Israel likely to lose out on Polish missile defense contract
Israeli official says that US lobbying has all but assured it will go to American company; Israel says political tensions not an issue
Poland will most likely pick a US contractor over an Israeli one for a new missile defense system, but Israel could still end up profiting from the deal, according to an Israeli defense official, who said lobbying by Washington had all but assured the outcome.
“The Americans will be happy, the Poles will be happy, and there’ll be something left over for us,” the official, who has knowledge of the competition, told the Reuters news agency regarding the possibility that the US could include Israel’s David Sling missile defense system in a future sale to Poland.
Israel had been hoping that Poland would choose to outfit itself with the David’s Sling system, manufactured by the state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. Experts have said the contract could be worth as much as $13 billion.
Rafael declined to comment on the report.
US lobbying on behalf of American companies, along with a Polish desire to strengthen ties with the US in the face of recent tensions with Russia, tilted the scales in favor of the competition, according to the official.
Israeli defense officials were quick to qualify that situation had nothing to do with any tensions between Israel and the US.
“This is a competition between defense industries and nothing more — definitely nothing that has to do with political tensions between Israel and the United States,” an official said according to Army Radio, adding that the US is a partner in the David Sling system and has veto power over its export.
David’s Sling, which was successfully tested in November but is still a year away from being rolled out, is designed to intercept rocket and mid-range ballistic missile threats, as well as drones and incoming aircraft. It uses interceptor missiles produced by US company Raytheon Co.
“There has been pressure,” the Israeli official told Reuters. “We cannot sell everything we want to.”
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that he was not aware of any American pressure on Israel to back out, but acknowledged that Washington preferred that Poland “buy American.”
According to an official from one of Israel’s competitors, Lockheed Martin Corp., there was no US interference in the bidding.
Washington had “gone out of its way to make clear that it’s up to the Polish government to choose the system they want,” Lockheed Business Development Director Marty Coyne said, while adding that the US had authorized Lockheed to offer to produce its PAC-3 missiles in Poland and help Warsaw set up its own long-range missile production as part of its bid.
The other US bidder is Patriot system, primarily contracted by Raytheon.
Despite the apparent behind the scenes conclusion, Poland is still in the “analytical-conceptual phase” of the tender process, and “the public procurement to choose the anti-missile shield and air-defense system has not yet been initiated,” Poland’s Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.