Poland would not get rid of the backbone of its air force.
Although integrating F-16s in the Ukrainian Air Force would not be easy, Ukraine is still working to obtain two squadrons of Fighting Falcon jets. On Jan. 30, 2023, Andrii Yernak, the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, stated on Telegram that “Work on obtaining F-16 fighters continues. We have positive signals from Poland, which is ready to pass them on to us in coordination with NATO.”
Contrary to the claims of the Ukrainian media and officials, Polish officials did not mention the F-16 specifically in any way, and responding to questions asked by the journalists on that matter, Mateusz Morawiecki, the Polish PM, said: “Similarly as it was a few months back, within the context of MiGs, here it’s gonna be the same, [transfer of] any other air assets would be coordinated with NATO states, implemented with them, and eventually transferred. We will work in complete coordination.”
Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov claimed that last year he made up a Christmas wish list, including “fighter aircraft, air assets, ATACMS-like missiles, or similar assets offering a stand-off capability to attack Russian fuel and munitions storage, and command posts”.
It remains highly unlikely, however, that Poland would be transferring any of its F-16s to Ukraine. First, the Polish fleet of 48 F-16 Block 52+ Vipers forms the very backbone of the Polish Air Force now. That branch of the military also operates the MiG-29 and the Su-22 as its prime combat assets. As we can remember from last year, the MiG-29 Fulcrums were not transferred to Ukraine in the end, and they were moved to the Malbork AB in northern Poland instead. It would really be less than logical to keep the Fulcrums in their nest and get rid of the most modern, and the most critically needed air asset – and send it to Ukraine. Especially, as no direct replacement would be directly available.
As Thomas Newdick of The Drive wrote in his piece “transferring a portion of the Polish F-16 fleet would appear to be less likely than securing secondhand jets from NATO operators actively drawing down their Viper fleets.” There are numerous European users of the F-16 that are withdrawing their Vipers as they are gradually being replaced by the F-35 – such as the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and Belgium. The legacy F-16AM/BM aircraft would be far more likely to be the candidate for a potential transfer.