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IFC 23: Poland sets out future F-35 ‘loyal wingman' plan

The Boeing MQ-28 Ghost Bat is one of the international ‘loyal wingman' programmes being considered by Poland for its Harpii Szpon programme. (Commonwealth of Australia)

Poland is assessing the market as it looks to field an unmanned ‘loyal wingman' for its future fleet of Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II combat aircraft, the Deputy General Commander of the Polish Armed Forces said on 6 November.

Speaking at the IQPC International Fighter Conference (IFC) 2023 in Madrid, Major General Cezary Wisniewski said the Ministry of National Defence (NMD) is conducting a market evaluation of the loyal wingman unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) now being developed around the world, as it looks to fulfil its Harpii Szpon (Harpy's Talon) adjunct programme for the F-35.

“We are not yet at the point of an acquisition. We are [now] just waiting for more information to be sure that we don't make a mistake – we just want to join the mainstream approach, [but] we think that industry is not ready to provide the capabilities yet,” Maj Gen Wisniewski said.

With the Polish Air Force contracted to buy 32 F-35As under the Harpy programme, Harpy's Talon is designed to add affordable mass. International development efforts currently under way that Maj Gen Wisniewski cited as being of interest to Poland included the Boeing MQ-28 Ghost Bat that is being led by the Royal Australian Air Force and the Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) of the US Air Force.

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