Poland to buy U.S. Patriot missiles, French helicopters

Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski announces plans to purchase Patriot missiles and Airbus helicopters, as country seeks to modernise military to deal with Russian threat

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Poland is looking to purchase Raytheon Co's Patriot missiles from the United States in addition to provisionally selected French Airbus Group helicopters as part of its plans to modernise its army, President Bronislaw Komorowski said Tuesday.

"For the armed forces' technical modernisation and the Polish armed forces' resilience to be effective, the so-called anti-missile shield ... had to become the priority of priorities," the Polish president said.

The deals, worth an estimated $8 billion, were announced amid heightened tensions between the West and Moscow over Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine last year.

Poland finds itself on the NATO frontline as eastern Europe increases its preparation for a possible Russian invasion, with pro-Russian separatist rebels fighting for independence in eastern Ukraine raising alarm in the region.

Warsaw has particularly been concerned by Russian plans to place missiles in its Kaliningrad enclave on the Baltic Sea, against which Poland currently has no defences.

According to reports, Poland is set to enter negotiations with the U.S. government over plans to ship in eight missile batteries by 2025, two of which will be delivered within three years.

The U.S. greeted the decision, which is expected to generate at least $2.5 billion in U.S. export content, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement.

Poland is also set to buy 50 Caracal EC725 helicopters from Airbus after the French firm beat rival bids for the $3 billion utility helicopter tender by U.S. company Sikorsky and Italian company AgustaWestland, with the first delivery expected in 2017.

The eastern European country, which has been a member of NATO since 1999, aims to spend $35 billion on modernising its military over the next eight years and has set out plans to purchase helicopters, submarines and armoured personnel carriers.

According to a recent report released by leading Swedish think-tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Poland increased its defence budget by 20 percent in 2014 compared to the previous year.

In 2015, Poland plans to increase defense expenditure to $9.9 billion, which is equivalent to around 2.1 percent of its projected Gross Domestic Product.

NATO has been upping its presence in the region and increasing military support for its allies over fears of an imminent Russian advance.

Poland, one of the most outspoken critics of the crisis in Ukraine, last month announced it will train 50 Ukrainian military personnel to deal with the pro-Russian rebellion in the east as part of a Western initiative to train and equip Ukraine to fight the rebels.

TRTWorld and agencies