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Gen. Harrigian welcomes Poland to European F-35 User's Group

Gen. Jeff Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander, presents Inspector of the Polish Air Force, Maj Gen Jacek Pszczola, an official invitation to the European F-35 Users Group, in Dęblin, Poland, Jan. 31, 2020. The users group is a formal and persistent venue where members share information, lessons learned and best practices as the F-35 aircraft are acquired and fielded. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Madeline Krpan)

Gen. Jeff Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander, presents Inspector of the Polish Air Force, Maj Gen Jacek Pszczola, an official invitation to the European F-35 Users Group, in Dęblin, Poland, Jan. 31, 2020. The users group is a formal and persistent venue where members share information, lessons learned and best practices as the F-35 aircraft are acquired and fielded. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Madeline Krpan)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany --

U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Commander Gen. Jeff Harrigian presented a letter to Inspector of the Polish Air Force Maj. Gen. Jacek Pszczoła, welcoming Poland to the European F-35 User’s Group, in Dęblin, Poland, Jan. 31, 2019.

Poland is the ninth member of the European F-35 User’s Group, and the first country in Eastern Europe to transition to the F-35. Other participating nations include the U.S., Belgium, Denmark, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and the United Kingdom. The European F-35 User’s Group is a formal and persistent venue where members share information, lessons learned and best practices as aircraft are acquired and fielded.

“Poland’s decision to acquire the F-35 demonstrates confidence in the aircraft, but more importantly, the strength of our relationship,” said Harrigian. “I look forward to the day the first F-35 arrives in Poland, and we pledge our support to help integrate this fifth generation fighter capability into the Polish Air Force.”

In the years since the release of the U.S. military’s newest fighter aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II has provided pilots unprecedented levels of lethality, survivability, and situational awareness, allowing warfighters to engage and win in hostile environments. With the formal signing of the Letter of Offer & Acceptance in Dęblin, Friday, Poland commits to the purchase of 32 F-35 aircraft.

USAFE-AFAFRICA, Chief of 5th Generation Integration, Col. John Echols echoed Harrigian’s appreciation for Poland’s commitment to the F-35 program and detailed how the addition of the aircraft in Eastern Europe will bolster NATO’s deterrence posture.

“Fifth generation fighters represent a revolutionary leap in technology and capability for the U.S. and our allies in the European theater.” Echols said. “The F-35’s ability to integrate and connect with forces across all domains is a force multiplier. Information is a critical commodity and the F-35’s ability to collect data, then connect and rapidly share that information with allied surface, maritime, space and cyber forces is a game-changer for 21st century coalition warfare.”

The delivery of future F-35 fighters will strengthen the Polish Air Force, which currently operates a fleet of F-16 aircraft and legacy Mig-29s and Su-22s. The legacy aircraft are set to be replaced by the F-35, giving the Polish Air Force greater interoperability with NATO allies.

The F-35 is a 5th generation multi-role fighter, with superior combat capability that is designed to integrate with 4th generation aircraft and complement the technology already in place.

The next meeting of European F-35 Air Chiefs is scheduled for spring 2020 at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.