At MSPO in Kielce this week, a full-scale mock-up of Lockheed Martin’s F-35A LIGHTNING II quickly became one of the most frequently visited exhibits.
Company Vice President Greg Ulmer presented the industrial opportunities for Polish participation in this international programme. On the operational side, it will enhance interoperability through Link 16 with platforms already in service with the Polish armed forces, such as F-16 fighters and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS). Under current plans, the first four aircraft for Poland could be delivered in 2024 and most probably will be based at Luke AFB, AZ, for training. They will embody Block 4 configuration and Technology Refresh 3 (TR3) features and subsystems, including the Distributed Aperture System (DAS), Integrated Core Processor (ICP), Panoramic Cockpit Display (PCD), and Aircraft Memory System (AMS).
On the industrial side, as a partner in the F-35 programme, Poland will become part of the global supply chain for over 3,000 aircraft. The domestic participation share could reach 30% for development and production of Polish aircraft and up to 70% for their sustainment costs, as well as the current Polish fleets of F-16 and C-130 aircraft. In addition, there will be an important technology transfer element impacting also on the space and unmanned systems industries. By 2030, over 500 F-35 aircraft should be operating in Europe (with US, British, Norwegian, Dutch, Belgian and Italian forces), further increasing transatlantic industrial cooperation. The programme aims at outpacing current and future threats and widening the gap with legacy fourth-generation aircraft, as well as creating a truly multi-mission platform. By then, the mission portfolio will include air superiority, strategic attack, close air support (CAS), suppression/defeat of enemy air defences (SEAD/DEAD), and extended surface warfare. The increasing weapons capacity will be reflected in integration of a large number of precision-guided munitions, including JSOW-C1, METEOR, SDB II, SPEAR, JSM, ASRAAM and AARGM, furthering allied interoperability.
On 4 September at the show, company Vice Presidents Gaylia Campbell and Howard Bromberg highlighted the current range of precision fires, combat manoeuvre and deep strike systems (MLRS/ATACMS, GMLRS, Precision Strike Missile) and precision artillery systems (HIMARS) that will be in service until the 2050 timeframe. In addition, as part of the ongoing WISLA PAC-3 MSE programme, based on the March 2019 agreement with Polish state-owned manufacturer PGZ, Lockheed Martin has established an offset office in Warsaw in charge of a total of 15 specific projects, all of which are underway by now. The company already manufactures the BLACKHAWK helicopter in the country and has about 1,700 local employees and 400 suppliers. The outlook for the wider Central and Eastern Europe region is also strong, as Romania has already opted for HIMARS, in addition to Poland.