According to the information acquired by us, the Armament Inspectorate sent a request to the Leonardo company on 10th January 2018, with the said request concerning the optional acquisition of additional 4 M-346 Master airframes, in line with the agreement concluded on 27th February 2014. The agreement concerned the advanced training system, including simulators, ground infrastructure and 8 M-346 Master aircraft. The jets, having been delivered between 2016 and 2017, now wait for the whole system to be handed-off. According to the later annoucement in the Tender Electronic Daily, four more aircraft are an option, so together Poland could receive up to 16 Master aicraft.
Lt. Col. Robert Wincencik, spokesman for the Polish Armament Inspectorate, suggested that the whole procedure would take place in a manner independent from the execution of the contractual penalty, applied in line with the contract concluded back in 2014. The penalty isssue emerged due to the fact that the jets delivered were not compliant with the technical conditions required to hand off the aircraft in a proper manner. The M-346 Masters could not have become a part of the inventory of the Polish Air Force at the time, as not all of the armament types could have been simulated by the jet’s avionics.
Considering the aforesaid problem, the contractual penalty in an amount of 0.1% of the total value of the given delivery for each day of delay became valid. The handing-off procedure, on the other hand, was suspended. Bartosz Kownacki announced in December 2017 that the penalty has grown up to 100 million zlotys, which means Poland could be getting a single example of the jet for free.
M-346 Master jets are to replace the older TS-11 Iskra trainers, providing the pilot with aircraft handling and human-machine interface reminiscent of those applicable in case of the F-16 Jastrząb fighter aircraft. The new trainers would significantly enhance the pilot training system’s quality, also diminishing the costs of training. The decision to acquire another four jets would meet the requirements defined by the Air Force: 8 jets are a bare minimum, while 12 or more examples would provide the service in question with a certain degree of training flexibility. Furthermore, Dęblin may become an important international pilots training centre, both within the NATO structures, as well as in the EU.
As the Leonardo company is looking forward to receiving more orders concerning the M-346 platform, it is plausible that Agreement could be signed before the second quarter of this year begins.
Expansion of the Masters fleet to 12 or 16 airframes shall be seen, along with the agreement related to modernization of 12 PZL-130 Orliks to the TC-II standard signed in December 2017, as a relevant reinforcement of the Polish pilots training potential. The significance of this fact is of great value, as the Polish Air Force faces pilots shortage and low number of logged hours – costs are high, assets available - limited. What is more, not only can the M-346 be used as an advanced training platform, as Master is also capable of operating jointly with other aircraft, including the F-16 jet.