Flight International - 26 June 2018

(Jacob Rumans) #1

DEFENCE


20 | Flight International | 26 June-2 July 2018 flightglobal.com

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P


oland’s increasingly chaotic
attempt to procure new heli-
copters for its armed forces has
lurched to a new low, after bid-
ders for an eight-unit combat
search and rescue (CSAR) tender
were told that the programme is
being shelved.
Warsaw has been attempting to
acquire new rotorcraft since at
least 2012. Its initial tender called
for 70 units to be operated by the
three services, but on selecting
the Airbus Helicopters H225M
Caracal in April 2015, this figure
was reduced to 50.
However, a change of govern-
ment later that year led to the can-
cellation of the agreement in Octo-
ber 2016, with Poland instead
attempting to buy eight aircraft for
the CSAR mission to support spe-
cial forces personnel and a further
eight for its navy to perform anti-
submarine warfare/SAR tasks.
But on 11 June, the nation’s ar-
maments inspectorate informed
the three bidders – a consortium
of Airbus Helicopters and Heli
Invest; PZL Mielec/Sikorsky; and
Leonardo Helicopters’ local op-
eration, PZL Świdnik – that the
invitation to submit final offers
was being withdrawn.
Airbus Helicopters and PZL
Świdnik had also proposed solu-
tions for the naval requirement.

ROTORCRAFT BARTOSZ GLOWACKI WARSAW

No rescue plan for Polish procurement


Warsaw halts protracted effort to acquire combat search and rescue fleet, as Super Seasprite replacement takes priority

More than three years have elapsed since abortive selection of Airbus Helicopters’ H225M Caracal

“My task is to provide
modern equipment for
the Polish army and
there is a legal and
financial basis for that”
Mariusz Błaszczak
Defence minister, Poland

Airbus Helicopters

Just two days later, defence
minister Mariusz Błaszczak
denied in a radio interview that
the acquisition had been can-
celled. It will still proceed, he
insists, but will be re-prioritised
against other purchases for the
armed forces.
“My task is to provide modern
equipment for the Polish army
and there is a legal and financial
basis for that,” he says. He did not
clarify how and when any new
helicopters would be bought.
Earlier in June, the Polish
defence ministry released details
of its modernisation priorities for
the period to 2026, with multi-
role helicopters not included in
the list.
In May, deputy defence minis-
ter Wojciech Skurkiewicz re-

vealed in the Polish parliament
that “the current priority is ac-
quiring four new ASW/SAR
helicopters” to replace its four
Kaman SH-2G Super Seasprites.
A lack of manufacturer support
will force these helicopters –
built in 1990 – to be withdrawn
from service, he added.
The defence ministry has
received expressions of interest
from Airbus Helicopters/Heli In-
vest with the H225M, and Leon-
ardo Helicopters/PZL Świdnik,
pitching the AW101.
Final offers will be solicited
shortly, and a contract signature
is expected “this year”.
Warsaw still intends to acquire
32 new attack helicopters after
2022 to replace the 29 Mil Mi-24s
operated by the Polish Land Forc-

es. “The tender procedure will be
launched in a few months and we
plan to sign the contract next
year,” the defence ministry says.
Its current Mil Mi-8/17 and
PZL Świdnik W-3 transports
will be overhauled and “stay in
service for the next 10 years”,
says Skurkiewicz.
“The purchase of helicopters
for the armed forces is an impor-
tant investment in the security of
Poland, therefore it must be
based on extremely careful analy-
sis,” the defence ministry says,
pointing to budget constraints.
“We have to clearly specify
which helicopters we need in the
first place, and which purchase
can still wait.” ■
Additional reporting by
Dominic Perry in London

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