Andrzej Jeziorski/MUNICH

POLISH HELICOPTER manufacturer PZL-Swidnik faces losing Pzl13 million ($4.6 million) of Government development money, if growing fears of a delay to the Huzar battlefield-helicopter programme are realised.

Existing doubts over Polish commitment to arming the helicopter with the Israeli Rafael NT-D anti-tank missile have been reinforced by statements from Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Roman Czerwinski that Poland may annul the tender for the missile.

Czerwinski points out that the NT-D is suffering delays, and that more attractive missile offers have now been made by competing companies.

While no official decision to cancel the tender has been taken, Israel's Elbit appears to be considering a revision of its avionics bid for the Huzar.

The Israeli bid offers the NT-D exclusively as the anti-tank weapon. Elbit is a front runner to become the avionics integrator for the helicopter with a package which includes the NT-D.

According to US industry sources, the Israeli company is now in talks with US firm Litton about a joint avionics bid for the programme. Litton is offering Elbit its mission computer, airborne tactical-information management system, integrated tactical avionics system, and flat-panel displays.

Huzar programme sources say that members of senior management at PZL-Swidnik are now resigned to the fact that a go-ahead for the helicopter before the end of the year is unlikely.

If the programme is delayed until 1997, Swidnik will never see the Pzl13 million allocated to the Huzar in the 1996 defence budget. The helicopter manufacturer had already included this money in its accounting for 1996.

The other leading competitor for the Huzar contract is US firm Rockwell, which has proposed to integrate either the NT-D missile, or any one of four other choices - the Hellfire II, HOT, TOW, or the GEC/Rockwell radar-guided Brimstone missile. Rockwell had earlier proposed a bid including licence production in Poland of the Hellfire II, but revised this because of Poland's selection of the NT-D.

According to PZL-Swidnik, a test launch of the Israeli missile from a helicopter is still scheduled to take place this month. Poland has been holding off signing any contracts with Rafael until test launches have been witnessed by Polish officials.

The Polish armed forces require 100 Huzars, which are based on the W-3 Sokol airframe.

Source: Flight International