KIELCE, Poland — With Poland set to acquire 32 F-35A fighter jets under a deal signed in January, the aircraft’s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, is gearing up to supply the country with long-range drones to enhance the F-35′s operational capacities.

“Both the U.S. and Poland are interested in a next-generation UAS capability,” Jack O’Banion, the vice president for strategy and customer requirements at Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works division, said at a press briefing ahead of the MSPO defense industry show. “We’ve seen the Polish Ministry of Defence’s Technical Modernization Plan, which was released last year, which outlines the UAS need."

O’Banion said the company saw “a significant overlap” between the U.S. and Polish tactical requirements for new drones, and it is highly interested in creating partnerships with local defense manufacturers to jointly develop and produce unmanned aerial systems.

Deliveries of the F-35 are expected to begin in 2024. Poland will add the fighters to its fleet of 48 F-16 C/D Block 52+ jets.

The $4.6 billion contract for the jets will allow Poland to replace its outdated Soviet-designed Sukhoi Su-22 and Mikoyan MiG-29 aircraft with fifth-generation fighters.

Jaroslaw Adamowski is the Poland correspondent for Defense News.

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