Poland expects to sign a production contract with General Atomics for the MQ-9B SkyGuardian UAVs within weeks, according to a senior Polish military official, as part of a broad air force modernization effort that has been boosted by the Russian invasion. from Ukraine.
The Polish Ministry of National Defense announced in October 2022 a plan to acquire the new aircraft in order to replace the MQ-9A platforms leased to the US. However, Major General Cezary Wisniewski has revealed that it is just a few days away from the signing of the contract. MQ-9A Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) aircraft currently fly reconnaissance missions on Poland’s eastern border and were originally leased for an urgent operational need.
“Right now, we are working on a contract with General Atomics for the MQ-9 Bravo,” Wisniewski, deputy commander of the Polish Armed Forces, said at the International Fighter Conference in Madrid. «The contract will be ready in two or three weeks. “It’s not a large number [of aircraft], and we actually don’t need a large number because our ISR workhorse is the [MALE] TB2 [Bayraktar] drone.”
Poland first ordered 24 Turkish-made TB2 UAVs in May 2021 and has subsequently received three of the four delivery lots, according to Wisniewski. “The fourth is on the way,” he added.
The TB2 has also been used consistently in the Ukrainian war, along with a wide range of lower-class unmanned aerial vehicles and loitering munitions, but the US government has so far refused to approve the supply of MQ-9 Reapers or of larger types to Ukrainian forces, despite pressure from General Atomics and an offer from the manufacturer to Kyiv to buy two units for $1.
Mark Brinkley, GA-ASI’s chief marketing and communications strategist, said today that “any details on the status” of Poland’s MQ-9B order “need to come from the [Polish] government,” but noted that MQ’s leased fleet -9A has logged more than 1,200 flight hours and “by all reports is a welcome addition to Poland’s military operations.”
He added that Poland’s “rapid acquisition” of the MQ-9B would “greatly expand security across Europe,” reinforced by current orders for these aircraft across the continent from Belgium and the United Kingdom.
“We look forward to continuing to cooperate with Poland in its efforts to confront Russian aggression in the region,” Brinkley stated.
Meanwhile, Poland is also carrying out a market assessment of loyalist wingmen aircraft as a precursor to launching a full procurement program, although the latter could take between two and five years or more, largely because Wisniewski said: “We believe the industry is not yet ready to demonstrate capabilities.”
He noted that Boeing’s MQ-28 Ghost Bat is being eyed, in development with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and the US Air Force’s Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) program, intended to operate with aircraft Next Generation Air Dominance and F-35 eventually.
“We have allocated some money for the future for this loyal wingman project,” Wisniewski said. «We are not at the point of starting to work on the acquisition. It is just a vision of content, and we are waiting for more information to make sure we do not make a mistake. “We just want to join the general approach.”
Furthermore, although Poland has committed to acquiring an additional 32 new fighters, it will take longer before a decision is made on which aircraft to acquire because a new government has yet to take power, Wisniewski explained.
Wisniewski confirmed that Boeing’s Eurofighter Typhoon and F-15EX are part of the new fighter order but added that a second F-35 purchase is also possible.
“Right now, my team is in Italy, talking to Airbus about the Eurofighter, discussing the capabilities, the marketing figures, but also going a little deeper,” he added. “This is the initial [evaluation] phase of the commitment to [acquire] new fighters.”
Regarding Poland’s original order for 32 F-35 aircraft, delivery of the first aircraft is scheduled for 2025, Wisniewski added. A first group of eight pilots will also travel to the United States next year to receive training on the plane. Poland plans to send 20 in total.