Poland said it will buy mobile rocket launchers worth $414 million (€365 million) from the United States, as Warsaw seeks closer ties with Washington amid concerns over a resurgent Russia.
The deal, due to be signed Wednesday, will “significantly increase the Polish army’s capacities,” Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak told journalists on Sunday, February 10, adding that delivery was expected by 2023.
— Ministerstwo Obrony Narodowej ???????? (@MON_GOV_PL) February 10, 2019
Made by U.S. weapons giant Lockheed Martin, the M-142 HIMARS system can launch six guided rockets with a range of 70 km (37 miles), or a single missile with up to 300 km range.
Poland’s ministry of National Defense said the direct foreign military sales contract will include 18 combat launchers and two training launchers, along with command and other vehicles, logistics, training and technical support.
The first squadron “will be acquired in a configuration as close as possible” to U.S. equipment, the ministry said.
It is to purchase shorter-range Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) missiles and longer-range Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) tactical missiles.
In November 2018, the U.S. State Department cleared the sale of 20 HIMARS M142 launchers and related equipment, estimating the cost at $655 million.
“Poland intends to use these defense articles and services to modernize its armed forces and expand its capability to strengthen its homeland defense and deter regional threats,” the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a release at the time. “This will contribute to Poland’s interoperability with the United States and other allies.”
HIMARS has been deployed in Iraq and Syria against Islamic State, allowing U.S. troops a precision attack ability even in poor weather when air attacks are hindered.
Poland seeks closer US military ties
Poland’s rightwing government has been pushing for the United States to open a permanent military base in the country, where American troops are already stationed on a rotational basis as part of NATO operations.
The proposal apparently offered up to $2 billion for a U.S. armored division to be based in Poland, with much of the money allocated for infrastructure. Polish President Andrzej Duda even said the base could be called “Fort Trump,” and that the US is “looking at it very seriously.”
However, US Army Secretary Mark Esper said in September 2018 that Poland might not be ready for a permanent military base because of an apparent lack of space to fulfil the training requirements for American soldiers. Then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis expressed similar concerns.
Two years ago, NATO opened a counter-espionage hub in Poland aimed at expanding the alliance’s intelligence-gathering capabilities following tensions with Russia over its 2014 annexation of Crimea.
The U.S.-led alliance has also bolstered its forces in eastern Europe with four international battalions acting as tripwires against possible Russian adventurism in the region.
Poland this week is set to host U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for a two-day conference on security issues in the Middle East.
Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, close advisors to US President Donald Trump, are also expected to attend the event starting Tuesday, along with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
With reporting from AFP