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Attack helicopter rivals target Warsaw's Kruk deal

With Poland poised to launch the tender process for a new fleet of "Kruk" attack helicopters, potential suppliers used the MSPO show, held in Kielce from 5-8 September, to promote their candidates.

Warsaw wants to acquire 32 new attack helicopters, with an initial batch of three required by 2022 to support training activities. It plans to award a contract by the end of the third quarter of 2018, which is also to cover personnel instruction and support.

Analysis and concept definition phases have already been completed, along with technical dialogue, with four bidders. Airbus Helicopters/Heli Invest are offering the Tiger; Turkish Aerospace Industries and WSK PZL-Świdnik the T129, and Bell Helicopter and Boeing are promoting their respective AH-1Z and AH-64E models in conjunction with the US government.

"We are open for 'Polonisation' of the AH-1Z, but first the Polish government must formulate requirements, how many helicopters will be acquired, and what training, logistic and support package would be provided," says Bell international military business development official Mike Gleason. "After that we can start dialogue with the US government and US Marine Corps about the FMS [Foreign Military Sales] procedure. And we will be able to prepare a transition study and what our industrial package will be.

"We are able to co-operate with Polish aviation companies," Gleason says. "Establishing a MRO [maintenance, repair and overhaul] facility in Poland and indigenous training capabilities – supported by the USMC – is a minimum of our offer."

Bell says AH-1Z deliveries could start 30-34 months after a final agreement, and occur at a rate of one to two per month.

"More helicopters means more opportunity for 'Polonisation', but a configuration other than the USMC's will be very costly to develop and integrate," says Joel Best, senior manager Europe, Bell military programmes. "If Poland chooses different weapons and computers, there will be no interoperability with other NATO assets".

Separately, Bell on 14 August delivered its first AH-1Z to an export customer, under a 12-aircraft deal with Pakistan. The remaining aircraft are scheduled to be handed over before the end of 2018.

Promoting the AH-64E, Patrick Druez, Boeing's team leader for Apache Poland, says the company is also awaiting Warsaw's official requirements for the Kruk deal.

"We are actively talking with state and private Polish companies, investigating possibilities for co-operation in production, maintenance and training," he says. National-specific adaptations could potentially be made in areas such as weapons, radios, sensors and antennas, he adds, and deliveries could begin around 30-32 months after a contract award.

"Polish AH-64Es will be maintained in Poland – likely in WZL-1's Lodz facility, with Boeing personnel support," Druez says.

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