Poland Eyes New Air Platform Procurements as Rumors Around the Polish President’s Visit to the White House Emerge.
According to a news piece published today by the Polish Dziennik daily, defense-related talks are planned to take place on Wednesday, Jun. 24, 2020, during the Polish President’s Andrzej Duda visit to the US. The talks, as the daily suggests, will cover the matter of the increased US military presence in Poland, referred to as “Fort Trump” by the Polish media.
Dziennik.pl journalists, Maciej Miłosz and Zbigniew Parafianowicz claim that 2,000 U.S. troops are to be deployed to Poland. This is a number that has been doubled when compared to the assumptions made previously. US Army V Corps command is to be transferred from Kentucky to Poland.
When it comes to air platforms, three interesting developments are expected here. First, 30 USAF F-16 jets would be transferred to Poland from Germany. Most probably the above concerns Warhawks from Spangdahlem. This could have been expected, as the unit had been already involved in deployment to Poland last year (Krzesiny-Poznan Airbase) and in the past as well (at the Łask AB in central Poland). The presence of airframes belonging to that unit could potentially be viewed as a capability gap-filler for the Polish Air Force. The primary mission assigned to 480th Fighter Squadron is focused on SEAD. The Polish Air Force has no relevant SEAD assets at its disposal, and the service is yet to procure anti-radiation missiles for the F-16s. The anti-radiation assets used by the Su-22 platform are obsolete, to say the least. Notably, the Spang-deployed F-16s are not nuclear-capable, contrary to the ones deployed to Aviano AB in Italy.
Still unclear are the numbers. Spangdahlem has only 28 F-16s stationed there, while the Polish daily mentions 30 examples. This may be an inaccurate rounding-up though.
Secondly, Warsaw would also receive 5 C-130 Hercules airlifters. The rumors on that matter have been present in the defense circles for some time now, pointing to a potential transfer of second-hand C-130H airframes. We do not know, however, whether these would undergo any upgrades before being handed off to Poland.
The third matter that is to be discussed in the air domain, as Dziennik.pl reports, is related to the signing/announcement of an agreement aimed at the acquisition of an attack helicopter that would finalize the Polish Kruk program. Unfortunately, which is worrying, it seems that the tendering procedure within that scope would also be canceled, with Warsaw taking steps towards a single-source procurement instead. It is still unclear as to what the rumors mean – maybe the start of a relevant FMS procedure would be announced during the Duda’s visit to the US.
Poland is also expected to sign a DCA (Defense Cooperation Act) with the US. We do not know the details of that agreement as for now.
Whether the visit bears substantial value or is a part of the Duda’s election campaign remains to be seen. Poland is to hold Presidential election next Sunday, despite the numerous objections of the public issued in the light of the COVID-19 crisis.
Update Jun. 25, 2020:
It turned out that no specific declarations have been made by the heads of state during the visit. Trump thanked Duda for Poland’s hospitality, as Warsaw currently hosts the US Forces domestically. The Defense Cooperation Agreement is in the making now – it has not been signed during the Duda’s visit. The rumor on the Spangdahlem’s F-16s, as published by DGP, has not been confirmed. The same applies to the C-130 and attack helicopters acquisitions or the Army’s V Corps Command. President Donald Trump did, however, thank Warsaw for acquiring the F-35. As the PR surrounding the visit was very intense, it could be said that the results are disappointing. The only confirmation/statement made with regards to the defense domain suggests that 1,000 additional US soldiers would be stationed in Poland on a rotational basis.