December 13, 1998 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Poland's Defense Ministry has asked the cabinet to approve the lease of up to 36 fighter aircraft from the United States. The US offered to lease second-hand F-16 or F-18 fighter jets to Poland for five years at a cost of around $100 million, including training for pilots and ground crews.
The Polish government would discuss the U.S. offer this month. Analysts say Poland
will eventually have to buy about 100 multi-purpose fighter planes to upgrade its dilapidated fleet of some 350 communist-era aircraft. But budget restrictions have put paid to ambitious purchase plans and the air force has been forced to seek alternatives to keep it flying once the country joins NATO
In November British Aerospace, together with Sweden's Saab and Germany's Daimler-Benz Aerospace, offered to modernize Poland's existing fleet of Soviet-designed MiG-29 aircraft and to train its personnel.
Winning the transitional deal is regarded as key by Western aircraft manufacturers to eventually securing the lucrative contract to supply new combat planes.