is there a project manaEuropean Protection: The Medium Extended Air Defense System is one candidate for Poland's proposed new air defense system. (MEADS International)
WARSAW AND ROME — As NATO intensifies its efforts to shield Europe from airborne threats, numerous countries are aiming to bolster their missile defense capabilities at the national level and as part of collective allied efforts. Those plans are centered on NATO’s missile defense shield and the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS).
Poland plans to modernize its anti-aircraft and anti-missile system by 2022 by adding short- and middle-range missiles. The program is estimated to be worth as much as 26.4 billion zloty (US $8.4 billion), according to figures obtained by local daily Gazeta Wyborcza, which makes it the country’s largest armament program.
With multibillion-dollar procurements in the pipeline, Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak announced that US Secretary of State John Kerry’s Nov. 4-6 visit to Poland was related to Poland’s military modernization program and potential arms acquisitions.
The two countries’ missile defense cooperation was also high on the agenda, with SM-3 Block IIA interceptor missiles planned to be deployed at Poland’s air base in Redzikowo.
Kerry and Siemoniak visited the Polish military’s 32nd Tactical Air Base in Lask, in central Poland. During his visit, Kerry said the US did not intend to abandon its missile defense plans in Europe, and that in 2018, the Poland-based component of the missile shield would be operational.
“Poland and Europe need the United States to be strong and present, leading an [alliance] which is based on collective reliability of its members and the development of real military capacities,” Siemoniak said. “This is why we support the missile defense program by hosting on our soil a base which is to be set up in 2018 in Redzikowo.”
For its national missile defense efforts, the Polish Army wants local manufacturers to cooperate on the program with foreign defense players.
One of the first of a series of procurements for the Polish missile program will be a midrange anti-aircraft and anti-missile system, dubbed Wisla.
With the planned purchase in mind, in June the Defense Ministry invited companies to participate in a dialogue on technical and strategic requirements for the procurement.
Fourteen foreign and domestic manufacturers expressed interest in participating in the Wisla project, including Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and Boeing of the US; France’s Thales; Italy’s Selex; Turkey’s Aselsan; Spain’s Indra and Sener; Israel’s SIBAT; and a consortium led by the Polish Defense Holding.
Poland Could Join MEADS
MBDA submitted two bids, one based on the Aster-30 medium-range air-defense missile and one developed around the MEADS, a partnership of the US, Italy and Germany. With the US Army withdrawing from the project, Poland could become the third European partner should it hand the missile defense contract to MBDA.
Acquisition of the MEADS anti-missile system was canceled by the US, but officials with the industrial team behind it, comprising Lockheed Martin and MBDA, said Poland could yet sign up to join Rome and Berlin.
Polish officials attended a test firing against two simultaneous targets in the US in November, which marked a climax of the program’s development phase before the US ends its funding.
A MEADS team also gave officials in Poland a briefing at the end of August, one of a number of briefings given by competitors that wrapped up on Sept. 30 and could lead to a selection by Poland in January of anti-missile systems, said Marty Coyne, business development director for MEADS International.
Although it is unclear whether Italy and Germany will push on with acquisition after the departure of the US from the program, Coyne said the two countries were planning to “transition to European development” work by the end of 2014.
“We have offered Polish industry the chance to be a partner in that development, which involves software work and qualification,” he said.
The cost of that development work would run 10 to 15 percent of the $4 billion cost of the program., Coyne added.
According to the scenario in which Poland, Italy and Germany wrap up development together, Lockheed would remain an “active participant,” and the US government would remain a “signatory” to the program, Coyne said.
Aegis Ashore in Romania
Romania is another key country in NATO’s missile defense plans. In late October, construction of a facility to host the Aegis Ashore missile defense system was launched in Deveselu, in the country’s south.
Aegis Ashore is the land-based component of the Aegis ballistic missile defense (BMD) system. The Romania-based facility will be part of NATO’s missile shield over Europe, with the Aegis BMD and SM-3 Block IB set to provide ballistic missile coverage of southern Europe, according to the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency.
Under the plan, the missile interceptors in Deveselu are expected to be operational in 2015. The project is worth about $134 million.