Poland says U.S. Patriot missile defense first choice, sets conditions: report

WARSAW (Reuters) - Raytheon’s Patriot remains Poland’s first choice in its missile defense tender, the Polish deputy defense minister said, but only if the price is lowered and Poland can access certain U.S. defense technologies.

Last year, Poland’s centrist government said it would buy U.S. Raytheon’s Patriot missiles in a deal worth an estimated $5 billion. The tender is a key element of Poland’s large-scale army modernization scheme, speeded up in response to the Ukraine crisis and Russia’s renewed assertiveness in the region.

Following the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party’s election victory in October, the new government questioned whether the “original cost and timeline assumptions, as well as those regarding the scope of (U.S.) cooperation with Polish industry,” could be met, adding it might scrap the deal.

“It cannot be ruled out that (Patriot’s) development will be stopped by the (U.S.) government, and then it will be replaced by some other technology,” deputy Defence Minister Bartosz Kownacki told daily Gazeta Polska Codziennie in an interview published on Thursday.

“In this situation, the price offered by Raytheon is unacceptable.”

Poland will not sign the deal unless Washington gives it access to certain military technologies Warsaw “deems valuable” for its defense industry, Kownacki said. But this could prove a major stumbling block, he said, so Poland also has to consider other options.

“For now, the Patriot system is first in the game,” Kownacki said. “Obviously, all the time we have to have in the back of our heads other possibilities, such as Lockheed Martin’s MEADS (missile defense).”

Poland would like to make a final decision on the missile defense system before it hosts a NATO summit in July, Kownacki said.


Kownacki also signaled that Poland may be forced to follow through on a preliminary deal with Airbus, whom the previous government provisionally selected as supplier of 50 utility helicopters for an estimated $3 billion.

The contract, negotiated by the economy ministry, has yet to be signed and PiS has repeatedly said it would rather see the deal awarded to a producer manufacturing locally. Both Lockheed’s Sikorsky and AgustaWestland have facilities in Poland.

“Unfortunately, the deal with Airbus has been negotiated and preliminarily signed by the former government,” Kownacki said.

“So we have little room for maneuver, because if we break off the negotiations we would risk ... paying damages.”

Instead, Poland has “set the bar very highly” in the offset negotiations, and Airbus will either accept the new demands or leave the negotiating table, Kownacki said.

Reporting by Wiktor Szary; editing by Katharine Houreld