- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 28, 2002

Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin Corp. won a $3.5 billion deal to sell F-16 fighter jets to Poland, Polish defense officials announced yesterday.
The sale gives the company a foot into the central European market, where three countries joined the NATO alliance in 1999 and seven more, in central and Eastern Europe, were offered membership in November.
As part of its sales pitch to Poland's government, the company agreed to make $3.5 billion in investments in Poland, and the U.S. government backed up the sale with a loan and an agreement to train Polish personnel to use the aircraft.
"The deal is very important on a number of levels, with government-to-government relations, in that we've penetrated the central European market and that we have a new member of [the] F-16 team," said George Standridge, Lockheed's campaign director for the Poland F-16 program.
Lockheed won over two European bids: the Gripen jet, made by Sweden's Saab AB and Britain's BAE Systems, and the Mirage, made by France's Dassault Aviation SA.
But the F-16 is used by nine other NATO countries, and Poland has a close strategic relationship with the United States, Mr. Standridge said.
"This is an optimum solution for the military security of the state, and it meets our obligation as an ally," Polish Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski said at a news conference, the Associated Press reported.
The chairman of Dassault Aviation said Poland chose politics over performance and price, the AP reported.
"The political element was the chief element, well beyond the quality or the price," Charles Edelstenne told French radio station France-Info on Thursday, before the official announcement, the AP reported.
Lockheed will build the 48 jets in Fort Worth, Texas, and deliver them from 2006 to 2008. Components will be made in Poland, where U.S.-based manufacturers Pratt & Whitney and Goodrich Corp. operate facilities.
The $3.5 billion investment component of the sale, called offsets, involve a wide range of investment, procurement or other types of projects in Poland during a 10-year period. Projects include technology transfers to upgrade an oil refinery, technical assistance for an aerospace company that wants Federal Aviation Administration approval for an aircraft, procurement from Poland's largest software firm and investment in local facilities by Lockheed or partner firms such as Pratt & Whitney, said Philip N. Georgariou, regional manager for international industrial cooperation at Lockheed.
Lockheed officials are hopeful that more opportunities will arise in the region as new NATO members upgrade military capabilities. But national budgets are strapped: Poland is running a heavy deficit, and the Czech Republic had to cancel a fighter-jet offer because of a lack of funds. In addition, the role of countries recently invited to join the alliance is not yet defined.

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