WASHINGTON and PARIS — Poland has selected the US Patriot system and the Airbus Caracal helicopter as the European nation faces an increasingly aggressive Russia.

A spokesman at the Polish Embassy in Washington confirmed that the nation has chosen the Patriot over the Aster 30, a system offered by a European consortium of MBDA and the Thales Group.

"The Council of Ministers, on the recommendation of National Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak, has selected the US Patriot missiles for Poland's medium range missile defense system," the statement reads. "At the same time the Council of Ministers has authorized the Minister of National Defense to further negotiate and conclude the agreement with the US authorities on behalf of the government of Poland."

The competition was based on an analysis of "technical criteria, military cooperation, transfer of technology and industrial cooperation," the statement added.

The US Embassy in Warsaw posted a statement online calling the decision an "important moment in the security partnership between Poland and the United States" and hinting at future industrial cooperation through co-production and development on the program.

In an emailed statement, Dan Crowley, president of Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems, said the company "appreciates" Poland's selection.

"We are prepared to fully address Polish government, industry, and military expectations so as to meet Poland's long-term objectives for this important program, which is vital to the country's national security interests," Crowley wrote.

Developed by Raytheon, the Patriot is used by the US Army along with fifteen partner nations. That includes Poland's NATO partners Spain, the Netherlands, Greece and Germany.

That NATO relationship appears to have given Patriot as boost in the competition, at least based on the embassy statement announcing the news.

"Poland has systematically and over the last decades modernized its armed forces. Poland, which currently spends 1.95% of GDP [gross domestic product] on defense, will meet the NATO recommended 2% of GDP on defense spending by 2016," the statement reads. "The decision to purchase an anti-air and anti-missile defense system is the result of a need to replace Poland's obsolete military equipment as well as to reinforce high interoperability within NATO and deepen cooperation among allies."

Many details still must be worked out, including costs and what configuration of the Patriot system Poland will look to acquire. Those details will then be submitted as a foreign military sales consideration.

Poland is planning to increase its defense spending following Russia's annexation of the Crimea in Ukraine last year and the subsequent conflict with pro-Russian separatists. In early April, the government announced plans to construct a series of watch towers along its border with Russia; it has also shown interest in the procurement of long range reconnaissance vehicles and submarine-launched cruise missiles.

Airbus Helicopters Chosen

Poland also has chosen the Caracal from Airbus Helicopters, beating competition from the Sikorsky S-70 Black Hawk and AgustaWestland AW149, the Airbus unit said on Tuesday.

"Airbus Helicopters and its partner Heli Invest Services welcome the decision of the Polish Ministry of Defense to pre-select the H225M Caracal from Airbus Helicopters," the Airbus unit said in a statement.

The pre-selection of the Caracal is for 60 military multirole helicopters under is for a contract reported to be worth some €2.5 billion (US $2.7 billion), with Warsaw requesting a large part of the aircraft to be built by local industry.

"We believe our offer will deeply strengthen the defense capabilities of Poland by creating the most value operationally, industrially and technologically," Airbus said.

"We are now preparing ourselves for the next steps of the tender process, cooperating during this test period to answer all requests and questions from the Polish armed forces, and further demonstrate that the Caracal matches all criteria of the tender and their operational needs," the company said.

The Polish competition is a "strategic opportunity" and Airbus has "good chances," Airbus Helicopters Chairman Guillaume Faury said Jan. 27 at the annual press conference.

Airbus opened a design office in Poland in February, and an assembly line would be set up if the Caracal were chosen, business daily Les Echos reported.

Poland also has a requirement for some 30 combat helicopters, for which Airbus will pitch its Tiger, Executive Vice President Dominique Maudet said on Jan. 27.

Email: amehta@defensenews.com, ptran@defensenews.com

Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.

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