How powerful is the Polish air force and will it be able to take over air defense over western Ukraine

Poland is armed with 48 F-16 multi-role fighters, they may well “close the sky” over part of Ukraine.

Polish Air Force / Wojsko Polskie

In Poland, they have already begun to talk about the possibility of organizing anti-missile defense over the western regions of Ukraine. So far, at the level of the ex-head of the National Security Bureau of Poland, Stanislav Kozei, who expressed such an opinion and offered to formally argue this with “preventive protection, because the missiles are flying towards Poland.”

At the same time, the main issue in the deployment of such an anti-missile umbrella over part of Ukraine will be solely the political readiness of Warsaw, because from a technical point of view, the air force and air defense of Poland looks quite combat-ready.

Polish Air Force

According to the Military Balance database of countries’ military potentials from the British International Institute for Strategic Studies, the core of the Polish air force is three squadrons of F-16 Block 52+, and the total number of these aircraft is 48.

F-16 Block 52+ in the service of Poland / Wojsko Polskie

These aircraft, equipped with modern radars, are capable of detecting and tracking small targets against the ground, such as cruise missiles. And for their destruction, not only the AIM-120 long-range air-to-air missile with a flight range of up to 105 km is suitable, but also the much cheaper AIM-9 with a launch range of up to 35 km, or even a cannon.

The flight range in the air patrol configuration, four air-to-air missiles and external fuel tanks, in accordance with the specification for the F-16 Block 52+, is 1750 km or several hours of patrol.

Also in Poland, 22 Soviet MiG-29s remain in service, but Warsaw has already transferred all the spare parts and missiles for them to Ukraine, so these aircraft will most likely be removed from combat duty.

MiG-29 / Wojsko Polskie

By the way, in any case, Poland planned to remove these Soviet aircraft from service by ordering modern fifth-generation F-35A fighters. The contract from 2020 for 32 cars pulled in 4.6 billion dollars. But these ultra-modern aircraft should arrive according to the original plan no earlier than 2024, and the formation of the first squadron was planned at the level of 2026.

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Ground component of Poland’s air defense

In fact, fighter jets are one of the most effective means of destroying cruise missiles, because in fact they are mobile air defense weapons. And this is clearly seen in the example of Poland, which first focused on updating the aircraft fleet, and then began to work on strengthening the ground component of air defense.

In particular, the Polish Army has 17 S-125 units, one S-200 and 20 Kub air defense systems. All these development complexes of the 60s, which have an extremely limited combat capability. Therefore, in 2017, Poland ordered four MIM-104 Patriot PAC-3+ anti-missile batteries from the United States, which cost it $4.75 billion. And recently ordered six more.


But while the air defense system has not even reached Poland from the first order, it is expected that this will happen before the end of this year. And the initial readiness for combat use should be achieved at the level of the end of 2023 – the beginning of 2024.

That is, the Polish air force, thanks to the F-16 aircraft, can already quite effectively carry out air patrol missions in the sky of Ukraine. Such a fraternal shoulder will make it possible to increase the concentration of our aircraft and air defense systems in other areas. This will significantly increase the number of destroyed enemy cruise missiles and cover more important objects.

At the same time, the example of Poland demonstrates well that the deployment of a full-fledged air defense based on the most modern fighters and anti-aircraft missile systems costs about 10 billion dollars and several years from order to deployment on combat duty.

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