Airbus Helicopters remains confident of signing a final contract with Poland by year-end covering the country’s purchase of 50 H225M Caracals for all three branches of its armed forces.
The manufacturer was shortlisted for the deal in April and the acquisition has now been cleared by Warsaw’s defence ministry. Negotiations between the manufacturer and the ministry of economy covering a proposed offset package will begin shortly, says Airbus Helicopters chief executive Guillaume Faury.
“It is the only remaining part of the contract to be finalised and we will start [the process] in the next days. We have reached an important milestone,” he says.
Although the talks with the ministry are yet to begin, Faury says he expects the contract to be signed off by the end of 2015.
Airbus Helicopters has proposed a number of initiatives with Polish industry for the deal, including the establishment of a final assembly line for the H225M in the city of Lodz.
More broadly, it sees the nation as becoming a key centre for design and engineering resource, both for it and the wider Airbus Group.
“We want to rely more and more on Polish industry,” says Faury.
“Airbus is the only group to have the desire and capacity to invest in Poland for the full ecosystem of an OEM.” Other European companies are too small, he notes, while international firms are not interested in the same degree of industrial co-operation.
There remains, however, one further hurdle for Airbus Helicopters to clear in the form of a court case instigated by AgustaWestland’s Polish subsidiary, PZL Swidnik, which had proposed the AW149 for the requirement.
It alleges multiple breaches of the tender process by Poland’s defence ministry and asks for the contract – which Sikorsky also fought for – to be annulled without any winner being declared.
Faury remains unmoved by the legal threat, however, pointing out that PZL Swidnik had employed the same tactic, to little effect, in 2008 when it lost a competition – won by the-then Eurocopter – to supply emergency medical services helicopters to Poland.
“The Ministry of National Defence and Airbus Helicopters have been professional and have worked within the laws on tenders and we are confident that we will move forward with or without the claims of AgustaWestland,” says Faury.
The Airbus Helicopters chief was speaking at the MSPO defence show in Kielce, where it displayed the H225M, H145M, and Tiger HAD attack helicopters.
The Tiger had, in the week before the show, performed demonstration flights for defence officials in Warsaw.
Airbus Helicopters will propose the Tiger for Poland’s likely requirement to replace the Russian Helicopters Mil Mi-24s currently operated by its army.
Faury points out that as Warsaw is yet to release a tender document it is difficult to know what will be needed, but he feels that the most likely competitor will be the Boeing AH-64E Apache.
“We are very comfortable moving forward with the Tiger, that will have a number of projects that will be very convincing. More than would be requested as an offset,” he says.