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Poland accelerates fighter replacement plans

Poland is to accelerate the replacement of its air force's RAC MiG-29 fighters and Sukhoi Su-22 ground-attack aircraft on the instructions of the country's defence minister.

Mariusz Błaszczak, minister of national defence, has repeatedly stated his aim of removing Soviet-era aircraft from Warsaw's inventory.

But now Błaszczak has instructed the chief of general staff of the Polish armed forces to speed up the implementation of the replacement programme under its Harpia requirement.

Poland is seeking aircraft that can perform a number of combat roles, including certain maritime operations and electronic warfare missions.

According to the deputy defence minister, Wojciech Skurkiewicz, "the end of the analytical and conceptual phase of the Harpia programme is planned for the end of February 2019. Deliveries of new aircraft should begin in 2024."

Funds for the acquisition have been allocated via Poland's military modernisation plan for 2018-2022.

Until Poland delivers more precise requirements, some manufacturers will remain uncertain with which aircraft to respond, if at all. At present, Boeing may propose either the F-15 or F/A-18E/F; Leonardo, on behalf of the Eurofighter consortium, will offer the Typhoon; Lockheed Martin can pitch the F-16 – either upgraded examples or new-build aircraft – or F-35, while Saab could respond with the Gripen E.

In late September, Poland's Su-22s returned to flight operations, followed by MiG-29s in early November, after the implementation of service bulletins on the aircraft's Klimov RD-33 engines and K-36DM ejection seats.

However, investigations continue into the fatal crash of a MiG-29 in July.

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