Poland picks US for missiles

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WARSAW: Poland announced Tuesday it will hold exclusive talks with the US government on a multi-billion-euro air defense missile contract seen as key to military upgrades accelerated in response to tensions with neighboring Russia.

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President Bronislaw Komorowski announced the decision. The US company Raytheon’s Patriot system and another system by the Eurosam consortium—that includes MBDA France, MBDA Italy and France’s Thales Group—had been in the running for the estimated 5 billion euro ($5.4 billion) deal.

“The government has chosen to decide the matter of the Wisla (air defense) program through direct negotiations with the US government,” Komorowski said, adding the defense minister would start negotiations in Washington this May.

He also told reporters that Warsaw selected multipurpose helicopters from Europe’s Airbus for testing, in the context of a tender to replace Poland’s Soviet-era military choppers.

US manufacturer Sikorsky and British-Italian group Agusta Westland were also vying for the multi-billion euro tender to supply dozens of helicopters to Poland’s army.

Both contracts are part of the NATO-member’s effort to overhaul its military equipment to the tune of around 140 billion zloty (35 billion euros, $37 billion) over 10 years.

Poland also plans to acquire armored 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 powerhouse of 38 million people, joined NATO in 1999, a decade after shedding communism. It became a member of the European Union in 2004.

AFP

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