Poland is buying US Patriot missiles

Patriot missileLockheed MartinPatriot missile defence system.

Poland said on Tuesday it would buy Raytheon’s Patriot missiles from the United States and chose Europe’s Airbus utility helicopters for further tests, albeit reducing the size of this potential order.

The choice of suppliers in military contracts, worth an estimated $US8 billion, strikes a transatlantic balance as eastern Europe’s largest economy faces rising tensions with Russia.

Polish US Soldiers Patriot MissileREUTERS/Franciszek Mazur/Agencja GazetaPolish and U.S soldiers look at a Patriot missile defence battery during join exercises at the military grouds in Sochaczew, near Warsaw, March 21, 2015. The U.S. Army Europe has deployed a Patriot missile defence battery as part of joint exercises with Poland aimed at reassuring the NATO member in light of the conflict in neighbouring Ukraine.

“The government has accepted Defence Minister Tomasz Siemoniak’s recommendation on awarding the order of Patriot sets … to the government of the United States,” the defence ministry said in a statement.

Poland will buy eight batteries of the missiles by 2025, the ministry said, adding that it plans to have acquired the first two batteries within three years of signing the deal.

A consortium of France’s Thales and European group MBDA was also competing for the tender — the largest in Poland’s military history — offering an alternative anti-missile defence system.

Here is an infographic from Raytheon of the missile defence system:

Patriot diagram large

Patriot missile defence system

In a separate statement, the ministry said it had selected the Caracal EC725 of Airbus Helicopters as its preferred choice in a $US3 billion utility helicopter tender, subject to armytesting, dropping U.S. and Italian competitors.

It trimmed down the potential order from an original 70 helicopters to 50. This would still represent Poland’s biggest defence acquisition from western Europe since the end of the Cold War.

The ministry said the deal would be signed once technical checks have been completed by thearmy, with deliveries set to begin as early as 2017.

The helicopter decision is seen as more delicate because the now-dropped rival bidders Sikorsky of the United States and AgustaWestland, owned by Italy’s Finmeccanica, have factories in Poland.

Caracal2552 helicopter airbustWikipediaCaracal EC725 of Airbus Helicopters.

The ministry said that because of “changing security circumstances” it has decided to speed up acquisition of attack helicopters, without giving any further details.

Four companies have expressed interest in supplying Poland with 30 attack helicopters in a deal already brought forward by two years as part of a review of the country’s armymodernization program in light of the crisis in Ukraine.

Poland, a NATO member since 1999, had accelerated the process to select a supplier for the missile system after Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region last year prompted great concern among NATO members in eastern Europe.

Since the end of the Cold War, Poland has usually kept closer defence and security ties with the United States.

But in the past few years policymakers have been lobbying for a stronger security relationship with the rest of Europe, especially after the Obama administration scaled back its missile defence shield plans in eastern Europe.

(Reporting by Wiktor Szary; Writing by Marcin Goclowski; Editing by Marcin Goettig)

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This article originally appeared at Reuters. Copyright 2015. Follow Reuters on Twitter.

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