WARSAW – Poland plans to buy 16 Lead-in Fighter Trainer (LIFT) aircraft to replace its Air Force’s aging fleet of trainer planes. Poland’s Ministry of Defense has said a tender will be announced in the next few months with the aim of acquiring the jets between 2013 and 2015.
The ministry said it has set aside about 1.45 billion zloty ($450 million) for the aircraft and related infrastructure costs.
“We want to launch the tender for the planes this year, and will do our best to open the bid in the upcoming months,” Deputy Defense Minister Marcin Idzik told the Polish news agency PAP.
Since 2003, when Poland purchased 48 F-16 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin, Polish pilots have been training on F-16s and T-38 trainer jets in the United States. However, that contract expires in 2015, and the military has been forced to start looking for alternatives.
The acquired LIFT aircraft would replace TS-11 Iskra trainer jets, manufactured by Poland’s PZL Mielec. The TS-11 aircraft are currently employed for additional training purposes by the Polish Air Force.
hree contractors are set to bid for the deal: Italy’s Aermacchi with the M-346; a joint venture of Korea Aerospace Industries and Lockheed Martin with South Korea’s T-50; and the Hawk from Britain’s BAE Systems. Many feel the T-50 would complement Poland’s F-16s, but lingering bad feelings within Poland over Lockheed’s implementation of the 2003 offset package with the F-16 sale might be a turnoff for the government, analysts say.
“We’ve already prepared the technical specifications,” Idzik said. “The contractor must provide us not only with the planes, but also with related logistics support, including flight simulators, and training for Polish pilots.”