WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department has cleared a potential $10.5 billion sale of four Patriot air-and-missile defense systems to Poland, according to a Nov. 17 Defense Security Cooperation Agency announcement.

The possible sale is a long time coming with Poland and the U.S. struggling through complicated negotiations over the past several years and would be a major win for Raytheon as it grows its missile defense business in Europe.

All announcements from DSCA are subject to congressional approval and then must go through final negotiations with the potential buyer. Congress was notified of the potential sale on Nov. 14. It is unknown when Congress will take up the matter for possible approval.

The large price tag — when compared to other recent Patriot deals — could trigger some sticker shock in Poland.

Just a few months ago, the State Department also approved another deal for Patriot with Romania, estimating that the cost of buying seven systems would be about $3.9 billion.

When comparing the Romanian and Polish Patriot deals at face value, the dramatically differing price tags could be construed as unfair, but there are several stark differences between the two buys that would logically drive up the price for Poland.

While Romania is buying more Patriot systems, they are buying what is already coming off Raytheon’s production line and is buying significantly less Patriot Advanced Capability — 3 Missile Segment Enhancement missiles than Poland plans to buy. MSE missiles are the most advanced version of Patriot missiles offered through Foreign Military Sales. Additionally all the work will be done stateside by Raytheon.

Poland announced in September 2016 that it wanted the command-and-control system that the U.S. Army is still developing — Northrop Grumman’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System, or IBCS — in all of the the Patriot systems that it would buy. IBCS is being developed for a future missile defense system and not for Patriot.

In a sense, Poland is asking for a hybrid Patriot that doesn’t exist. The IBCS system is currently delayed by four years in the U.S. and isn’t expected to reach initial operational capability until the third quarter of fiscal 2022. It’s unclear how much an IBCS unit would cost through Foreign Military Sales or other international avenues, but it is likely contributing a large chunk of change to the cost estimate provided in the DSCA announcement.

The DSCA announcement specifically indicates that Poland wants Patriot with IBCS. The title of the announcement calls the system the “Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) Battle Command System (IBCS)-enabled Patriot Configuration-3+ with modernized sensors and components.”

Poland is requesting — along with the requisite Patriot radar and launcher and other subsystems — IBCS software, and current and future IBCS engagement operations centers.

Poland also wants to buy 208 Patriot MSE missiles. Comparatively, Romania plans to buy a mixture of:

  • A total of 56 Patriot Guidance Enhanced Missile TBM (GEM-T) missiles. (TBM stands for tactical ballistic missile.)
  • A total of 168 MSE missiles.

Poland is also requesting offsets in its Patriot deal. Romania requested no offsets.

Poland has been steadfast about its requirement for technology transfer and co-production in order to enhance its own defense industry. Poland requested, during the competition for the missile defense system, that it wanted at least 50 percent of quality development and production work to be done in-country.

The deal appeared particularly tenuous in July when the secretary of state at Poland’s Ministry of National Defence threatened to break off the deal with the U.S. government if certain requirements for technology transfers were not met, according to a letter sent to the director of the U.S. DSCA.

According to the DSCA announcement, “offset agreements are undetermined and will be defined in negotiations between the purchaser and contractors.”

According to a report by the Polish Press Agency on Nov. 17, Polish Minister of Defence Antoni Macierewicz said now that the notification has been sent to Congress, there will be no more negotiations and the Polish government “will choose what we have to take from what the Americans are offering.”

He added in the report that the Americans “will put an entire gamut of technologies that sometimes exceed our financial capabilities on the table,” but that did not mean the Polish government would have to accept the proposal as a whole.

While the deal is currently estimated at $10.5 billion, “it is Raytheon’s experience that the estimated cost notified could be larger than the final negotiated contract amount. Raytheon and our industry partners understand Poland’s budgetary requirements and during the WISLA negotiations, we will work closely with the U.S. and Polish governments to ensure Poland is able to procure Patriot at a mutually agreeable price,” a company statement provided to Defense News reads.

Wisla is the name for the medium-range air-and-missile defense system competition in Poland.

Poland ultimately wants eight Patriot systems, and the DSCA announcement marks progress in the first phase of the acquisition. Poland would like to see the second round of Patriot systems have a 360-degree detection capability and the first four retrofitted with the new radar.

The U.S. Army is in the process of setting up a competition for its own 360-degree radar for a future IAMD system with IBCS at the center. Analysts believe Poland is waiting to see what the U.S. Army decides to do.

The road to buying an air-and-missile defense system for Poland has been a long one. Poland initially considered four separate systems, including one from Israel, one from France and Lockheed Martin’s Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS), which is slated to be Germany and Italy’s future missile defense system.

Poland eliminated MEADS and the Israeli system from the running, opting instead to choose an already fielded system, as activity from Russia has grown increasingly concerning along the eastern flank of Europe.

But despite the desire to move quickly, Poland has spent more than three years from the time it originally announced its plan to buy Patriot to get to this point, due to some unprecedented and complicated requests.