Lockheed Martin in pole position?

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics has signed preliminary deals to invest $1 billion in five Polish companies as part of its effort to win a contract to deliver F-16 fighter jets to Poland.

Lockheed Martin is one of three bidders as Poland considers where to purchase 48 multipurpose fighter jets that it needs by 2008 to bring the country’s military up to NATO requirements. The project is said to be worth about $3.5 billion.

The Polish government says it will choose the offer, which is accompanied by the best offset deal – a plan to inject as much funding for technology and know-how into Polish military and civilian industry as the country will spend on the jets.

‘Today’s preliminary contracts are the first part of our offset offer, which we intend to enlarge to at least the full value of the jet deal by Nov. 12,’ said William Perkins, Lockheed Martin’s deputy chairman for Eastern Europe.

November 12 is the government’s deadline for final offers. It promises to select a winner within the following 45 days.

Perkins said the contracts, which will come into effect only if Lockheed Martin wins the jet contract, involve high-tech industries, the transfer of technology and modernising infrastructure, including aluminium recycling technology and advanced welding techniques.

Also in the running are the joint venture of Sweden’s Saab and Britain’s BAE Systems, maker of the Gripen jet, and Dassault of France, which makes the Mirage 2000 fighter.

Poland currently has only about a dozen MiG-29 fighters that meet NATO standards. It is obliged to have 16 new multipurpose fighters ready for NATO operations by 2003, and 60 by 2008.