US okays massive arms deal with PolandReading Time: 2 minutes
The Polish government received approval from the US State Department for a potential USD 10bn weapons deal aimed at modernising its military, on Tuesday 7 February.
Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak tweeted that “the great reinforcement of the Polish artillery is getting closer. The US State Department has approved the sale of almost 500 Himars launchers to Poland. Most of them will be installed on Polish trucks. We will also buy ammunition (and now) are starting price negotiations,” he added.
The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress on Tuesday of the proposed sale, which includes 18 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) rocket launchers, 45 Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) with a range of 185 miles, and 1,559 Guided Multiple Rocket Launch Systems (GMLRS).
Last May, Poland asked for 500 HIMARS launchers from the US but, according to local media, US arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin said it could only deliver around 200. Poland has also signed an agreement to purchase 288 of the similar Chunmoo rocket launchers from South Korea.
US emphasises interoperability
The US government’s approval of the deal comes as Poland continues its efforts to modernise its military, with previous clearances granted to purchase tanks from US defence company General Dynamics in 2022.
A statement from the Pentagon highlighted the potential sale’s aim of improving Poland’s military capabilities and its interoperability with the US and its allies.
The State Department approval does not mean however that a contract has been signed or negotiations have been concluded, but that the weapons deal is still in negotiation stage and its final outcome is yet to be determined.
Polish PM vows to up defence spending
Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine almost one year ago, Poland has taken a more prominent role in European security, even urging Germany to allow it to export Leopard 2 battle tanks to the war-torn country.
Poland has a military budget of just less than 2.5% of its GDP, but Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki last month said he wants to increase the figure to 4% for 2023.
Morawiecki said the war in Ukraine “is making us arm ourselves even faster – that is why this year we will make an unprecedented effort: 4% of GDP for the Polish army”. Raising defence spending to 4% could mean Poland has the highest percentage of any NATO country, he noted.
Meanwhile, the US has rebuffed Ukraine’s request for ATACMS surface-to-surface missiles and any transfer of these to Ukraine by Poland would require US approval, Reuters notes.
In December Lithuania became the third and final Baltic nation to sign a HIMARS supply contract with the US, in a deal worth USD 495mn, which also included ATACMS missiles.