Poland hopes to acquire 16 lead-in fighter trainers for delivery from the third quarter of 2010, with the Korea Aerospace Industries/Lockheed Martin T-50 and Patria-modified BAE Systems Hawk 51 designs in contention.
Finnish-owned Hawks have previously been considered as a temporary solution ahead of Poland's selection of a new advanced jet trainer, but defence minister Bogdan Klich says Patria's upgrade to the type "fulfils the basic requirements of the Polish air force", and is a "serious offer". The aircraft could remain in service until 2025, say air force officials.
President Lech Kaczynski and armed forces chief of general staff Gen Franciszek Gagor visited South Korea last month, and Warsaw is waiting to receive a detailed T-50 offer from KAI. The South Korean aircraft "is the most modern and dedicated to [Lockheed] F-16 pilot training, with a good price", says Klich, adding: "We know Korean partners are very interested in entering the Polish market."
The jet trainer purchase is expected to advance no later than mid-2010 without a formal tender, due to the need to replace PZL Mielec TS-11 Iskras in use at the Polish air force academy in Deblin by 2012.
The air force will also have 28 of its PZL-130 Orlik turboprop trainers modernised to a TC-II standard, featuring a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-25C engine and a new wing, extending their use until at least 2018. Sixteen will receive Garmin avionics for primary training, while 12 will get glass cockpits to prepare students for operations of the F-16. Poland's final three of 48 F-16C/Ds were delivered to Poznan-Krzesiny airbase on 11 December 2008.
Meanwhile, Poland's defence ministry has awarded PZL Mielec a contract worth around 635 million zlotys ($200 million) to supply a further 12 M-28B Bryza transports by 2012, and to deliver a flight simulator and training for 36 personnel at Deblin. Ten of the aircraft will feature new avionics equipment including a Rockwell Collins glass cockpit scheduled to undergo flight testing this year, plus self-defence equipment and radar warning receivers supplied by Denmark's Terma. The other two will be configured for VIP duties.
Additional reporting by Grzegorz Sobczak