Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Poland Needs Fords, not Ferraris

Jerry's classic from '09 came to mind when I read the following about plucky, brave Poland's drive to grow its defense budget and recapitalize their air arm;
The Polish Ministry of Defence is analysing a possible purchase of 50-100 aircraft to replace the Polish Air Force's aging Sukhoi Su-22 strike aircraft and Mikoyan MiG-29 fighter aircraft.
Yes, NATO still has SU-22.
"We consider various possibilities that would be beneficial, [including purchase of] F-16 aircraft; used or new or another solution. The optimal solution would be a purchase of 50-100 aircraft," Bartosz Kownacki, deputy defence minister responsible for defence procurement, told the government-owned Polish Press Agency (PAP).

"I think that during a month and a half we will have a clear idea if is worth buying used F-16s from the United States or new F-35s," he added. According to Kownacki, the aircraft Poland has been offered are older variants than the F-16C/D Block 52+ models currently used by the Polish Air Force. The F-16 option being considered would see Poland purchase 96 used F-16s (six squadrons) for PLN100 million (USD24 million) each to replace Poland's aging 32 MiG-29s and 32 Su-22s.
Poland needs additional firepower now, and every platform counts. They are not going to march on Moscow, so they need something - in numbers - to fight and hold the line at home.

A well trained pilot in a Block 52+ F-16 can handle anything the Russians can throw at them. They do not need now, nor can afford the F-35 in the appropriate numbers.

Something else besides the trusty F-16, I would also offer that the Swedes are about to have a fire-sale of some slightly used Gripens;
Last year the Swedish defense company SAAB made its final delivery of 96 Gripen planes ordered by the Swedish government. Now, despite having thousands of flying hours and many years left, the fighter jets are destined for the scrapheap. The Swedish government is buying even newer Gripen planes.

Gripen C/D is an advanced fighter jet with attack and surveillance capabilities, which unlike its Gripen predecessors is also compatible with NATO standards and thus more easily exportable. SAAB has sold or leased the plane not only to the Swedish government but to South Africa, Hungary, Thailand, the Czech Republic and even to the United Kingdom, which uses the plane for pilot training.

But in 2012, the Swedish parliament voted to place another order, this time for sixty new Gripen E aircraft, to be manufactured with immediate effect. “The government’s order was connected to likely sales to Brazil and Switzerland,” Swedish defense analyst Robert Dalsj√∂ told me. “Because other governments were likely to buy it as well, the idea was that the Swedish government would get the planes more cheaply than it otherwise would.”
That is a nice bit of kit that the Swedes might make a good deal on. As the Poles already fly the F-16, there is some economy on just getting more of them - but there is something to be said for having two sources for your fighter aircraft and making nice with a neighbor who also does not like the Bear all that much.

Either way, the smart move for Poland would be to buy "good" in bulk, and wait for the "perfect" to mature a bit and be a bit more affordable.

Hey ... well look at that;
...Kownacki suggested that now would be the wrong time to purchase the F-35, should that be the route the country opts for. In his view, had Poland enterer the programme five years ago, then Polish industry could have been involved. However, given the current price of the initial aircraft remains high it is worth Poland waiting a few years until "F-35 availability rises and the prices drop".
Smart.

Anything we can do to help the Poles, we should. Last year, they crossed the 2% of GDP threshold and continues to grow in their investment in their defense. We should reward them as much as we can. 

You know the theory; reward behavior you approve of - punish that you don't. When you look at her former Warsaw Pact allies now in NATO to her south - an example of positive behavior is very much needed.

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