By Raymond Rolak
The annual exhibition, which begins on Tuesday and runs until Friday, will feature military equipment displayed by exhibitors from countries as far away as Australia, Brazil and Taiwan.
Poland’s President Andrzej Duda and Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak were expected to attend the opening of the trade fair on Tuesday, together with US Ambassador Georgette Mosbacher.
Also expected are exhibitors from the United States, Canada, Britain, France and Germany.
American-produced weaponry will take center stage, with the United States as guest nation at this year’s event.
First held in 1993, the International Defense Industry Exhibition in Kielce is now in its 27th year. It is billed as one of the largest events of its kind in the world.
In other defense news, the Polish Ministry of Defense plans to allocate about 185 billion zloty (U.S. $47 billion) toward acquiring new weapons and military equipment, with fifth-generation fighter jets a top priority.
Twenty years after Poland joined NATO, and despite the integration of some Western-made fighter jets and armored vehicles, the country still uses Soviet-designed gear dating back to the 1955 Warsaw Pact.
Poland and other allies in Eastern Europe are intensifying their military modernization efforts in response to Russian activity along NATO’s eastern flank and its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine.
For 2019, the Polish MoD set a record budget, at more than 44 billion zloty, as required by the country’s plan to raise defense spending to 2.1 percent of gross domestic product in 2020, and reach 2.5 percent in 2030. A significant share of the country’s defense spending is to be directed at the acquisition of Western-made gear.
Warsaw’s potential acquisition of fifth-gen fighters is one of the top modernization projects in the pipeline. In May, Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said the ministry sent a letter of request to the U.S. regarding Warsaw’s plan to acquire 32 F-35A aircraft. The fighters are to replace the Air Force’s outdated, Soviet-designed Sukhoi Su-22 and Mikoyan MiG-29 jets.
Negotiations for the jets are taking place as Warsaw is seeking a permanent U.S. military presence in Poland, dubbed “Fort Trump.” Warsaw offered to allocate at least $2 billion toward the project under which the U.S. would build a military base in the country. On June 12, Polish President Andrzej Duda met with U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington to discuss the initiative and ink a joint declaration on defense cooperation regarding U.S. force posture in Poland.
“The United States plans to enhance its current military presence of approximately 4,500 rotational U.S. military personnel in Poland. This enduring presence is expected to grow by about 1,000 additional U.S. military personnel in the near-term, and would focus on providing additional defense and deterrence capabilities in Poland,” the declaration read. “With the understanding that the increased U.S. force presence in Poland is made sustainable with Polish support, Poland plans to provide and sustain jointly determined infrastructure for the initial package of additional projects listed below, at no cost to the United States and taking into account the planned level of its use by U.S. forces.”