Poland’s lead Lockheed Martin F-35A has entered the latter stages of final assembly in the USA, as the type has gained the name ‘Husarz’ (Hussar) for service with the European nation.

Lockheed on 29 April released images of a first Polish air force F-35A in assembly at its Fort Worth site in Texas. Designated AZ-01, the aircraft recently achieved the weight on wheels milestone: a significant moment as it moves down the production line.

Images show the fighter being moved by an overhead crane earlier in the month, after its forward and rear fuselage sections had been joined to the wing-centre fuselage assembly.

Polish F-35A final assembly

Source: Lockheed Martin

Lead aircraft AZ-01 is the first of 32 to be assembled for Poland

Final assembly will progress with the installation of its control surfaces, Pratt & Whitney F135 engine and other systems.

Hussars, alternatively known as the winged hussars, were a heavy cavalry formation active in Poland and in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1503 to 1702. Their epithet is derived from large rear wings, which were intended to demoralise the enemy during a charge. The hussars ranked as the elite of Polish cavalry until their official disbanding in 1776.

Social media users had submitted almost 800 suggested names for the Polish air force’s incoming fighter, before a selection committee – made up of defence ministry and armed forces personnel, including pilots – reduced these to a shortlist of five. The other names in contention had been Dracarys, Duch, Halny and Harpia.

Deliveries under Poland’s 32-aircraft F-35A acquisition will begin later this year. Its lead aircraft will initially be stationed at Ebbing Air National Guard base in Arkansas, to support pilot training.

Production of the Polish aircraft will be divided between Fort Worth and a final assembly and check-out line at Cameri, Italy. Both sites will produce 16 of its aircraft, completed in the Technical Refresh 3 configuration.

The first air force unit to operate the stealth fighter in Poland will be established at the 32nd Tactical Air Base in Lask. Located in the central part of the country, this already houses a squadron operating Lockheed F-16C/Ds.

A second squadron will be established at the 21st Tactical Air Base in Swidwin, northwest Poland, in 2027. That location currently hosts Sukhoi Su-22 ground-attack aircraft.

Meanwhile, General Wieslaw Kukula, the Polish army’s chief of the general staff, has confirmed that the nation’s F-35As will be operated with low-visibility markings.

“There will be no traditional white and red chequerboards on Polish F-35s. On this model, we will use greyscale chequerboards,” he says. This will make them the first Polish air force aircraft not to use its distinctive, colourful markings.

“This is a conscious decision – we were even informed how much it would affect the probability of detection,” he says. “The most important thing is ‘warfighting’ and the safety of our pilots.”