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By Wiktor Szary
WARSAW, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Poland may review its decision to drop Lockheed Martin Corp’s MEADS system from its $5 billion missile defence tender, a senior source at the Polish Ministry of Defence said.
The Polish programme is particularly significant for the defence sector given recent cuts to military spending. Poland plans to spend an estimated total of 130 billion zlotys ($36 billion) between 2013 and 2022 on modernising its armed forces.
Last year, Poland excluded the Lockheed Martin-led consortium from the tender, short-listing two contenders: a consortium of European group MBDA and France’s Thales SA , and U.S. firm Raytheon Co, as potential suppliers.
This decision may now be reviewed, the source said, if Germany decides to implement MEADS. The Polish defence ministry, MEADS and Raytheon did not immediately reply to requests for comment. MBDA declined to comment.
“MEADS could still very well end up being on the table,” the source said. “We will consider allowing the MEADS system to take part in the tender, if Germany decides that it will be at the core of their missile defence.”
“Formally, MEADS’ participation in the Polish tender is still possible,” the source added.
Berlin is deciding whether to modernise its missile defences, based on Raytheon’s Patriot system, or implement MEADS.
A German decision to commit to Lockheed Martin’s system would help the consortium meet Poland’s requirement that all proposed solutions have to be operational and in use by another NATO member state’s armed forces.
“Poland wants its missile defence systems to be compatible with German ones, because Germany is our closest ally,” the source said.
Last year, a senior German government source told Reuters the decision could come in 2015, once technical and legal questions have been clarified.
According to a document seen by Reuters, the decision could be made this summer, but the Polish Ministry of Defence source said Poland thought Berlin could reach a decision as soon as Feb. 15.
The United States, Italy and Germany spent about $3.4 billion over the past decade to develop MEADS as a successor to Patriot, but the United States decided in 2012 to withdraw due to budget cuts. ($1 = 3.6454 zlotys) (Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal in Washington and Cyril Altmeyer in Paris; Editing by David Holmes)