JANOW, Poland (AP) — Poland on Friday sealed $3 billion in deals with South Korea for the purchase of 48 Korean FA-50 fighter planes as the central European country takes urgent steps to increase its deterrence and defense capabilities amid Russia’s war on neighboring Ukraine.
The two deals for the purchase of Fighting Falcon combat and training planes follow contracts signed last month for the acquisition by Poland of $5.8 billion worth of South Korean tanks and howitzers.
Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, who is the armed forces' supreme commander, and South Korea's Minister of Defense Acquisition Program Administration, Eom Dong-hwan, attended the signing ceremony at a military airport in Janow, near the air force base of Minsk Mazowiecki, in central Poland.
The documents were signed by Poland's deputy prime minister who is also the defense minister, Mariusz Blaszczak, who said it was “another historic day when new perspectives are opening before Poland's armed forces.”
Eom said with the contracts, the cooperation is being raised to a higher level.
“Until recently, we were partners. Now we can say that we are allies,” he said.
Under one agreement, worth $700 million, the first 12 planes are to be delivered in the second half of next year. The second deal, estimated at $2.3 billion, is for 36 planes to be delivered between 2025 and 2028.
According to Duda, the purchase of the FA-50 fighters will “make it possible for us to fully give up the use of the (Soviet-made) MiG-29 and the Su-22 ” that Poland's armed forces now have, as an inheritance from the times, decades ago, when it belonged to the Moscow-led Warsaw Pact.
Duda said Korea sees the deals as an “opening for the Korean fighter planes to the European Union and NATO markets.”
The light, two-seater planes are made by Korea Aerospace Industries jointly with U.S. company Lockheed Martin, and are compatible with the U.S.-made F-16 fighters that Poland's air force is equipped with and with the contracted F-35A fighters, according to Poland's Defense Ministry.
The deals include training, logistics and transfer of some service technologies. Warsaw says this is one of Poland’s biggest and most important defense deals in recent years.
Poland, like other European nations and the United States, has sent military equipment to Ukraine since the Russian invasion. Warsaw is seeking to replace some of that equipment, including with U.S.-made Abrams tanks.