Warsaw is in discussions with Sweden over a potential acquisition of airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) system aircraft.
“We are very advanced in acquiring early warning aircraft from Sweden,” defence minister Mariusz Blaszczak said following a meeting with his Swedish counterpart Pal Jonson on 22 May. “We are already conducting detailed negotiations. I hope that they will be successful in the short term.”
Blaszczak’s comments prompted speculation that Poland could purchase the Bombardier Global 6000/6500-based GlobalEye surveillance aircraft from Saab. However, on 25 May, the nation’s MND armament agency said it is “in negotiations to acquire two Saab 340 AEW&C [aircraft] for the Polish armed forces, which in the short term will ensure the ability to detect and warn about air threats”.
However, the agency adds: “We do not exclude the purchase of more technologically advanced early warning aircraft in the future”.
If completed, the proposed deal is likely to involve a pair of Erieye radar-equipped Saab 340s which were purchased by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in late 2009. Both aircraft were retired in December 2020 and returned to Saab, with the UAE being its launch customer for the GlobalEye, with three of an eventual five examples now in use.
Sources suggest that the ex-UAE aircraft could be delivered to Poland as soon as this year or during 2024, if a contract is signed soon. By contrast, an introduction of the more capable GlobalEye would take until 2027.
A Polish air force acquisition of AEW&C aircraft has been postulated by commentators and experts for years. Such aircraft would be supplemented by air-defence radars carried by tethered aerostats, via a planned purchase under Warsaw’s Barbara programme.
The MND recently submitted a request to the USA to acquire four reconnaissance aerostats, with candidates being the Lockheed Martin Tethered Aerostat Radar System and Raytheon’s Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System.
Poland’s airspace is currently monitored by NATO Boeing E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft, but the nation’s goal is to increase operational awareness for systems including combat aircraft.
An introduction of Saab 340s via Sweden would enable the service to develop its own AEW&C capabilities, and potentially share surveillance data with other European countries.
Saab declines to comment about the potential deal.