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Bidders line up for Polish attack helicopter requirement

Bell Helicopter has underscored its potential for industrial co-operation with Poland’s defence and aerospace industries as it readies itself to answer a requirement for attack helicopters.

Warsaw has been gearing up to replace the Mil Mi-24s operated by the Polish land forces under its Kruk programme, with a request for proposals due shortly.

Bell intends to offer the AH-1Z Viper to Poland and has used 2016 to deepen its links with the nation’s industry.

If selected for the tender, it would set up a local assembly line for the type and add Polish companies to its supply chain for major sub-assemblies. It has co-operation agreements in place with a number of Polish firms including WZL-1 and Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa.

Bell also has the US Marine Corps – a current Viper operator ­­­– assisting its sales pitch.

Maj Gary Shill, a Marines officer responsible for international support of AH-1Z Viper, speaking at the recent MSPO show in Kielce, said there was a need across the region for new attack platforms.

“Our targets are all central and eastern Europe countries, like the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, and of course Poland,” he says.

“If Poland were to procure the AH-1Z Viper, the US Marine Corps and US government will support it. We want to collaborate with Poland’s armed forces and part of our agreement will be training pilots and maintainers.

Adds Col David Walsh: “Because of high level of commonality between the AH-1Z and UH-1Y Venom we will be able to establish a group of users for these helicopters, performing maintenance, training and even manufacturing.”

Another likely contender for the Kruk requirement is the Boeing AH-64E Apache, which was displayed at MSPO.

Jessie Farrington, senior manager, sales and marketing for the Apache, says: “Apache is the best solution for Poland from both the economic and homeland security perspectives.”

Bell and Boeing will face competition for the attack requirement from the Airbus Helicopters Tiger and TAI T-129.