(Adds details on missile production in Poland)
By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON May 13 Poland may choose a single
winning bidder by June or July in a multi-billion dollar missile
defense competition, months earlier than planned due to the
crisis in Ukraine, a senior Lockheed Martin Corp
executive said on Tuesday.
Marty Coyne, business development director for Lockheed's
air and missile defense business, said he saw "a good chance"
that a single foreign provider could be selected by early
"There's clearly a sense of urgency," he said.
Coyne, who spoke to Reuters from a defense conference in
Slovakia, said Polish concerns about Russia's annexation of
Crimea and the crisis in Ukraine could further accelerate a
decision in the Polish competition.
Polish Deputy Defense Minister Czeslaw Mroczek told Reuters
in March that the country wanted to choose a winner by the end
of the year, which already marked an acceleration from its
initial plan to buy a new missile defense system in 2015.
President Barack Obama is due to visit Poland in June as
part of a trip that will take him to a G7 summit in Brussels and
to France for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.
There are four bidders in the Polish tender: France's Thales
, in a consortium with European group MBDA and the
Polish state defence group; the Israeli government; Raytheon Co
, and the MEADS consortium led by Lockheed.
MEADS has estimated the tender is worth about $5 billion,
but experts say the whole missile defense system could be worth
as much as 40 billion zlotys ($13 billion), including
maintenance costs. It is to be completed by the end of 2022.
The crisis over Ukraine has deeply unsettled officials in
Poland, which fell under Soviet domination after World War Two,
but was one of the first countries to shake off Communist rule
NATO's top military commander this month said the alliance
must consider permanently stationing troops in parts of Eastern
Europe as a result of the increased tension.
Coyne said Lockheed remained convinced the MEADS offer would
give Poland the best value: a new missile defense system with
360-degree coverage, and partnership with Italy and Germany,
which developed MEADS together with the United States.
The MEADS offer also includes construction of a third plant
in Poland to build baseline PAC-3 missiles, besides existing
sites in Arkansas and Japan. Coyne said the new plant could then
be used to upgrade and recertify 1,000-plus of the PAC-3
missiles already in use by seven countries.
Lockheed also offered to help Poland develop its own
long-range missile, which could be fired by the MEADS system
against less complex targets like aircraft, Coyne said.
Raytheon, which is the prime contractor for the Patriot
missile defense system, argues that Poland should join 12 other
countries that are using it. The company says the Patriot system
has been heavily modernized to include new digital processors,
touch panel screens and portable trainers.
Critics of MEADS say it has not been tested in combat, while
the Patriot system has demonstrated it can fire the PAC-3
Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) missiles developed for MEADS.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Ken Wills and Clarence