The high-profile signing ceremony in Dęblin, eastern Poland, was attended by President Andrzej Duda, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak.
Also taking part was the US ambassador to Poland, Georgette Mosbacher, and executives from America's Lockheed Martin company, which produces the war planes.
President Andrzej Duda. Photo: PAP/Wojtek Jargiło
The Polish president told the gathering that the deal marked "an important day" for his country's military aviation as well as for Poland's security and that of its regional partners in Europe.
He said the purchase of the F-35s was "one of the most important stages in building modern Polish armed forces."
"This is yet another big investment project that strongly contributes to strengthening Polish-American relations," Duda added.
Meanwhile, Morawiecki said the new jets would enable "the Polish armed forces and NATO forces to protect, in particular, the alliance's eastern flank."
He added: "We are joining the elite group of countries that are able to use this ultramodern equipment based on the latest technology."
He also told those at the ceremony that the deal marked "a memorable moment" for Poland amid its efforts to emerge from "the long Russian shadow that dominated this part of Europe for not just decades, but, one can say, 200 years."
Polish Prime Mateusz Morawiecki. Photo: PAP/Wojtek Jargiło
Defence Minister Błaszczak said the Polish air force was "entering a new stage in its development" with the new "fifth-generation" F-35 jets.
The aircraft purchase agreement was finalised after months of negotiations, including over the price tag, public broadcaster Polish Radio’s IAR news agency reported.
The first of the new jets are due to be delivered to Poland in 2024, state broadcaster TVP Info said.
Officials told reporters the deal was important for Poland as the eastern-flank NATO member seeks to bolster its defence and deterrence capabilities to fend off any threat from neighbouring Russia.
America's Mosbacher said at the signing that Poland "continues to be a shining example of leadership in NATO for military modernization."
She added: "We are proud to share the very best of U.S. defense technology with our Polish partners in support of our collective defense interests."
US Ambassador Georgette Mosbacher. Photo: PAP/Wojtek Jargiło
Earlier on Friday Mosbacher said in a tweet that "the strong U.S.-Poland security partnership benefits Poland and the entire NATO Alliance."
Poland's Błaszczak said ahead of the signing that his country "never before had such modern equipment."
He described the F-35 as “top-notch quality weaponry.”
'Defense capability to deter aggression'
The US Congress in September cleared the sale of 32 F-35 fighter jets to Poland in what Błaszczak said was “one of the last steps before the contract can be concluded.”
“But this is not the end of our work,” he tweeted at the time. “We will be negotiating hard to secure the best possible price.”
Earlier that month the US Department of State approved the sale of 32 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, produced by American company Lockheed Martin, and related equipment and support, for an estimated cost of USD 6.5 billion, according to the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA).
The agency said that the planned deal aimed to “provide Poland with a credible defense capability to deter aggression in the region and ensure interoperability with U.S. forces."
The “proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of a NATO ally which is an important force for political stability and economic progress in Europe," the DSCA said in a statement.
It added that the sale "is consistent with U.S. initiatives to provide key allies in the region with modern systems that will enhance interoperability with U.S. forces and increase security."
Poland's Błaszczak said last year that the purchase of the F-35 jets would be "the most important contract in the history of the Polish armed forces."
Cutting-edge jets to replace Soviet-era aircraft
Friday's signing ceremony came after the White House in June last year conducted a flyover of two F-35 aircraft for Polish President Andrzej Duda as he was meeting US leader Donald Trump in Washington.
Earlier President Duda said in a media interview that Poland was in talks with the United States to buy modern F-35 fighter jets for its air force to replace aging Soviet-designed MiG-29 aircraft.
Military modernisation drive
In February last year, Poland's government signed a deal to buy 20 HIMARS artillery rocket systems from America for USD 414 million as part of a multibillion military upgrade programme.
Poland in March 2018 signed what officials described as a historic deal to buy an American Patriot air defence system for USD 4.75 billion.
Meanwhile, the Polish president in October 2017 signed into law plans to steadily increase the country’s defence spending to 2.5 percent of GDP by 2030.
Source: IAR, PAP, TVP Info
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