Breaking Ties with the Past – FA-50GF Fighters to Finally Replace all Soviet Jets in Polish Air Force

Induction of the FA-50 Light Fighter Jets marks the end of Soviet era fighters in Poland's Air Force.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

The Polish Air Force’s first two FA-50GF Fighting Eagle combat aircraft were displayed for the general public at an exhibition on August 21, 2023, at the Minsk-Mazowiecki base in Poland. Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) headquarters in South Korea is the company that was responsible for producing the light combat (training-combat) aircraft. The aircraft, which can be recognised by their Polish registration numbers “5001” and “5002,” have been added to the fleet of Poland’s 23rd Tactical Air Base in Minsk-Mazowiecki. Mariusz Baaszczak, who is Poland’s Minister of National Defence, was present during the ceremony.

This event signifies the beginning of the complete withdrawal of fighters from the Soviet era from the Polish Air Force. It began in 2006 with 48 F-16s purchased from the United States.

Mariusz Baszczak provided his consent for the execution of two contracts between the Polish government and the South Korean company KAI on September 16, 2022. The conclusion of these contracts allows Poland to acquire 48 FA-50 light combat aircraft. KAI will be responsible for delivering twelve FA-50GF (Block 10) aircraft under the terms of the preliminary agreement, which has a monetary value of about 700 million dollars. The second deal, which pertains to purchasing 36 light fighters in a customised FA-50PL configuration, is expected to be around 2.3 billion dollars. Provisions for logistical support, training, and technical assistance are all included in both contracts.

The twelve FA-50GF (“Gap Filler”) aircraft purchased by Poland under the first contract are virtually identical in equipment to the FA-50 Block 10 aircraft delivered to the South Korean Air Force. By the end of 2023, it is predicted that Poland’s 23rd Tactical Air Base will have successfully integrated 12 FA-50GF aircraft. These planes will fill in for the MiG-29 fighters that Poland had previously sent to Ukraine as the country’s primary air defence system.

In the presence of Mariusz Baszczak, the formal rollout and presentation ceremony of the first FA-50GF aircraft for Poland (with registration “5002”) took place on June 7 in Sachon. July 10 marked the delivery of both FA-50GF aircraft (with registration numbers “5001” and “5002”) from South Korea to Warsaw-Okecie Airport via a Boeing 747 cargo jet. Between July 23 and 25, South Korean pilots conducted flight demonstrations at the 23rd Tactical Air Base in Minsk-Mazowiecki. On July 28, a Polish aviator piloted the first flight of an FA-50GF aircraft with the registration number “5001.” Both of these aircraft are currently operational. In the past few days, two additional FA-50GF aircraft were delivered to Poland, and the remaining eight will arrive by the end of the year.

FA-50GF Fighting Eagle combat aircraft on display
FA-50GF Fighting Eagle combat aircraft on display. 08/21/2023 (c) Ministry of National Defense of Poland

The first 36 FA-50PL aircraft is expected to be delivered in 2025. These aircraft will be designed to fulfil the Polish Air Force’s supplemental standards and closely resemble the FA-50 Block 20 variant. It is anticipated that the delivery process will be finished by the end of the year 2028. It is anticipated that the Polish Air Force will utilise the aircraft to fulfil the role of replacements for the remaining MiG-29 fighters and the Su-22M4 and Su-22UM3K fighter bombers currently in use by the Polish Air Force. An extensive armament suite is expected to be included in the FA-50PL model. This armament suite is believed to have 20mm cannons, Sidewinder and Maverick missiles, and various bombs. In addition, it will likely be outfitted with a Raytheon PhantomStrike radar that uses AESA technology, upgraded avionics, and the ability to refuel in the air. In the future, the FA-50GF aircraft will be upgraded to the FA-50PL model.

The bilateral agreements between Poland and South Korea include a complete training package that provides ground simulators, training for both pilots and ground employees, and a material and technical support package that includes training for both pilots and ground staff. This package also includes replacement parts and consumables. In the latter half of 2022, Polish soldiers stationed in South Korea began training on the FA-50 aircraft. South Korean instructors conducted this training.

The KAI T-50 Golden Eagle, a light fighter/trainer aircraft, served as the basis for the development of the FA-50 aircraft, which was then modified by the American corporation Lockheed Martin. After previous acquisitions were made by Iraq (24 T-50IQ aircraft, which are essentially equivalent to the FA-50 variant), Indonesia (22 T-50i), the Philippines (12 FA-50PH), and Thailand (14 T-50TH), Poland has emerged as the fifth and most significant international purchaser of the T-50/FA-50 aircraft series. The South Korean Air Force has purchased and signed contracts for a total fleet of 142 aircraft belonging to the T-50 series. This includes 50 T-50 aircraft, 10 T-50B aircraft, 22 TA-50 aircraft, and 60 FA-50 aircraft. In addition, it is important to note that the country of Malaysia entered into a legally binding agreement in the year 2023 to purchase a total of 18 FA-50 Block 20 aircraft.


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