Poland is purchasing four US-made Barbara reconnaissance balloons, at a cost of €1.04 million ($960 million), to monitor the airspace on its borders with Russia and Belarus, the Polish Defense Ministry said on Wednesday, May 22.

The move follows several instances of Russian missiles crossing into Polish territory during airstrikes on Ukrainian targets. Poland’s proximity to Belarus and Russia has long put the country on the defensive.

The moored balloons can detect missiles, airplanes, drones and other airborne craft within a radius of over 300 kilometers (190 miles). They will be integrated with the country's existing air defense system as part of the €2 billion ($2.2 billion) Shield-East program announced by Prime Minister Donald Tusk earlier in the week.

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The balloons combine a suite of modern surveillance equipment, including early warning radars, optoelectronic equipment, and acoustic sensors that scan both the airspace and ground areas within the detection zone, and are capable of distinguishing between friend and foe and to alert its control network of approaching threats.

The advantage of these systems is that they can stay airborne almost continuously, compared with manned aircraft and being autonomous do not require to have a crew on board.

“We are starting the day by solemnly signing a contract to purchase balloons under the Barbara program. These are radar systems that will change Poland's security posture and raise it to a higher level. Reconnaissance, radar, all activities related to visualization, targeting,” Deputy Prime Minister Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysh said.

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Poland will become only the second country in the world to deploy this particular surveillance system.

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