LIFT off: Poland cancels armed trainer contest

Warsaw
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Poland has cancelled a tender for 16 lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT) aircraft, just one day before the deadline for two contenders to submit formal bids for the requirement.

"Until the present day, no one country has bought a LIFT aircraft with all the combat capabilities demanded by Poland," Marcin Idzik, the defence ministry's undersecretary of state for armament and modernisation said on 27 October. "The Polish air force cannot be the first which will use a prototype LIFT aircraft of that type."

Alenia Aermacchi had been offering its M-346 Master and Korea Aerospace Industries the T-50P, with BAE Systems having withdrawn its Hawk 128 from contention earlier this year.

 

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Alenia Aermacchi's M-346 had been in contention for the Polish deal

Having downgraded its expectations, Warsaw intends to issue a new request early next year for an undisclosed number of advanced jet trainers, without seeking combat capabilities. The latter requirement could potentially be satisfied using mission simulators.

Idzik said the defence ministry has estimated that the acquisition will value 30-40% less than the previous programme, with this strategy to correspond a rationalisation of public expenses. The LIFT deal had previously been projected as worth 1.45 billion zloty ($476 million).

Aircraft should be fielded from 2015 under the new acquisition strategy. In the meantime, Polish air force pilots will continue to receive training in the USA using Northrop T-38 Talons, and in Poland on aged PZL Mielec TS-11 Iskras.

Additional reporting by Grzegorz Sobczak