Andrzej Jeziorski/MUNICH

Longstanding doubts over the Polish procurement of the Rafael NT-D anti-tank missile for the PZL-Swidnik Huzar battlefield helicopter look set to be realised, as prospects fade of an Israeli consortium meeting Polish test requirements.

Rafael told Polish defence officials at a meeting in Warsaw in the second week of October that it would not be able to carry out further helicopter launches of the missile until mid-1999, say sources close to the programme. Warsaw had insisted that it wanted the missile demonstrated on Polish soil, under Polish conditions, before it would commit to a purchase.

Government officials are sticking to their original deadline of the end of November this year to complete the tests, and it seems increasingly unlikely that Israel could meet this. Rival missile makers are lining up to offer alternative armaments to the Polish Government, should the deadline not be met.

Boeing, a candidate for the systems integration contract, will then offer either its own Hellfire 2 system, or the GEC-Marconi Brimstone missile. Euromissile has also proposed the HOT 3 to Poland.

Rafael conducted a series of demonstration launches in Israel in early 1997, observed by Polish officials, but the Warsaw defence ministry subsequently refused to reveal the results of the launches, intended to prove the missile's capability to destroy a moving target at 6km (3 miles) range.

Earlier this year, the Polish Council of Ministers recommended re-opening the contest for the programme's $350 million systems integration contract, after the Supreme Chamber of Control had declared invalid an earlier government-level memorandum of understanding naming an Israeli consortium of Elbit, Rafael and El-Op as systems integrator and weapons system supplier.

Boeing - with its avionics proposal featuring contributions from 20 firms globally - is Elbit's chief rival as a potential systems integrator. The Polish army plans to buy 100 Huzars, based on the PZL-Swidnik W-3 Sokol airframe.

Source: Flight International