Slovakia, Poland near deal for short-range air defense weapons

Slovakia, Poland near deal for short-range air defense weapons

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — The Polish and Slovak governments are nearing a deal for the purchase of short-range, man-portable air defense systems, according to the manufacturer, as part of Slovakia’s push to bolster its anti-aircraft capabilities.

“We are in advanced negotiations with the Slovak Ministry of Defense for the sale of the Piorun systems, and we look forward to conclude a government-to-government contract by the end of this year,” a representative from the Polish Armaments Group PGZ, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the talks, told Defense News during the IDEB defense fair, held here May 14-16.

PGZ’s flagship weapon is the Piorun (Thunderbolt), designed to destroy drones, helicopters, aircraft and winged rockets. It is able to hit targets at an altitude of up to 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) and has a maximum range of 6.5 kilometers (4 miles), according to data from the company.

Slovakia has identified gaps in it air-defense capabilities, a shortfall deemed urgent by many eastern European nations who fear Russian aggression beyond Ukraine.

In April 2022, the previous government donated a S-300 air defense weapon to Ukraine, a key part of its air defense network. At the time, U.S. European Command temporarily relocated a Patriot system to Slovakia to help protect its skies.

Late last year, Slovakia’s defense ministry published a list of recommendations for very-short-range (VSHORAD) and medium-range (MRAD) air defense systems to buy, based on an evaluation process.

“The MoD recommends that VSHORAD systems be procured from Poland via a G2G agreement, the best offer from Poland was followed by the offers from Sweden, France and South Korea,” the study said.

For the MRAD systems, defense officials recommended the purchase of a mobile medium-range surface-to-air missile from Israel.

Following this, the Slovak government stated its intention to procure 36 Polish-made Piorun sets and one Barak MX MRSAM-M system, manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries.

The overall procurement costs for these two types of air defense systems is estimated at €194 million ($210,4 million), and both are expected to enter into service with the Slovak Armed Forces from 2024 to 2027.

Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.

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