Poland seeks US approval for $5bn Patriot missile purchase

© Janek Skarzynski
The Polish government says it will seek Washington’s approval to purchase eight Patriot missile defense systems from US defense manufacturer Raytheon in order to carry out a planned upgrade of its national air and missile defense shield.

On Tuesday, Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz said that his government was officially requesting US permission to buy eight Patriot systems, although he failed to provide information on the cost of the deal. Raytheon said in a statement that Poland would become the 6th NATO Patriot country and the 14th Patriot partner nation.

The announcement marks a major step forward in finalizing the deal, which was initiated by Poland’s previous liberal government, but set aside for reconsideration by the new conservative one. After the Law and Justice (PiS) party returned to power after winning an election last November, it questioned many of its predecessors’ initiatives, including the Patriot missiles plan.

Poland is undergoing a massive modernization of its air defense systems, on which it plans to spend an estimated $13 billion by 2022. Some $5.5 of that money would go into the Wisla medium-to-long-range missile defense program.

Poland announced last spring that it had chosen Raytheon’s Patriot missiles for Wisla. Two batteries of the time-tested surface-to-air missiles are to be purchased in their current configuration, while additional systems delivered later would be upgraded with better radar stations and the ability to fire a variety of interceptors, according to Defense news. The two older batteries would then be retrofitted with the next-generation capabilities.

Patriot missiles were selected ahead of Lockheed Martin’s Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS), Israel’s David’s Sling, and French Eurosam SAMP/T, with the latter getting into the final but losing out to the American bid.

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Despite hopes to gain better terms for the planned deal, the conservative party’s revision didn’t go as far as to actually change the winner. In June, Polish state-run defense contractor PGZ said it had signed a letter of intent with Raytheon to cooperate on Wisla. Warsaw said that roughly half of the work involved in producing the Patriot missiles would go to Polish companies.