The US Department of State agreed on Wednesday to sell aerostats with early warning and reconnaissance radars to Poland. The maximum value of the transaction was estimated at USD 1.2 billion, or approximately PLN 4.8 billion at the current exchange rate. The radars are intended to detect threats in the airspace, such as Russian cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles.
In accordance with the American procedure for selling arms and military equipment abroad, the State Department’s recommendation will now go to Congress. If congressmen do not object, and they very rarely use this option, the parties will start final price negotiations. However, the value of the contract will not exceed USD 1.2 billion.
Paweł Bejda, deputy minister of defense responsible for the technical modernization of the armed forces (PSL) announced that the consent applies to four reconnaissance aerostats. “Negotiations will soon be completed and the contract will be signed. After the delivery of new systems to the Polish Army, sky monitoring will reach a completely new level,” he announced on X (formerly Twitter).
The Ministry of National Defense gave the purchase of tethered aerostats, radars and necessary equipment the code name Barbara. As the Armament Agency, which is responsible for purchases for the army, announced on Wednesday, as part of the future contract, the Vistula River will also provide extensive support, including: logistics and training packages and technical documentation.
The then head of the Ministry of National Defense announced the submission of an offer for the purchase of aerostats in May 2023. Mariusz Błaszczak.
The DSCA agency, which sells American weapons abroad, announced in a statement that the following companies will benefit primarily from the transaction with Poland: Raytheon Intelligence and Space, TCOM, ELTA North America and Avantus Federal. The agreement does not provide for any offset.
Radar stations of the Polish Army
Currently, the Polish Army has a whole range of radar stations, including those located along the eastern border. However, all of them are placed on the ground, which limits the detection range, especially of low-flying targets. Therefore – as it was on Wednesday morning – when Russia launches a massive missile attack against Ukraine, multi-role planes such as the F-16 are flown into the air to track the missiles using on-board radar stations and check whether any of them have entered Polish airspace.
Meanwhile, the purchase of aerostats will allow the radars to be raised high above the ground, which will increase the detection range and make it easier to search for targets flying even at low altitude. The aerostats will be permanently anchored to the ground and will not move in the airspace.
Radars – not only on aerostats, but also on airplanes
In July 2023, the Armament Agency signed a contract for the supply of two used Saab 340 AEW early warning aircraft from Sweden. The value of the contract is approximately 600 million Swedish crowns (over PLN 230 million at the time of signing the contract). The order is to be completed in 2023-25. The contract also covers ground and logistic equipment as well as manufacturer support. The first plane is scheduled to appear in Poland at the turn of February and March.
Early warning aircraft are manufactured in… Sweden Saab company. In 2022, the local armed forces ordered two GlobalEye early warning aircraft from Saab. This is a radar-equipped version of the small Bombardier Global 6000 business jet.
So far, the Swedes have used Saab 340 AEW&C aircraft. It is a small turboprop passenger aircraft, the production of which ended at the end of the 20th century. In the early warning version, a radar called Erieye is mounted on the upper part of the fuselage.
Main photo source: Armament Agency/X