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EDITIONS
 Friday, 27 December, 2002, 11:41 GMT
US firm wins Polish jet contract
F-16 fighter jets
The jets would bring Poland's military up to Nato standards
Lockheed Martin has won a contract to supply 48 new F-16 fighter jets to Poland, in Eastern Europe's biggest military deal.

The political element was the dominating element, much more than the quality of the material and the price

Charles Edelstenne, Dassault chief executive
The US firm beat off competition from the French manufacturer Dassault and a joint British-Swedish venture by BAE Systems and Saab to secure the deal.

The value of the contract is estimated at $3.5bn (2.2bn) and the US jets will replace Poland's Soviet-built Mig fleet.

"I have decided that the offer placed on behalf of the US government for new F-16 planes was the most beneficial for the Polish air force and the Polish economy," said Polish defence minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski.

The new jets are needed to bring Poland's armed forces into line with those of its Nato military allies.

A decision 'based on merit'

Dassault had pitched its Mirage 2000-5 jets and BAE Systems and Saab were offering the Jas-39 Gripen.

Dassault chief executive Charles Edelstenne accused the Polish government of making a political decision by choosing an American plane rather than a European one.

"The political element was the dominating element, much more than the quality of the material and the price," he told Radio France Info.

"I felt for a very long time that they very much favoured rapprochement with the Americans. So it's not a surprise," he said.

Heavy lobbying

But Mr Szmajdzinski told a news conference: "Poland based its decision on merit, not politics."

He said the first planes were due to be delivered by 2006 and should be fully operational in 2008.

Lockheed was backed by a $3.8bn US government financing package and some heavy lobbying by President George W Bush's administration.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Ben Morris
"Poland's defence minister says the offer from Lockheed Martin was the best option"
See also:

25 Oct 02 | Business
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10 Sep 02 | Business
31 Jul 02 | South Asia
27 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
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