Poland has once again postponed a deadline for final offers in a selection process which is aimed to acquire a new Advanced Jet Trainer/Lead-in Fighter Trainer (AJT/LIFT) for Polish Air Force. Final bids were expected to be submitted in late July 2011, with a contract to be finalized between December 2011 and mid-February 2012. The new date is October 28th, 2011. Ministry of Defense did not give any reasons for such delay but promised that this is the last postponing.
A new trainer aircraft will replace Polish designed and built, TS-11 Iskra combat trainers which has been in service since 1963.
Polish AJT/LIFT project was launched in in late 2009. The advanced jet trainer purchase was expected to advance no later than mid-2010 without a formal tender, due to the urgent need to replace TS-11 Iskra jet airplanes by 2012. (The Iskras were initially going to be retired by 2009). Initial formal issue of an invitation to tender occurred in September 2010.
Polish Ministry of National Defense require 16 advanced LIFT aircrafts, simulators and training classes, ground equipment, training of 12 instructor pilots and 50 maintenance personnel. What is more important, a new AJT/LIFT jet should have large combat capabilities in order to at least partially replace old Su-22M4 close support combat aircrafts. These old jets from Soviet era are planned to be withdrawn over the coming years.
Polish Ministry of Defense received five offers:
- Alenia Aermacchi with M346 Master;
- Korean Aerospace Industries with T-50P Golden Eagle;
- Aero Vodochody with L- 159T1;
- BAE Systems with Hawk T2;
- Patria with modified BAe Hawk T 51/T 51A/66.
A decision to acquire combat/trainer airplane forced BAE to withdraw its Hawk T2 from a selection process in June 2011. In the same time Aero Vodochody withdrew as well. Their L-159T1 does not have an electronic “fly-by-wire” flight control system, a rigid requirement set by Poland. It means that in fact only Korean KAI T-5OP and Italian Alenia Aermacchi M346 are still fighting for a contract. For political reasons Koreans are believed to be favourites.
Poland wants to receive 8 trainers by November 2014 and rest of the aircraft – with combat capabilities – should be delivered by November 2016. By that time a winner should modify all 8 trainers from the first batch and implement full combat capabilities. At any time at least 8 aircraft must be available for training operations. Delivering all 16 aircraft in the final configuration will be extra rewarded during the selection process.