Hungary purchases $1 billion U.S.-made defense missile system

Hungary agreed to buy missile systems valued at $1 billion from the United States, the U.S. Embassy in Budapest announced Wednesday.

U.S. Ambassador David Cornstein and Hungarian Defense Minister Tibor Benko signed declarations of intent on Wednesday. The Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles [AMRAAM], produced by Raytheon, are in use by many NATO countries.

"This purchase will provide a proven, best-in-the-world, air defense capability that will contribute to the security of Hungary and NATO," the embassy said in a statement.

At the signing ceremony, Benko said the missile system will be used as a deterrent, as well as an increase in security, with the aim of ensuring the safety of Hungarians. Cornstein added that the deal, through the U.S. State Department's Foreign Military Sales Agency, will be the biggest procurement in the history of Hungary-U.S. defense cooperation.

The AMRAAM system is a beyond-visual-range, air-to-air missile, with over 14,000 missiles produced for the U.S. Army and Navy, as well as 33 international customers.

The purchase comes as Hungary works, and spends, to modernize its military, currently comprised largely of outmoded Soviet-era equipment.

A NATO member since 1997, Hungary announced the purchase of land force equipment from Germany in July, a reported $2 billion acquisition of tanks, howitzers and other battlefield support equipment.

"We commend the Hungarian government's strong commitment to continue modernizing Hungary's military through the acquisition of the world's most advanced mid-range air defense system, which will enhance Hungary's ability to provide collective and self-defense," the U.S. Embassy statement said. "We look forward to working with our NATO ally Hungary on this project and continuing to enhance our long-term strategic partnership."

Hungary, US agree on 'biggest ever' defence deal
Budapest (AFP) Aug 12, 2020 - Hungary agreed Wednesday to buy $1 billion worth of air-to-air missiles from the US, a deal which Washington's envoy in Budapest described as the EU member's biggest-ever procurement from his country.

Hungarian Defence Minister Tibor Benko signed a letter of intent to buy Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) with US Ambassador David Cornstein, according to Hungary's MTI news agency.

The purchase of the mid-range missile system made by US firm Raytheon Technologies is NATO member Hungary's "largest-ever defence procurement" from the US, Cornstein said in a statement.

The approximately $1 billion (850,000 euros) acquisition will "overhaul and modernise Hungary's air defence capabilities and allow it to transition away from its current legacy Soviet system," he said.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government has been hiking spending on the previously underfunded military in recent years.

The proportion of Hungarian GDP spent on defence rose from 0.95 percent in 2013 to 1.21 percent in 2019.

But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo left out Budapest from the itinerary of a tour of Central European countries this week to discuss US troop deployments, as well as Chinese and Russian influence in the region.

Orban, a vocal supporter of US President Donald Trump, has long forged close ties with both Moscow and Beijing, part of what he calls a "pragmatic" foreign policy.

He has also signed a Chinese-backed high-speed rail infrastructure project and despite US protests involved Chinese telecoms giant Huawei in rolling out Hungary's high-speed 5G mobile phone network.

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