Poland has received its first shipment of US-made Himars rocket launchers as part of a defence upgrade amid security concerns due to the war in neighbouring Ukraine.
Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak and military officials attended an acquisition ceremony at a Warsaw air base on Monday.
Mr Blaszczak said that combat in Ukraine has proven the value of the Himars and that Nato member Poland was seeking to procure additional launchers, with a goal of acquiring some 500 units.
“We are watching the developments in Ukraine, and we know that artillery has a key role in the war, in repelling the Russian invasion,” he said.
The launchers will go to the 1st Artillery Brigade in north-eastern Poland, Mr Blaszczak said.
“Their task will be to deter (an) aggressor and strengthen Poland’s armed forces on the nation’s and Nato eastern flank,” the minister said.
A Himars academy is to be launched in the city of Torun to provide logistics, servicing and training, including for troops from other Nato countries that have or plan to get the launchers.
Produced by American aerospace company Lockheed Martin, the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System is a multiple rocket launcher with a range of up to 190 miles developed in the late 1990s for the US armed forces.
Some of the equipment will replace weapons – including over a dozen Soviet-made MiG-29 jet fighters – that Poland agreed to give Ukraine for its defence against Russia.
Poland’s right-wing government, which will be seeking a third term in an autumn parliamentary election, is giving the purchases wide publicity, seeking to reassure Poles amid a military conflict across their eastern border.
Last year, Poland received a number of US Patriot missile systems, and deliveries of another battery are expected this year. The first deliveries of Abrams tanks have also arrived from the US, as well as deliveries of tanks and howitzers from South Korea.