The Polish government is facing a dilemma that has billions of dollars in the balance – the selection of an air defence system to best answer the country’s operational needs.
On the face of it, the Polish authorities narrowed the scope of the dilemma when they announced the finalists in the Wisla programme – Raytheon’s Patriot system and the MBDA Aster-30.
Israeli firm Rafael’s David’s Sling and Lockheed Martin’s multinational MEADS also competed for the contract, but are not in the final stage of the competition.
However, the situation in eastern Europe has changed since the shortlist was announced, and this may affect the final result.
The occupation of Crimea by Russia and an escalating Russian-backed incursion in the eastern regions of Ukraine has changed the background of the competition.
According to reports in the Polish press, selecting the Aster-30 would show that Poland is tightening its national defence with Europe.
The same report says selecting a Patriot variant also has an advantage, as it will strengthen ties with the USA. This in addition to the fact that the system is already in use worldwide.
However, it now seems the Israeli-developed David’s Sling may get back into the competition. The advanced intercept system is being developed by Rafael in co-operation with Raytheon, and is expected to become operational next year.
David’s Sling is considered a bigger brother of Rafael’s Iron Dome system, that in the ongoing Protective Edge operation achieved a 90% intercept rate on rockets launched from the Gaza Strip.
Rafael and Raytheon intend to display David’s Sling at the MSPO defence industry exhibition in Poland in early September.
Meanwhile, Rafael has reached an agreement with Polish companies for “possible industrial co-operation”, a company source says.
This is connected to another competition expected to be initiated soon for the selection of a short range anti-aircraft system by Polish defence forces. The Israeli company will offer its Spyder system.