Airbus Helicopters believes it is close to finalising an order with Poland for 50 H225M rotorcraft – some 18 months after the Caracal was provisionally selected for the tri-service deal.
Warsaw initially selected the 11t type in April 2015 – ahead of rival bids from Leonardo and Sikorsky – but negotiations became bogged down following a change of government later that year.
The deal has now been cleared by the nation’s defence ministry, and Airbus Helicopters is thrashing out the details of its offset package with the Polish ministry of development.
Guillaume Faury, the airframer’s chief executive, describes the discussions as “long and demanding”, but thinks they are close to a positive outcome.
“We are now in the final stage of these negotiations and I am of the opinion that we are coming close to a conclusion,” he says.
Faury says the talks have been “challenging” and have required the manufacturer to meet “additional expectations” above the original tender.
“We have worked very hard in the last months to fulfill the vast majority of those expectations,” he says.
"The negotiations for the offset contract for the purchase of the 50 Caracal multirole helicopters are very difficult,” says development minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
"But negotiations like silence, so I can not disclose any details."
As part of its offset agreement, Airbus Helicopters had proposed setting up a production line for Caracal in Lodz – there are already plants in France and Brazil – as well engaging local industry as part of its supply chain.
But questions emerged regarding how many of the H225Ms destined for the Polish armed forces would be built locally; Airbus Helicopters was understood to be planning to allow a certain number to be assembled for export to make up the difference.
Faury declines to be drawn on the detail of the offset package, but says that “a total of 50 [Caracals] as a minimum” will be produced in Lodz “both for Poland and for outside Poland”.
Export examples could either be the military M-variant or the civil model, he says.
In addition, Polish industry will be able to maintain H225Ms, both for its armed forces and for export customers.
Despite April’s fatal crash in Norway of a commercial H225 and subsequent European Aviation Safety Agency grounding of the type for civil operations, Faury says this has not impacted on the Polish negotiations. Military customers continue to fly the platform, he notes.
Meanwhile, Airbus Helicopters continues to wait for a formal tender from Warsaw for its attack helicopter requirement.
Two requests for information were previously issued – the most recent in late 2015 – as the Polish land forces seek to replace a fleet of Mil Mi-24s, but there has been nothing further.
The manufacturer is proposing its Tiger helicopter for the requirement, with the offset package likely to be similar to that offered for the H225M, says Faury.
Additional reporting by Bartosz Glowacki in Kielce