Key Stage of Negotiation for the “Polish Shield” Air/Missile Defence System. Focus on the Wisła Programme in the USA

IBCS management module is one of the elements of the Wisla system. IMAGE CREDIT: NORTHROP GRUMMAN.
IBCS management module is one of the elements of the Wisla system. IMAGE CREDIT: NORTHROP GRUMMAN.

A team of experts of the Polish MoD travelled to the United States to negotiate the Wisła programme deal. This would mean that the talks are still in progress, despite the structural changes taking place within the MoD leadership.

Bartosz Kownacki mentioned the plan to send a delegation of the Armament Inspectorate to the United States on 15th January. Kownacki, who was the Deputy Minister of Defence at the time, suggested that the experts would be finalizing the agreement.

Mariusz Błaszczak, the newly appointed head of the MoD, confirmed the fact that experts would be travelling to the US this week. The confirmation was announced during the Błaszczak’s visit to the States. He added that the talks “show good progress”, without mentioning any details.

Today we know that despite the fact that Kownacki was removed from office, the talks proceed in line with the plan. Sebastian Chwałek, Secretary of State at the Polish MoD, is the official who currently is responsible for modernization of the Polish military.

However, we do not know the impact the government shutdown could have on the negotiation. Due to lack of communication related to the budget, some of the federal agencies have suspended their activities now. On the other hand, DSCA may finance and support its activities with the use of other (own) sources. The negotiation may also be considered to be a key task, the implementation of which cannot be suspended. The fact that the delegates decided to leave for the US is suggestive, we may assume that the Americans are willing to continue the talks despite the budgetary problems they are facing now.

Poland, once proper consent (concerning the procurement of 4 Patriot fire units integrated with the IBCS system) was issued by the DoD and by the Congress, also received the so called draft LOA, outlining the framework of an intergovernmental FMS agreement. “Line by line review” is the process which is taking place now, defining the agreement details.

Originally it was assumed that the first phase of the Wisła programme would cost USD 10.5 billion, as this amount was mentioned by a notification for the US Congress. In mid-January “Dziennik Gazeta Prawna” announced that Poland received a new offer, with a value of less than 7 billion dollars. The negotiation is still in progress, with the discussed trip to the US being a part of the process.

There is a chance that Wisła system procurement could cost even less. We know that in case of the JASSM procurement, along with an MLU package for the F-16 jets, with the negotiation taking place in 2014, Poland received several modified offers, before the final settlement was made.

Only after the “line-by-line” review comes to an end, Poland would receive the unilaterally signed LOA, which would define the final US offer. Then such offer could be either accepted or rejected. Finalization of the first stage of the Wisła and Narew projects, or of the second phase of the Wisła programme all pose one of the greatest challenges for the new leadership at the Polish Ministry of Defence.

In Mid-November 2017 the State Department issued a consent, regarding procurement of four Patriot fire units integrated with the IBCS system and adopted to be plugged into the IAMD architecture. The package includes: 16 launchers, 208 PAC-3 MSE effectors, with 11 to be used for testing, as well as IBCS suite elements, including 14 Engagement Operation Centres, adaptation packages for launchers and radars and IFCN comms suite elements.

The maximum value of the transaction in question mentioned by the notification was as high as USD 10.5 billion, which exceeds the budget allocated to two phases of Wisła programme, defined as PLN 30 billion.  The former Deputy Defence Minister recently told us that the proposed 10.5 billion dollar pricetag is unacceptable, since Poland, starting from the very beginning, was clearly defining the budget for the whole programme. Kownacki added that the communication with DC shows that the US exhibits good will. Even though the talks are tough, as Kownacki said, the Polish official was hopefully looking towards finalization of the first stage of the Wisła programme. “DGP” daily reports suggest that negotiation progressed, even though the price is still close to the total budget allocated to two stages of the Wisła programme.

Within the framework of the first stage of the medium range air defence programme, some elements forming up the final shape of the Wisła system would be acquired, for instance the components of the IBCS air defence management system. Tarik Reyes, Vice President, Missile Defense and Protective Systems w Northrop Grumman, told us that when it comes to Wisła, it can be confirmed that IBCS constitutes less than 15% of the total value of the FMS package, including IBCS-related offset.

During the first phase, offset agreement would be signed with regards to launchers and PAC-3 MSE effectors, for both phases of the programme. During the second stage Poland would be acquiring SkyCeptor missiles and 360 degrees coverage radars, with relevant technologies being transferred to Poland. The medium range air defence programme also envisages an in-depth industrial cooperation, with its results implemented in case of the Narew SHORAD initiative. Narew system is to be coupled with Wisla, but in case of this solution, the domestic industry would be acting as the prime contractor.