Poland buys 48 light combat aircraft from South Korea

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30th International Defence Industry Exhibition in Kielce

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland on Friday signed a contract with South Korea to supply Warsaw with 48 new light combat aircraft as it seeks to bolster its army amidst ongoing security worries related to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The aircraft are part of a 65-billion zloty ($13.7 billion) arms deal the two countries reached earlier this year.

The FA-50s under Friday's agreement are to replace MiG-29 aircraft, technology dating back to the Soviet times. The first 12 FA-50s will be delivered to the Polish army next year, Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said.

"Old aircraft will be replaced by modern FA-50 aircraft - this will be a generational leap. The FA-50 are of the same generation as the F-16, which will significantly strengthen the Polish Air Force," Blaszczak said at a press conference in the town of Minsk-Mazowiecki.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, Poland has supplied Kyiv with arms and ammunition and began to purchase new equipment as it seeks to modernise its armed forces and replace the supplies sent to Ukraine.

Earlier this year, Warsaw ordered 1,000 K2 tanks and 600 K9 self-propelled howitzers from South Korea, while in 2026, it will begin to produce its own K2 tanks.

The war in Ukraine pushed Poland to expand its military potential earlier than planned. The country decided to increase its defence spending to 3% from 2% of GDP starting from 2023. In the coming years, it will aim to further increase spending to 5%, the highest proportion within NATO.

($1 = 4.7309 zlotys)

(Reporting by Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)