Amid standoff with Russia, Poland inks huge U.S. defense deal

Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak signing the deal for a US Patriot air defence system

USA troops place a Patriot air and missile defense launching system at a test range in Sochaczew, Poland, March 21, 2015, as part of a joint exercise with Polish troops to demonstrate the U.S.

With more than 60 percent of its weaponry Cold War era, Poland is modernizing its armed forces following Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea in 2014 and the resurgence of Russian military.

Meanwhile, Poland's Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak said on Thursday that negotiations on implementing Phase II of the deal - part of the country's wider Wisła (Vistula) air defence programme - would begin in April.

Warsaw is now in tense relations with Washington over a bill introduced in January to impose jail terms for any suggestion of Poland's complicity in the Holocaust. "The signing of this agreement will strengthen the security and capabilities of the United States, Poland, and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation along the Alliance's Eastern Flank". In December, the State Department in Washington said a fine imposed by a Polish regulator on a USA -owned news broadcaster for how it covered anti-government protests in Warsaw "appeared to undermine media freedom".

Wednesday's deal is for the delivery in 2022 of two Patriot system batteries manufactured by Raytheon, each coming with two fire units consisting of one sector AN/MPQ-65 radar and four M903 launchers.

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According to the document, Poland will receive Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE), an upgrade that provides an increased performance, in part due to Hit-to-Kill technology, which can intercept threats via kinetic energy.

Poland's Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz has said that the signing of the agreement for the Patriot missile defence system is a success for the Polish government of Mateusz Morawiecki as well as the country's previous authorities, which he said contributed to the deal. Additional phases will likely include six more systems, along with the 360-degree Active Electronically Scanning Array Radar, and SkyCeptor, a lower-cost missile. "They have a stated desire to complete that by the end of the year", Wes Kremer, president of Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems, told Reuters by telephone.

Poland's deal, approved in November by the US State Department, envisaged a sale worth up to US$10.5 billion.

Nauert concluded saying that the deal "also creates jobs in both the United States and Poland".

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