By By International Bureau Chief Andrew Drwiega | February 9, 2015
|The Sikorsky S-70i is manufactured by PZL Mielec in Poland.
Photo courtesy of Sikorsky
Contrary to the end-of-year rumblings that Sikorsky would withdraw its bid for the Polish military’s requirement for 70 medium-lift utility helicopters, when the announcement of the bidders was made by the Polish Armament Inspectorate on Dec. 30, 2014, Sikorsky’s name was present through subsidiary PZL Mielec, alongside Airbus Helicopters/Heli Invest and AgustaWestland subsidiary PZL Swidnik.
The three competing aircraft being offered are Sikorsky’s S-70i, which is already being produced in Poland and exported internationally, Airbus Helicopters’ EC725 Caracal-Polska and the AgustaWestland AW149.
Sikorsky’s potential exit from the helicopter competition came in a statement from the company at the end of October, which asserted that it would “not submit an offer for the procurement of utility helicopters for the Polish Armed Forces unless the terms of the procedure are amended.” This was met by a counter-statement from the Polish Ministry of National Defense declaring that all parties were clear on the final requirements of the tender and that it saw Sikorsky’s stance as “negotiation tactics.”
According to the Polish Ministry of Defense, the Commission will now review the proposals and a team from the Ministry of Economy will begin negotiations to establish the breadth of offset work to which each bidder will commit. The selection of a winner is expected in the second half of 2015.
The successful type chosen will replace the Army’s current Mil Mi-8/Mi-17 Hip and Mil Mi-14 Haze helicopters, of which Poland currently has around 40 and 10, respectively. They will perform a variety of utility tasks across all of the Polish Armed Forces including transport (48), combat search and rescue (CSAR) (16) and anti-submarine warfare (six) for the Navy.
Last year, Poland revealed that it would be increasing its military spending to $47.7 billion (€31.5 billion) between 2015 and 2022 to modernize its military, which largely meant replacing older Soviet-era equipment. The utility helicopter purchase would take around 10 percent of that total.
Russia’s intervention in Ukraine made it look closely at its priorities for this, and the need to replace its old Mi-24 attack helicopters was brought forward. The prospective new Kruk (Raven) tender would be for around 32 new attack helicopters, with the Boeing AH-64E, AgustaWestland AW129 Mangusta and Airbus Helicopters EC665 Tiger thought to be the potential front-runners.
The Polish Security Bureau’s White Book, published in 2013, which examined the national security requirements of Poland, urged the need for airborne observation and surveillance coupled to target acquisition. There is a natural fear of surprise attack (largely due to its experience of such from Germany and Russia at the beginning of World War II), and the need to be able to counter these “through the maximum mobility of land forces.” This should be “primarily based on the use of helicopters.”
Related: Military News