WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's President Bronislaw Komorowski said Tuesday that the defense minister will travel to the U.S. in May to negotiate cooperation on a state-of-the-art missile defense system that Poland wants to build.
Poland is accelerating efforts to upgrade its defense systems and armed forces, spurred by the conflict between Russian-backed separatists and government forces in neighboring Ukraine. The Defense Ministry said Tuesday it was seeking to obtain eight medium range Patriot missile batteries by 2025, two of them within three years after signing the contract. Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak will also negotiate an offset agreement to guarantee the participation of Poland's defense companies in the building of the system, the ministry said.
Poland's government on Tuesday approved development of an own air defense system, called "Wisla" (Vistula). The system was proposed after earlier U.S. plans to build a "shield" for the region were scaled down by the administration of President Barack Obama.
Komorowski also said that Poland will test Airbus helicopters H225M as it is nearing a large purchase of multi-task choppers for the Air Force.
The ministry explained that the tests to be held in May and June in Poland are to check whether the technical parameters of the helicopter match those declared in the bid. Positive results will allow for the signing of the contract for the purchase of 50 helicopters, the ministry said. Deliveries would start in 2017.
Warsaw (AFP) - Poland said Tuesday it will hold exclusive talks with the US government on a multi-billion-euro Patriot missile contract and test Airbus helicopters in an unprecedented military upgrade amid heightened tensions with neighbouring Russia.
President Bronislaw Komorowski said the decision for the massive defence revamp is being made at a time of "deterioration of security due to the Russian-Ukraine conflict".
He added that negotiations with Washington will begin in May on the purchase of the Patriot system made by Raytheon.
The Eurosam consortium including MBDA France, MBDA Italy and France's Thales Group had been the other party in the running for the deal valued at an estimated 5 billion euros ($5.4 billion).
Poland's defence ministry said it wanted to acquire eight missile batteries by 2025, with two of them to be delivered within three years of signing a deal.
"The US offer is regarded as the most advantageous from the viewpoint of Polish security and fulfilling alliance (NATO) obligations," the ministry said.
"Patriot systems are used in over a dozen countries," it added.
While picking the US for its missiles, Poland went with the Europeans for choppers, announcing that it would test Airbus-made multi-purpose helicopters to replace its Soviet-era equipment.
-- Unprecedented military spending --
Poland had earlier said it would buy 70 helicopters, but the defence ministry said in a statement Tuesday that Warsaw had decided to reduce the number to 50 "after checking the operational needs of the armed forces".
Komorowski did not say how much it would spend on the choppers.
Mariusz Cielma, editor-in-chief of Polish defence magazine Dziennik Zbrojny said the contract is estimated to be worth 13 billion zloty (3.3 billion euros, $3.5 billion) for 50 Caracal choppers.
But a source close to the French defence minister speaking on condition of anonymity told AFP Tuesday that "nothing has been won yet".
"We must remain cautious as this is just an announcement of the final phase of the selection process," the source said in Paris.
"If all goes well the contract could be signed in September with deliveries beginning in 2017," the source said, adding the ministry expected Warsaw to announce another tender for 20-30 attack helicopters this year.
"Airbus will be an important competitor with its Tiger model," according to the source.
US manufacturer Sikorsky and British-Italian group AgustaWestland were Airbus's competitors for the chopper deal.
The contracts are part of an unprecedented effort by the NATO-member to overhaul its military equipment, at a cost of around 140 billion zloty (35 billion euros, $37 billion) over 10 years.
Poland also plans to acquire armoured personnel carriers, submarines and drones during the revamp, which Warsaw has sped up because of concerns in the region over Russia's annexation of Crimea and backing for rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Poland, a central European country of 38 million people, joined NATO in 1999, a decade after shedding communism. It became a member of the European Union in 2004.