WASHINGTON — Poland has planned to acquire Lockheed Martin-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems since roughly 2015, but — like its plans to buy the Patriot air-and-missile defense system — the deal was complex and hitting several walls.
The country wanted to share in production work for the HIMARS systems through PGZ, its state-run defense group. It recently signed a deal to buy Patriot missile defense systems after years of negotiating for work-sharing and offset agreements that nearly killed the program entirely several times. The ultimate cost of the Patriot system has turned out to be much greater than Poland initially anticipated.
So Poland has decided to go the direct Foreign Military Sales route and buy the HIMARS systems from the U.S. government, much like Romania did earlier this year to speed up the acquisition and also to lower the cost of the purchase.
The U.S. State Department cleared a possible $250 million sale in November 2017 for 56 HIMARS launchers. The FMS deal would support a parallel, direct commercial sale between Lockheed and PGZ, which would have been the prime contractor in Poland.
According to several Polish reports, Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak last week announced that the government had decided to cancel previous proceedings in the HIMARS deal — known as the Homar program in Poland — and rapidly move forward with negotiations to buy the systems from the U.S. government.
“We have indeed decided on the formula in which the purchase was made by the Romanians,” Blaszczak said, according to a translation. “The Romanian formula is much cheaper, which is also very important and much faster when it comes to delivery.”
The reports noted that a delegation from the Polish Ministry of Defence would travel to the U.S. immediately to work on the deal to buy HIMARS.
Reports cited reasons for ending previous negotiations, including budget issues and the inability to agree on all provisions related to the transfer of key technologies under regulation by the U.S. government.
Particularly, Polish news outlet Defence24 reported there was a barrier concerning technological capabilities of some of PGZ’s plants that made it insufficient for planned technology transfers, according to a translation of the report.
“I have to underline that Polish industry does not specialize in these sorts of rockets, we have different specializations, so the rational approach is to support Polish defense industry in those areas and competencies, which it already possesses, and developing those competencies,” Blasczcak said.
“Nowhere in the world is it the case that technologies are transferred in an easy way to another country, even in the framework of an alliance," he said. “We are interested in Poland being equipped in the most modern equipment as quickly as possible and at the best price.”
Lockheed announced several years ago that it was restarting its HIMARS production line in order to build new launchers for the United Arab Emirates, but since then the company has seen a growing interest, particularly in eastern Europe.
Romania is the first European country to buy HIMARS. Poland would become the second. Both countries, as well as the rest of eastern Europe, are working to beef up their air defenses to deter what they perceive as Russian aggression in the region following the country’s annexation of Crimea.
Romania is also buying Patriot through the standard FMS procedure.