During the first day of MSPO 2019 in Kielce on 3 September, the Polish Ministry of National Defence (MND) signed a Letter of Request for the purchase of five ex-US C-130H HERCULES transport aircraft. Sources at the show indicated that the aircraft to enter Polish Air Force service will first be overhauled and modernised, though further details have yet to be revealed.
C-130H features both a re-designed outer wing and more advanced avionics, but what is crucial for Poland is the fact that the aircraft are much younger than its C-130Es, which are now over 40 years old and need to be replaced soon due to their poor technical condition.
This project will be carried out under the codename DROP, which was launched by Poland’s Armament Inspectorate in May. Its goal is to replace five aging C-130E HERCULES, which Poland received from the United States between 2009-2012 via the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) programme. They are all deployed at the 33rd Tactical Transport Airbase in Powidz and are used extensively, both in Poland and abroad, including in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and the Central African Republic. It is expected that Poland’s C-130Es will be retired by 2022. Five companies submitted proposals to the Armament Inspectorate by the end of July this year: Leonardo, Airbus Defense and Space, Embraer, Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
A decision announced during MSPO is surprising, since it was expected that the Armament Inspectorate would launch a competitive tender. It was also assumed that before a final decision it would carry out extensive discussions with potential suppliers, which were planned to be accomplished by April 2020.
In addition to five C-130Es, Poland has 16 C-295M transport aircraft, the first of which was delivered in 2003.
During the same ceremony Lt Gen Charles Hooper – Head of the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency – received another Letter of Request covering the purchase of 60 launchers for the FGM-148 JAVELIN anti-tank guided weapon (ATGW), with 180 missiles. They will be used by Poland’s Territorial Army. It was confirmed that both the missiles and launchers – offered jointly by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin – can be delivered to Poland within 18 months from contract signature.