U.S. approves up to $10 billion sale of HIMARS rocket launchers, ammunition to Poland

FILE PHOTO: A HIMARS takes part in a military exercise near Liepaja

By Mike Stone and Rhea Binoy

(Reuters) -The U.S. State Department has approved the potential sale of long-range missiles, rockets and launchers to Poland in a deal valued at up to $10 billion, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.

Poland has been on a spending spree to modernize its military while simultaneously donating older weapons to its neighbor Ukraine to fight Russia's invasion.

The potential sale includes High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), which Kyiv has praised for their battlefield successes such as destroying Russian warehouses and command posts.

The package includes 18 HIMARS launchers, 45 of the 185-mile (297-km) range Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missiles and more than 1,559 Guided Multiple Rocket Launch System (GMLRS) rockets.

The United States has rebuffed Ukraine's requests for ATACMS missiles and Poland would not be allowed to transfer any to Ukraine without U.S. approval.

The Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the potential sale on Tuesday.

"The proposed sale will improve Poland's military goals of updating capability while further enhancing interoperability with the United States and other allies," the Pentagon said.

The deal comes after Poland received clearances in 2022 to buy 116 M1A1 Abrams tanks and 250 M1A2 tanks made by General Dynamics.

In May, Poland requested an additional 500 HIMARS launchers from the United States but, according to Polish media, Lockheed Martin Corp said it was possible to offer around 200. In October, Poland signed an agreement to buy 288 Chunmoo rocket launchers from South Korea.

Despite approval by the State Department, the notification does not indicate that a contract has been signed or that negotiations have concluded.

"The great reinforcement of the Polish artillery is getting closers," Polish defence minister Mariusz Blaszczak said on Twitter. "We are starting price negotiations."

The Pentagon said Lockheed was the prime contractor for the weapons.

(Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington, Rhea Binoy in Bengaluru, Alan Charlish and Anna Koper in Warsaw; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot)