November 9, 2006 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Poland has today offically taken delivery of its first four F-16s. Though the four planes landed safely at the Poznań-Krzesiny air base, Polish officials weren't sure whether they would make it for the official ceremonies.
PolAF F-16C block 52 #4042 & F-16D block 52 #4077 perform a fly past at Krzesiny AFB on November 9th, 2006. [Photo by Krzysztof Puziak]
The planes had to turn around when they were over the Atlantic Ocean after a radar system malfunction was detected in one of them. A second attempt to fly the F-16s to Poland
failed too. Two planes (#4043
) had to make unplanned stopovers in Keflavik, Iceland and Leuchars, Scotland due to an inflight refueling problem while the other two flew on to Spangdahlem AB, Germany (#4042
Following a long-standing Polish tradition Polish President Lech Kaczynski and the First Lady, christened the jets with the Polish code name "Jastrzab" (Hawk) during today's official hand-over ceremony.
Other Polish dignitaries attending the ceremony Radoslaw Sikorski, minister of national defense; Lt. Gen. Stanislaw Targosz, commander of the Poland Air Force; Gen. Franciszek Gągor, The Adjutant General; and other senior Polish officials. Representing the U.S. Government were Victor Ashe, U.S. ambassador to Poland and Gen. Tom Hobbins, U.S. Air Force Europe Commander.
Three military clergymen -- one each for the Roman Catholic, Orthodox Christian and Protestant faiths -- blessed one of the four planes before red and white balloons, matching Poland's national colors, were released into the air.
"The state-of-the-art capabilities of the Poland F-16 contribute significantly to the modernization of our armed forces and will play a major role in the protection of our nation and our allies," said Minister of National Defense Radoslaw Sikorski.
Lt. Gen. Targosz, commander of the Poland Air Force stated, "Acquiring the most technologically advanced F-16s in European NATO
will allow us to train together, operate together, fly together and learn from one another. These F-16s enable us to carry out operations as NATO and allow the Poland Air Force to become a strong coalition partner."
A total of eight F-16s are due to be delivered to Poland before the end of this year. They are part of a 48-aircraft (36 F-16Cs and 12 F-16Ds) order by the Government of Poland.