No permanent US F-16 base in Poland, minister says
Poland's defence minister on Tuesday denied reports the May 27-28 visit of US President Barack Obama could bring a deal for an unprecedented permanent US F-16 fighter base on Polish soil.
"There was never any talk of any kind of a permanent base for US airplanes, whether fighter jets like F-16s or transport aircraft like the Hercules," Defence Minister Bogdan Klich told Poland's commercial Radio Zet.
Klich, however, confirmed hopes were high that Obama's visit would bring a deal for the permanent stationing of a US air force technical ground crew at a Polish F-16 base in Lask, central Poland.
He also said Warsaw was eying training rotations of US F-16 fighters, Hercules transport aircraft and their pilots.
"We hope that Polish pilots will train with US pilots, meaning that American F-16s and Hercules aircraft will periodically visit Poland and that a small permanent American service component will be stationed here," Klich said.
Last year, Klich said he hoped the F-16 rotations would begin in 2013.
Earlier this month, Poland's leading daily Gazeta Wyborcza quoted an unnamed Polish diplomatic source claiming the United States was ready to announce the transfer of an F-16 base from Aviano in Italy to Lask air field during Obama's visit.
In December, Poland's Soviet-era master Russia warned it against hosting US fighter jets, vowing to counter the move.
Along with Romania, Poland has also agreed to host part of the revamped US missile shield which is to use land-based SM-3 anti-ballistic missile technology.
Current plans, which fold into NATO's planned missile shield project and are hotly disputed by Russia, call for deployment in Romania in 2015 and in Poland by 2018.
Last year saw the first three rotations of an unarmed training battery of US Patriot missiles in Poland, while four rotations are planned this year, a move which also sparked Moscow's ire.
© 2011 AFP