The choice of suppliers, in deals potentially worth $8 billion, strikes a trans-Atlantic balance as Eastern Europe's largest economy re-arms itself on NATO's frontline while edging toward a bigger role in Europe's defense industry.
"For the armed forces' technical modernization and the Polish armed forces' resilience to be effective, the so-called anti-missile shield… had to become the priority of priorities," said Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski. Poland will enter exclusive talks with the US government on the Patriot missile defense system. It plans to buy eight missile batteries by 2025, including two within three years of signing.
A consortium of France's Thales and European group MBDA was also competing for the $5 billion missile defense contract — the largest in Poland's military history.
The United States said it welcomed the announcement from its stalwart NATO ally. The program "is expected to generate at least $2.5 billion in US export content — that means supporting American jobs at home and growing our manufacturing base," US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement.
Poland, a NATO member since 1999, had accelerated the process to select a supplier for the missile system after Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula last year prompted great concern among NATO members in Eastern Europe.
Closer Polish-US Military Links
Since the end of the Cold War, Poland has usually kept closer defense and security ties with the United States.
But in the past few years, policymakers have been lobbying for a stronger security relationship with the rest of Europe, especially after the Obama administration scaled back its missile defense shield plans in Eastern Europe.
Poland also named the Caracal EC725 of Airbus Helicopters as its preferred choice in a $3 billion utility helicopter tender, subject to army testing, dropping US and Italian competitors.
It trimmed the potential order from an original 70 helicopters to 50. This would still represent Poland's biggest defense acquisition from Western Europe since the end of the Cold War. Deliveries could begin as early as 2017.
The helicopter decision was seen as delicate because rival bidders Sikorsky, United Technologies Corp's helicopter unit in the United States, and AgustaWestland, owned by Italy's Finmeccanica, have factories in Poland whose unions had warned of job losses.