Poland’s missile defense needs still up for grabs

May 29, 2015


When the government of Poland chose to buy Raytheon’s Patriot anti-missile system last month, executive Dan Crowley said the company was prepared to meet the NATO ally’s “long-term objectives for this important program.”

But officials close to the project and outside experts say Raytheon shouldn’t declare victory just yet. It will likely have fierce competition as Poland pursues the next phases of its missile defense plans.

Poland expedited the purchase of the anti-missile system due to the escalating tensions with Russia, which meant choosing a solution that could be delivered within three years and temporarily forgoing a more advanced one offering new capabilities. And that means the April deal for two Patriot batteries was just the first round — and a number of other players, including Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, can still pursue a program valued at more than $5 billion.

”Exactly what [are the] contours of future additions to this system still need to be worked out,” said Tom Karako, a missile-defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

The election of a new Polish president earlier this month is also contributing to the uncertainty. President-elect Andrzej Duda’s political party, the PiS, has reservations about the Patriot selection and appears to want to take a second look at the more advanced Medium Extended Air Defense System, built by MEADS International Inc., which includes Lockheed Martin, Italy’s MBDA Italia and Germany’s MBDA Deutschland.

“The party would like to check why the 40-year-old Patriot system has been selected while a more modern U.S. company, MEADS Group, has failed to convince the Polish authorities,” Marek Swierczynski, an analyst for Poland’s Polityka Insight, writes in a recent paper.

At the same time, Germany and the U.S Army have yet to decide on key elements of their own future air- and missile-defense systems and that could influence Poland and other countries looking to upgrade their systems in the coming years.

Poland is slated to receive the pair of Patriot batteries by 2019 but the system lacks key features that the Polish military says it is seeking over the longer term.

There are four key components in an air and missile defense system: a launcher, missiles that are fired from the launcher, radars that detect and track incoming threats and the brains of the system — command and control software — that ties everything together.

Poland wants an open command and control system that would allow a variety of launchers, missiles and radars to plug into the system, but Patriot currently has a closed command and control system. Poland is also seeking a radar that can track incoming threats from any direction. Patriot’s radar is currently unable to provide 360-degree coverage.

During a press conference in Poland last month, Col. Adam Duda of the Polish Armaments Inspectorate said Poland wants two batteries by 2022 that would include a 360-degree radar and an open command and control system.

By 2025, he added, four more systems would be procured and the first two (the original Patriot systems) would be upgraded to share the same capability as newer systems…

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