WASHINGTON - The United States welcomed Tuesday news that Poland is planning to buy the US-made Patriot missile system in an unprecedented revamp of its military in a deal worth up to US$5 billion.
"Poland is a stalwart NATO ally, and its defence modernization programme... directly fortifies the military strength of the alliance," State Department acting spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement.
Amid heightened tensions with neighbouring Russia, Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski announced earlier that Warsaw would hold exclusive talks with Washington on the multibillion-euro air defence contract for the system built by Raytheon. Talks will begin in May.
"Economic diplomacy in support of American companies and workers is a centerpiece of our international agenda, and Raytheon's selection reflects a coordinated advocacy approach by the Departments of State, Commerce and Defence," Harf added.
The programme was also "expected to generate at least $2.5 billion in US export content - that means supporting American jobs at home and growing our manufacturing base," she said.
Poland's defence ministry said it wanted to acquire eight missile batteries by 2025, with two of them to be delivered within three years of signing a deal.
"The US offer is regarded as the most advantageous from the viewpoint of Polish security and fulfilling (NATO) alliance obligations," the Polish defence ministry said.
Harf added that the US "remains committed to Poland's security and NATO's collective defence."
"The programme also includes co-development and co-production elements that will also strengthen Poland's defence industry," she said in her statement.
While picking the US for its missiles, Poland went with the Europeans for helicopters, announcing that it would test Airbus-made multi-purpose choppers to replace its Soviet-era equipment.