April 18, 2003 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Poland signed a deal this friday to buy 48 F-16 jet fighters for $3.5 billion, the biggest defense contract by a former Soviet bloc country since the end of the Cold War.
The purchase contract also includes spare engines, missiles and bombs as well as technical details and the terms of training for Polish pilots. The aircraft will be built in Fort Worth, Texas, and deliveries will start in 2006.
The block 52
F-16s will be replacing Poland
's Soviet-made MiG fighters as the country modernizes its military to NATO
standards. Poland joined NATO in 1999, along with Hungary and the Czech Republic.
The Polish government already announced last December that it had chosen the U.S. government-backed offer over two rival European offers - the Swedish-British Gripen jet and the French-made Mirage 2000. But negotiating the investment in the so-called offset deals took several more months.
The offset program is to run over 10 years. Major projects include plans by General Motors to expand a plant in Gliwice, Poland, and a pledge by Motorola to invest in a state-of-the-art communication system for Polish public services.
Polish plants are to make engines and engine parts for Lockheed Martin and for Pratt & Whitney. U.S. companies, including a subsidiary of the Houston-based Halliburton Co., are to modernize a major refinery at Gdansk and cooperate with Polish pharmaceuticals makers.