(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with pool report)
WARSAW/SEOUL, July 27 (Joint Press Corps-Yonhap) -- Poland on Wednesday signed basic deals with South Korea to acquire Korean-made FA-50 light attack fighters, K2 battle tanks and K9 self-propelled howitzers.
Under the "framework contracts," Poland is to procure 48 FA-50 jets, 980 K2 battle tanks and 648 K9 howitzers, the Polish government said, describing the deals as one of the country's "most important and largest" defense orders in recent years.
The contracts came as Poland has been striving to "fill the gap" created by its delivery of weapons systems to Ukraine that has been fighting against Russia. Warsaw did not disclose its cost estimates for the contracts.
The delivery of 180 K2 tanks is expected to begin this year, while 800 K2 tanks will be manufactured in Poland. Poland also plans to first purchase 48 K9 howitzers and order 600 more afterwards.
Poland's Ministry of National Defense said earlier that the country plans to buy 48 FA-50 light attack fighters, with the first batch of 12 jets to be delivered in the middle of next year.
It would mark the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI)'s largest export of the FA-50. After delivering 12 FA-50s, KAI plans to build the maintenance, repair, overhaul (MRO) center in Poland to help ensure the stable operation of the fighter jets.
KAI also plans to establish an international school to train pilots.
At the signing ceremony, Polish Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said that South Korean weapons systems are best suited to meet his country's defense needs in consideration of various aspects such as technologies, costs and the timing of their deployments.
The deals brightened the prospects for South Korean firms striving to create or cement their footholds in Europe.
"Europe is as important a market as the United States. On the back of the orders in Europe, we will step up efforts to achieve the goal of exporting 1,000 Korean aircraft," KAI CEO Ahn Hyun-ho was quoted as saying.
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