Until the end of 2016, the Polish Ministry of Defence may sign an agreement, the purpose of which would be to procure the JASSM-ER cruise missiles, with a range of 900 kilometres. The missiles are to be used by the Polish F-16 Jastrząb jets. Currently, negotiation with the United States is in progress. No information, pertaining to the number or price of the missiles to be acquired, has been released.
According to the information obtained by Defence24.pl from the Armament Inspectorate, unofficially confirmed by the Americans, a negotiation procedure is on the go, pertaining to procurement of the JASSM-ER missiles for the Polish F-16 jets. Contrary to the basic JASSM missiles, 40 examples of which were acquired in December 2014, the ER variant’s range has been extended from 370 up to more than 900 kilometres. Most probably the procurement has been started back in 2014, when agreement has been signed to acquire only 40 missiles in the basic variant, along with MLU programme, allowing the Polish fighters to act as the carrier of the weapon.
According to the information obtained by us, the Poles have already conducted a document exchange procedure with the US Administration during the spring this year, in order to acquire more JASSM missiles, with a particular focus placed on the ER variant. Finalization of the agreement and conclusion of the contract, should all of the formal procedures be completed, is expected to take place before the end of this year. Then, the JASSM-ER missiles for Poland could come from the Loot 16, while Loot 15 procurements are already planned and negotiated. This means that the weapons could possibly be delivered to Poland by 2020. If Poland also orders the JASSM-ER missiles, operational capabilities of the F-16 jets would be greatly enhanced. Poland, should this be the case, would become the first foreign user of the ordnance in question.
AGM-158B JASSM-ER missiles, with expanded range exceeding 900 kilometres, have primarily been integrated solely with the B-1B Lancer aircraft. Nonetheless, soon they will also be adopted for use on the B-52H bombers and F-15 and F-16 jet fighters. In the light of the fact that the F-16 jet is not a priority platform for the United States Air Force, if Poland decides to acquire the ER variant of the American Missile, then the Polish F-16 jets may become the first Vipers integrated with the latest variant of the weapon. This would require additional works to be carried out, due to the differences between the two variants of the JASSM missile.
The long range variant has a fuselage of the same dimensions, however, it is characterized by a little bit different weight distribution and balancing specifications. This is because the missile utilizes a new propulsion system and carries more fuel, facilitating the doubled range of 900 kilometres. Nevertheless, the above changes would require to check the balancing and stress resistance of the airframe which carries such missile, also within a series of test flights.
The Armament Inspectorate is currently carrying out several procurement procedures related to acquisition of modern air-to-surface armament for the F-16C/D Jastrząb fighters. The above statement is also applicable when referring to guided bomb units and anti-radiation missiles, the acquisition of which is also expected to be contracted by the end of the year.