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Poland to buy Israeli anti-tank missiles

By The Associated Press and Ha'aretz Service
July 26, 2002


Poland's Defense Ministry said Friday it will purchase "several thousand" anti-tank missiles from Israeli maker Rafael in its effort to bring its armed forces up to NATO standards.

The deal for the Rafael NT-S "Spike" missiles is worth up to $250 million over 10 years, Deputy Defense Minister Janusz Zemke said at a news conference.

Zemke said the ministry had considered bids from companies in South Africa, France and Sweden but that the Israeli missiles were the "most effective, although not the cheapest."

The contract is to be signed by Rafael with Polish arms firm Mesko, which will manufacture some of the missiles, after final tests are completed later this year. Poland will receive the first missiles from Israel in 2003 and production at home should begin in 2004, Zemke said.

The Spike missiles have a range of about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) and can be used by infantry troops or fired by helicopter aircrew. The missile's range when fired by a helicopter is 6 kilometers. The "Spike" will replace the Soviet-era missiles still in use by the Polish military.

Poland joined NATO in 1999 along with two other former Warsaw Pact members, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Raphael would provide the thousands of missles and hundreds of launchers to Poland until the year 2013. Most of the missiles would be produced in a factory in southern Poland based on the Israeli technology.

The missile has a range of four kilomters and its components can also be used to build a missile to be used in helicopters with a range of six kilomters. Other companies competing for the contract came from Russia, France and South Africa. Poland already signed five years ago a deal with Raphael to purchase such missles, but it was canceled after a change in government Warsaw.