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Poland's New Government Rethinks Patriot Missiles, Airbus Choppers

November 25, 2015 (Photo Credit: Thierry Charlier/AFP)

WARSAW — Poland's new conservative government on Wednesday called into question the previous liberal cabinet's choice of US-made Patriot missiles and Airbus helicopters for a multi-billion-euro military upgrade.

Warsaw announced in April it was planning to buy the Raytheon-made Patriot system, a deal valued at an estimated €5 billion ($5.3 billion), as well as 50 Caracal choppers — a contract worth another three billion euros.

The decision to hold talks with the two companies — negotiations that are ongoing — came amid heightened tensions with neighboring Russia because of the Ukraine conflict.

Now a question mark has been placed over those plans in the light of comments by Poland's new defence minister, Antoni Macierewicz.

He is a member of the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party that won the October general election after eight years in opposition.

The conditions of "the potential contract" to buy US missiles "have changed a lot since the public announcement," Macierewicz said Wednesday during a parliamentary defence commission meeting aired on public television.

"The price is much higher, the delivery time much longer ... in short, this contract is practically non-existent."

Patriot missile launcher, Poland
A US soldier stands guard near a Patriot launcher on March 21 during exercise Panther Assurance 2015 at Sochachew, Poland.
Photo Credit: US Army

The Eurosam consortium including MBDA France, MBDA Italy and France's Thales Group had been the other party in the running for the missile deal.

Poland's defence ministry had said in April that it wanted to acquire eight missile batteries by 2025, with two of them to be delivered within three years of signing a deal.

Regarding the Airbus helicopters, Macierewicz said the choice had been made "despite numerous flaws."

"The defence ministry will move towards repeating the tender if the results of the offset talks make it impossible to ink the deal," he added.

Offsets are arrangements whereby a supplier of military hardware typically sweetens a deal by setting up a factory in the purchasing country or agrees to place orders with companies there.

Macierewicz said he hoped US manufacturer Sikorsky and British-Italian group AgustaWestland — Airbus's competitors for the chopper deal — would take part in any potential new tender.

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