The Pentagon has awarded Boeing $80 million to begin planning and building two missile defence systems to be based in Poland and the Czech Republic, a spokesman for the US Missile Defense Agency said on Friday.
Rick Lehner said that under the contract, Boeing will deliver 10 interceptor missiles to a site in Poland and will move a large radar system from the US Marshall Islands to the Czech Republic. A smaller, mobile radar system will also be deployed.
The project will be worth around $3.5 billion and will come into effect once the US Congress approves a $310 million supplementary budget request for the European missile defence programme.
The planned American missile defence system has drawn Russia's ire, particularly as it will be based on the territories of the erstwhile Soviet republics and is considered by many in the Russian defence establishment as provocative and a direct challenge to the country's security.
Following bitter denunciations by leading Russian military and government officials, including threats to target Europe with strategic weapons once again, President Vladimir Putin recently sought to tone down tensions by proposing the joint use of a Soviet-era radar system in Azerbaijan.
However, US experts have questioned whether the Russian facility would be compatible with American systems, and have insisted that plans for the European-based systems would go ahead.
According to a recent opinion poll, 84 per cent Americans support the creation of an anti-ballistic missile system (ABM) to defend the US and 70 per cent favour its deployment in Poland and the Czech Republic.
The survey, conducted by the polling company Opinion Research, showed that 81 per cent of Americans consider the subject of missile defence highly important and want presidential candidates to make their views on the topic known, while 71 per cent believe the US Congress has an obligation to finance such a system in full.
The results reflect on unequivocal public support for a senate resolution amending the 2008 defence budget, passed in mid-July, which makes the creation of an ABM system to protect the US and its European allies official government policy.