European F-35 base is more expensive than expected, and this worries the Poles
WARSAW, (BM) – Work on the US Air Force’s first F-35A F-35A multi-role multi-role aircraft base located outside the United States is prolonged and will cost more, the US Air Force reported, learned BulgarianMilitary.com citing Defence24.
Do higher costs of building facilities at the Lakenheath base mean that the base for Polish Harpies will also cost more?
In 2015, it was assumed that the reconstruction of the Lakenheath base would cost the American taxpayer USD 480 million. This is much more than the expected costs of bases rebuilt for the same purpose by Norway or Belgium, which assume an expenditure of USD 300-350 million.
Contrary to the aforementioned two countries, which bought 30 (ultimately 52) and 34 machines, respectively, and therefore, similarly to Poland, Lakenheath is to host two American squadrons, each equipped with 24 aircraft.
The scale is therefore different, especially since in this case it is possible to build an infrastructure that would allow the reception of more of these advanced and infrastructure-demanding machines, e.g. after meals arrive from the United States.
Work in Lakenheath began in July last year and was expected to be largely completed by November 2021. In 2019, construction of seven of the 14 buildings planned for the project began, as well as the demolition of some existing buildings.
The planned structures include new hangars, a simulator building, warehouses and workshops, as well as a command building. Some of these investments are ready, others are lagging behind.
Read more: Poland Buys F-35
According to Defense News, it turned out that costs increased by about 25 percent, or USD 90 million. The work time will also be extended. It is not known whether the planned schedule of the arrival of technical personnel in June 2021 and the arrival of the first aircraft in November 2021 will be met.
Does this mean that the Polish base (bases?) For the F-35 will also be more expensive? For now, this question is open. Cost estimates for Polish bases were made a few years after the Lakenheath expansion was planned and may have accounted for some cost drivers, but the efforts of Americans in the UK, as well as other F-35 users in Europe and beyond, are worth following.
The higher than expected costs of employing British workers and the necessary counterintelligence protection related to their employment were to contribute to the increase in costs. The venture was also increased by an attempt to accelerate the work, which started a year earlier than originally planned, as well as a mysterious greater “complexity” than predicted.
The USAF had to ask Congress for an increase in resources, after receiving special approval from the Pentagon. An interim solution that will allow the F-35A to enter service in Europe to be maintained is to lease the UK infrastructure currently being developed for its F-35. It is therefore expected to be more “crowded” for a while, but combat readiness and deterrence on the European continent is to be maintained.
Currently, three American squadrons operate from Lakenheath, equipped with F-15C / D Eagle and F-15E Strike Eagle. The first of them and the only one with an older, intercepting F-15 version is kept under the funds of the European Deterrence Initiative, because its disbandment was planned until recently.
Did Poland buy F-35 fighter jets without any weapons?
As we reported earlier this year, Poland has agreed to buy fifth-generation F-35s from the United States.
Polish media disclosed then information about a deal with the United States for the supply of F-35 fighters. It may well turn out that Washington will supply the fifth generation fighters without weapons.
Then, the military observer Zbigniew Lentovic has wrote that the Polish Ministry of Defense “is considering a contract for the purchase of 32 F-35 fighters for $ 4.6 billion. This is approximately 144 million dollars per combat unit.”
The United States will receive this money not only for the aircrafts themselves. The amount includes:
- training of Polish pilots – about 114 people;
- creation of a training base;
- supply of eight simulators;
- operation of training equipment until 2030.
This fact and some other hints allowed the expert to assume that the contract is not so simple. Most likely, he reflects, “the United States will give Poland virtually empty planes, that is, without weapons”.
Poles will have to buy separately. About how much the transaction will cost in this case is not said.
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