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Poland’s Fleet of F-16 and MiG-29 Plagued By Problems: Is it Capable of Operating the F-35?

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Poland's Fleet of F-16 and MiG-29 Plagued By Problems: Is it Capable of Operating the F-35?

Polish MP Joanna Kluzik-Rostkowska. Click to see full-size image

Polish member of parliament Joanna Kluzik-Rostkowska sent a parliamentary request to the Minister of National Defense of Poland Mariusz Błaszczak to answer questions regarding the condition of the country’s fleet of MiG-29 and F-16 fighter jets.

This inquiry is a result of a report by Polish outlet Onet, which reported of the poor condition of the fighter jet fleet.

Onet has been describing the collapse in the Polish Air Force since 2018 with a piece, which looks into the cause of death of a MiG-29 pilot, Krzysztof Sobański, at Pasłęka, who died because of a faulty modified catapult chair.

In the following articles the outlet described subsequent aviation incident involving fighter jets, the cause of which was their terrible technical condition.

In its most recent report from January, the outlet signaled of serious problems with the MiG-29 and F-16. In the article “The brake parachute came off the MiG-29 fighter. A series of failures after resuming flights,” the outlet describes that after the MiG-29s resumed flights in November 2019, there has been a chain of failures, caused by the age of the fighter jets, and the lack of spare parts for them.

In the articles “Two F-16 fighters are written off by the armed forces, and many cars are not able to fly” and “Polish F-16. We are responding to allegations by the Ministry of National Defense of fake news,” the outlet reported that many of the F-16 in the Polish fleet were grounded due to the remodeling of spare parts to be installed into other aircraft, and, according to unnamed sources, two of which were decommissioned.

After the ministry’s statements about the dissemination of false information, Onet published its questions to the ministry along with the answer of the latter, which shows that the ministry answered only one of the outlet’s five questions.

And now, in February, the MP from the Civil Platform party, Joanna Kluzik-Rostkowska cites the outlet’s articles in her parliamentary request to Minister of National Defense of Poland Mariusz Błaszczak.

“I decided to make a request for two reasons,” she said. “First of all, I read your [Onet’s] publications, which confirm the information coming to me from other sources. The second reason is the mess around the purchase of F-35 fighters.”

The MP hopes that she would be able to receive the answers that Onet couldn’t.

“I understand that there is another formula for providing information to journalists, although I am surprised why the Ministry of National Defense did not write, on what basis they refuse this information. But if they are unable to share this information in public, then as a MP I will ask the to present it to me in a confidential manner,” she explained.

Kluzik-Rostkowska told Onet that the information she read in their articles was also fact-checked with other, independent sources as true.

In the article about F-16 we referred to informants talking about the so-called cannibalization, i.e. rebuilding parts from one machine to another. The anonymous source told Onet that approximately 30-40% of the F-16 were capable of flight.

“I heard that 37% are capable of flying. I asked the minister who did not answer me. At that time, I also heard about cannibalizing fighters,” Kluzik-Rostkowska said.

The entire parliamentary request “On problems with the efficiency of the aircraft of the Polish Air Force, including using the potential of the F-16, the failures of the MiG-29 and concerns about the full use of the F-35, which should be delivered to the Polish armed forces in a few years” can be read below, as submitted by MP Joanna Kluzik-Rostkowska to the Polish Minister of Defense.

“Dear Minister,

According to the reporters from Onet.pl, the Polish Air Force is not able to fully use the potential of the F-16.

According to information received by the journalists, it also appears that out of 29 MiG-29s, only about 6 are capable of flight (“Two F-16 fighters were decommissioned by the armed forces, and many aircraft are not able to fly,” January 31, 2020).

Therefore, please answer the following questions:

  1. How many F-16 aircraft were decommissioned? How many were written off?

  2. What is the partnership with Lockheed Martin, supplier of spare parts for the F-16? Is it true that Poland receives them late?

  3. Is the process of fulfilling orders for weapons – ammunition, missiles, bombs, etc. – being carried out and in accordance with the schedules, affecting the training process for combat aircraft pilots?

  4. How many F-16 pilots currently have flight clearance under any conditions and are ready to carry out combat missions? According to the presentation of Professor Thomas Darell Young, who works with the Ministry of National Defense and lectures at Polish military schools, during the international Defense and Security Monitor conference in Bucharest in October 2019, there are only 23 of them. The subsequent presentation of the Polish military attaché did not refute this information.

  5. Is the process of training pilots on other types of combat aircraft ongoing, guaranteeing the complete training of crews for operations in all weather conditions, day and night?

  6. How many pilots today are fully trained to carry out combat missions in any weather conditions day or night on certain types of combat aircraft?

  7. Did any (with specific numbers) accidents with and failures of the MiG-29 affect the decisions of their pilots to resign or change the type of aircraft they operate?

  8. How is the process of restoring the flying abilities of pilots of MiG-29 aircraft — how many of them have reached full combat readiness, which directly affects the level of state security?

  9. How many MiG-29 fighter jets are currently capable of flying?

  10. Has the lost braking parachute used by the MIG-29 on January 14, 2020 near Malbork been found?

  11. How do you intend to fully use the potential of F-35, if we are not able to use the capabilities of the F-16?

  12. In addition to purchasing the F-35, does the Minister have a plan to pull the Polish Air Force out of the collapse, especially since they will reach combat readiness in 8-10 years at the earliest?”

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