will see what will be the offer. For now, we cannot rule out anything, but we would like these aircraft to arrive to Poland as soon as possible.”

As for Italy, the country has received 24 of the 90 fighter jets ordered from the United States. The Italian Air Force already has deployed the F-35s to carry out air-policing missions over the Baltic Sea and the northern Atlantic Ocean.

Rome believes that the issues related to Lockheed’s Technology Refresh 3, or TR-3, which is a batch of hardware and software upgrades to the latest variant of the F-35, will not prevent the country’s military from performing its operations as planned.

“The Italian Air Force is following the TR-3 development and release very closely because of the capabilities it will introduce, which are vital to cope with advanced threats,” a spokesperson for the Italian air service told Defense News.

“However, its delay, if not further extended considerably, does not preclude the Italian Air Force to execute the assigned mission within the operating domains,” the spokesperson said.

Tom Kington reported from Rome.

Jaroslaw Adamowski is the Poland correspondent for Defense News.

Tom Kington is the Italy correspondent for Defense News.

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