After missile scare, Poland accepts German offer for Patriot defense system

Anti-aircraft missile systems of the German Air Force Patriot have been transferred to Slovakia. (Bundeswehr / Tom Twardy)

WARSAW — Poland today accepted Germany’s offer to deploy additional Patriot air defense systems there following the deaths of two Polish civilians who were believed to be hit by an errant missile during the Russian shelling of Ukrainian cities.

“I was pleased to accept the German Defense Minister’s offer to deploy additional Patriot missile launchers in our country,” said Polish Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defense Mariusz Blaszczak. wrote on social media this morning. “During today’s telephone negotiations with the German side, I propose that the system be located on the border with Ukraine.”

Germany, Warsaw’s western neighbor and NATO ally, has also offered Eurofighter jets to “help defend its airspace,” German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht told the Rheinische Post newspaper on Sunday. A spokesman for Germany’s defense ministry said the details of the arrangement had not yet been worked out, including what role the Eurofighters might play.

Last week’s explosion in Przewodów, near the Ukrainian border, which was initially suspected to be a Russian missile strike, raised fears that it could draw NATO into Russia’s war with Ukraine. However, the next day, high-ranking representatives of Poland and NATO said that they believe that an errant Ukrainian air defense missile could have been the cause. Last weekend, a high-ranking Ukrainian official said that it was “important” to wait for the results of the investigation.

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In any case, noting that it was “our greatest responsibility to ensure that NATO does not become part of the war,” Lambrecht said the event showed that NATO needed to improve its air defenses.

“This is especially true for NATO partners like Poland, Slovakia and the Baltic states, which directly border Russia and Ukraine,” Lambrecht told the newspaper. “We are already in Slovakia and want to extend our presence until at least the end of 2023, maybe even beyond.”

The Polish media quoted the press secretary of the German Ministry of National Defense, Christian Thiels, as saying that aid to Poland could be provided at any time. While it is not clear how Germany will transfer its defense to Poland, the German air force Flugabwehrraketengeschwader 1 (missile wing SPA 1) “Schleswig-Holstein” is equipped with 12 Patriot anti-aircraft missile systems, two of which are deployed in Slovakia. In addition, Poland already hosts two American Patriot batteries from the Rhine Ordnance Barracks in Germany.

As for fighter jets, German authorities have told Poland that they may augment the air policing mission with Luftwaffe (German Air Force) Eurofighters. “These aircraft have speed, firepower and maneuverability that allow them to respond quickly to threats. They can be raised at any time and patrol the airspace of the Alliance, operating from the bases of the German Air Force,” Thiels said.

But he added that “no decision has been made regarding the number of Eurofighter fighters that will patrol Polish airspace.” This amount, according to him, “will be quite enough for effective strengthening of control.” [of the airspace].” German planes returned to Germany after each mission.

Since August, the Italian Eurofighter Air Task Force “White Eagle”, deployed to Malbark in northern Poland as part of NATO’s enhanced air policing mission, has reinforced the Polish Air Force’s F-16 and MiG-29 fighters and the US Air Force’s F-22 Rapters. , which is based at Lusk Air Base in central Poland, as well as other NATO fighters stationed in Lithuania and Estonia.

Germany’s help with the Patriots may be temporary, as by the end of 2022 the Polish army is scheduled to be equipped with two of its own batteries of Vistula (“Patriot”) (16 launchers). Completion of the system integration verification process, which is scheduled for the second quarter of 2023, will be an important milestone in achieving initial operational readiness for the Wisła system units. After missile scare, Poland accepts German offer for Patriot defense system

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