USAFE welcomes Poland to European F-35 User's Group

  • Published
  • By Mr. Jeff Kelly and Capt. Erik Anthony
  • U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Public Affairs

Gen. Jeff Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander, presented a letter to Maj. Gen. Jacek Pszczoła, inspector of the Polish Air Force, welcoming Poland to the European F-35 User’s Group, in Dęblin, Poland, Jan. 31.

Poland is the ninth member of the European F-35 User’s Group, and the first country in Eastern Europe to transition to the F-35 Lightning II. Other participating nations include the U.S., Belgium, Denmark, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom. The European F-35 User’s Group is a formal and persistent venue where members share information, lessons learned and best practices as aircraft are acquired and fielded.

“Poland’s decision to acquire the F-35 demonstrates confidence in the aircraft, but more importantly, the strength of our relationship,” Harrigian said. “I look forward to the day the first F-35 arrives in Poland, and we pledge our support to help integrate this fifth-generation fighter capability into the Polish Air Force.”

In the years since the release of the U.S. military’s newest fighter aircraft, the F-35 has provided pilots unprecedented levels of lethality, survivability and situational awareness, allowing warfighters to engage and win in hostile environments. With the formal signing of the Letter of Offer & Acceptance in Dęblin, Poland commits to the purchase of 32 F-35 aircraft.

Col. John Echols, USAFE-AFAFRICA chief of 5th Generation Integration, echoed Harrigian’s appreciation for Poland’s commitment to the F-35 program and detailed how the addition of the aircraft in Eastern Europe will bolster NATO’s deterrence posture.

“Fifth generation fighters represent a revolutionary leap in technology and capability for the U.S. and our allies in the European theater,” Echols said. “The F-35’s ability to integrate and connect with forces across all domains is a force multiplier. Information is a critical commodity and the F-35’s ability to collect data, then connect and rapidly share that information with allied surface, maritime, space and cyber forces is a game-changer for 21st century coalition warfare.”

The delivery of future F-35s will strengthen the Polish Air Force, which currently operates a fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcons and legacy Mig-29s and Su-22s. The legacy aircraft are set to be replaced by the F-35, giving the Polish Air Force greater interoperability with NATO allies.

The F-35 is a fifth generation, multi-role fighter, with superior combat capability that is designed to integrate with fourth generation aircraft and complement the technology already in place.

The next meeting of the European F-35 Air Chiefs is scheduled for spring 2020 at Ramstein Air Base.