Poland’s 1st F-35A moves forward in production

The first Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II intended for the Polish Air Force has reached a pivotal stage in its production journey.

Recently, the company announced that it was positioned with its weight supported by its wheels for the first time, marking a significant advancement as it progresses along the assembly line at Lockheed Martin's facility in Fort Worth, Texas, the U.S.

Earlier this month, the Polish Air Force's inaugural F-35 was hoisted by an overhead crane from an electronic mating and alignment station, the company said. This station served as the location where its forward and rear fuselage sections were connected to the wing-center fuselage assembly.

The aircraft is now set to undergo final assembly, during which its control surfaces will be integrated, along with the installation of essential systems and engines.

Poland has been eager to obtain F-35 fighter jets since 2019, spurred by the issues associated with their Soviet-era aircraft. Polish officials recognized the importance of modernizing the military and acquiring more advanced planes. Initially, Poland expressed interest in acquiring F-35 fighter jets that were originally intended for Türkiye but not delivered.

After unsuccessful attempts, Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak announced in May 2019 that Poland aimed to procure 32 F-35 Lightning II fighter jets from the U.S.

"Today we sent a request for quotation (LOR) to our American partners regarding the purchase of 32 F-35A aircraft along with a logistics and training package," Blaszczak tweeted at the time.

In Sept. 2019, the US State Department granted approval for the sale of 32 F-35 fighter jets to Poland under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, estimated at $6.5 billion. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress of the potential sale on Sept. 10, 2019. However, the final cost to Poland amounted to $4.6 billion. Delivery of the ordered aircraft is anticipated by 2030.

The first of the aircraft, named AZ-01, is scheduled for delivery to the Air Force later this year.

Initially, these aircraft will be stationed at Ebbing Air National Guard Base in Arkansas for Polish pilot training.

Drawing from the F-16's strong legacy, the introduction of the F-35 will bolster the Polish Air Force's capacity to fulfill its NATO obligations, thereby bolstering regional security and safeguarding key alliance interests, the company statement added. As a cutting-edge security solution for the 21st century, the F-35 will facilitate connectivity among various assets across different domains, thereby enhancing situational awareness for both Poland and the broader joint force.

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